The Examiner

$15M New Castle Firehouse Vote Targeted for Oct. 25

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The firehouse at King Street near Bedford Road in Chappaqua where a major expansion has been planned.
The firehouse at King Street near Bedford Road in Chappaqua where a major expansion has been planned.

New Castle Fire District No. 1 residents will vote on a $15.3 million two-proposition referendum scheduled for Oct. 25 that would expand Chappaqua’s King Street firehouse, improve safety for firefighters and enhance operations.

Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Christopher Weddle said the district faces a tight deadline to schedule a referendum for the 16,500-square-foot expansion after entering into a contract in April 2015 to buy the adjacent parcel from the owner of the old Chappaqua Animal Hospital. The contract expires unless the district holds a vote within 18 months, or by the end of October, he said.

A New Castle Planning Board public hearing is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday). Final approval is needed to hold the vote.

Weddle said the first proposition will ask for voter approval to spend $2,674,644 to buy the neighboring property. That funding will also include demolition and mitigation needed to rid the site of contamination. The original $1.75 million sale price for the land was lowered to a little more than $1.6 million due to the contamination.

The second proposition seeks approval to expend $12,703,335 for construction, including all related soft costs.

If both propositions are approved, the average homeowner will see a $215.56 increase in their fire district taxes for the first 16 years. For the final 10 years, taxes would likely be about $40 lower. Those figures are still subject to change, Weddle said.

He said the stationhouse at 491 King St. near the corner of Route 117 was originally built in 1954 and expanded in the 1970s, but is an antiquated building that cannot accommodate some of today’s larger fire trucks.

There is also a lack of space for the volunteers to train and for the firefighters’ equipment to be decontaminated, Weddle said. Today, firefighters have cancer rates more than twice the population at large, some of which is related to improper handling and storage of equipment because of space constraints at firehouses across the nation, said project architect Bob Mitchell.

“It’s not an ideal situation,” Weddle said of the current facility. “Moreover, the fires that we see today are not the fires of 100 years ago. People are coming out of burning buildings, they’re not coming out of Chappaqua Meeting House. We’re not talking about wood smoke. We’re talking about plastics and carcinogens.”

On Sunday afternoon, he and Mitchell led the first of two informational sessions at the firehouse to explain the project to the public. According to the plans, the addition would include three deep drive-through bays that would house the largest trucks and allow them to exit onto King Street and return via Memorial Drive. Vehicles currently back in, which interferes with traffic and poses a safety risk to firefighters, Mitchell said.

There would be at least an eight-foot separation between vehicles, the current firefighting standard, he said.

The project would also include office and meeting space, a training and storage mezzanine and a firefighter training area. Mitchell said the building would be more accessible to the public and ADA compliant.

Space would be made for the antique fire trucks and other equipment now being stored at the district’s Senter Street firehouse. The Senter Street property would likely be sold to help defray the cost of the project, Weddle said.

Several residents voiced skepticism whether a nearly 30,000-square-foot facility is warranted in a town like New Castle. Some also the board of commissioners for looking to unnecessarily enlarge the firehouse on the backs of taxpayers.

Along with making it a public building, enticing new and younger members at a time when volunteer departments are experiencing declining membership is critical, Weddle said.

“We need to do something here to have volunteers come into this building, where they feel more comfortable,” he said.

Mitchell said that many modern firehouses appear excessively large, however, the amount of equipment and regulations such as having all firefighters ride inside the cab increases truck size. He and Weddle stated that the district was looking to build a structure to serve the community for 100 years.

“We try to design buildings that you grow into, not out of,” Mitchell said.

Voters also have the option of having the district buy the land but not authorize construction. However, Mitchell said the cost would likely escalate by several million dollars within five years.

The second informational meeting will be held at the firehouse on Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. The Oct. 25 vote would be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse. More information will be posted at



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