Before heading to the polls early next month, Westhampton Beach Fire Department taxpayers are invited to attend an informational meeting on Wednesday, May 22, to learn more about plans to build a new $15.7 million firehouse on Sunset Avenue in the village.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the current firehouse, which, if the project is approved by the public, would be demolished to make way for a brand new facility that would be twice as big as the current one.
Voting will take place on Tuesday, June 4, at the Sunset Avenue firehouse.
Fire district officials recently modified their plan, changes that bumped up the cost of the project by more than $1 million, up from $14.6 million. The new design calls for the installation of a basement, an all brick facade, the reconstruction of the parking lot and other upgrades.
If approved, the project, which officials intend to finance with a 20-year bond, is expected to increase the tax rate to 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up from the current tax rate of 32 cents per $1,000, according to officials.
Therefore, taxpayers whose homes are now assessed at $600,000 can expect to pay approximately $282 in fire district taxes each year. Currently, those homeowners are paying about $192 in fire district taxes.
The project calls for a demolition of the current Sunset Avenue firehouse and the former police headquarters building on the same property. The addition of a basement would provide extra room for the department’s 110 volunteers, who currently don’t have a designated area to get dressed when responding to alarms.
Repaving the parking lot behind the firehouse would provide better drainage for the new facility and more spaces for responders. The department’s computers, including its alarm tower and telephone system, must also be upgraded, and the plan is to pay for those items with the same bond.
The all-brick facade would make the structure safer and allow it to better blend with the surrounding buildings, according to Victor Canseco, the president of Sandpebble Builders, the Southampton company that is serving as project manager.
The current 59-year-old, 12,300-square-foot building has several safety hazards, as well as code and maintenance issues. The hazards include exposure to exhaust fumes because the firehouse lacks a ventilation system, and slanted floors that have damaged some of the emergency response vehicles.
If approved, the new firehouse would feature six bays in the front and five in the rear, with their doors having a clearance of roughly 14 feet. The clearance currently lacking between trucks when parked in their bays is a major concern for fire personnel.
Several vehicles, including three standard-size fire trucks, one tower ladder, a heavy rescue truck, a tanker, a brush truck, a utility truck, two vans, a water rescue boat and four chief vehicles are currently being stored off-site, in a building located on Seabreeze Avenue. The proposed 27,000-square-foot, two-story firehouse would be big enough to accommodate the department’s entire fleet of trucks and emergency response vehicles, which do not fit in the current building.
“We think the total tax is a reasonable number,” Westhampton Beach Fire Commissioner Darryl Schunk said at a meeting held back in December. “It does not take us beyond what other districts are paying now.”