By: Kassie Parisi | @ParisiGazette | November 28, 2018
Residents of the Halfmoon-Waterford fire district voted down a proposal for a new $9.3 million fire station on Tuesday.
The referendum sought approval from taxpayers to construct a 25,000-square-foot firehouse to replace a station at 315 Middletown Road in Halfmoon, which was built in 1961.
The fire district was seeking a bond of $12,331,563, which would have raised taxes by $126 annually for residents of the fire district who live in Halfmoon and $72 annually for Waterford residents who live in the district. The proposal was voted down by 54-vote margin: 366 no votes to 312 yes votes.
The firehouse itself would have cost $9.3 million to build. Site preparation work, including draining and leveling, was estimated at $2.5 million, and $1,575,000 would have paid for artist renderings and architectural planning work for the project.
Fire district Commissioner John D’Alessandro said his team will take the holiday season to regroup and come back with a modified plan for a new firehouse, hopefully in early 2019.
“We’re going to take a little break, but one option that is not a viable option is to do nothing,” he said on Wednesday.
D’Alessandro said, according to feedback he heard from voters, the $2.5 million that would have gone to leveling and grading the site to make it stable for the new firehouse played a large part in the proposal’s failure.
"It was the cost," he said. "A lot of people questioned why we’re staying on the site if we had to put so much money into it."
Finding space in Halfmoon for a firehouse, D’Alessandro said, is easier said than done.
Over the past seven years, as the plan for the new facility was developed, moving the station was an option the district eliminated early on, mainly because the current location is well suited to respond to the approximately 800 calls the fire company gets each year, D’Alessandro said.
Now though, the fire district will reassess whether available land in Halfmoon might be capable of accommodating a fire station, D’Alessandro said. The updated proposal might include an altered plan for the firehouse as well.
The fire district held three public meetings to discuss plans for the project, all of which brought low turnout, D’Alessandro said.
For the next project, the fire district will reach out to each person who voted on Tuesday to notify them about informational meetings regarding the new proposal.
The current firehouse has three bays for trucks on one side and two bays on the other, with a common room and living area between them. That layout forces firefighters to walk through living areas, often while wearing contaminated gear, when they return from emergency calls, D'Alessandro said. Modern fire stations usually have separate areas for the storage and cleaning of contaminated gear.
The current fire station also has structural deficiencies -- cracks in walls, asbestos and damage to wooden frames from termites, D'Alessandro said. The truck bays are also not large enough to provide room for both the trucks and firefighters moving around them.
It would have been easy to propose a new, smaller station that would have been less costly, D’Alessandro said, but the fire district made the decision to propose a total reconstruction because the goal was, and still is, for the new station to last for decades.
“We weren’t looking to build a 25-year station. We were looking to build a 75-year station," he said. "We wanted to build and plan operations way out into the future."