The Bridgehampton Fire District is hoping to come to an agreement with the Bridgehampton Fire Department over the use of district-owned property behind the School Street headquarters.
This week, Brad Pinsky, an attorney who represents the fire district, said there have been concerns regarding the property, which has been used as a softball field for at least the last 20 years. Mr. Pinsky said the property is owned by the fire district but has been rented out by the department—a separate entity—without the district being paid.
Over the past few months, Mr. Pinsky said, the district has made several attempts to reach the fire department with questions about use of the land, but the members of the department who are responsible have not replied, even after phone calls, letters by standard and priority mail, and announcements at public meetings.
Mr. Pinsky said the district wants to continue allowing the softball field to be used by community youth and adult leagues, but also wants to collect the money and necessary paperwork it is owed.
“The fire department, or at least a member of the department, has been renting out that property, presumably on behalf of the department,” Mr. Pinsky said. “But the problem is that it is not their property to rent out. The district has requested information from the department member, as to old contracts and sources of income, but we have not received any responses after numerous attempts.”
Until the problem is sorted out, Mr. Pinsky said no new contracts pertaining to the piece of land will be signed, and no activities will be allowed to continue. The land, which sits directly next to the firehouse, was purchased by the fire district for use as an emergency helicopter landing zone. When not needed, it is primarily used as a Little League and softball field.
“The truth is that it is district-owned property, and we have questions,” Mr. Pinsky said. “The district cannot give its land to the department and allow them to make money off it. The district can permit use of the land, but it cannot simply give away money to an entity that does not own the land. It’s not constitutional.”
According to Mr. Pinsky, the questions the fire commissioners want to have answered include whether the fire department member organizing the events, who has not been named, is making a personal profit from the ventures. Mr. Pinsky also said there are signs advertising local businesses that line the field, and that the district does not see any money generated from those ads.
A message left for the fire department’s chief, Gary Horsburgh, on Wednesday was not returned.
Mr. Pinsky said the district is willing to allow members of the fire department to maintain the property in the future, as long as funds are being accounted for and proper paperwork is filed with the district office. However, he said, since no one from the department has come forward, district officials have not been able to personally make the offer, though it has been stated at several public department meetings. The district would also be willing to pay a member of the department to manage the fields, but those details would have to be worked out.
“Nobody is trying to take any legitimate fundraising opportunities from the fire department,” he said. “But we need to have the money accounted for, and at this time, it’s not.”