The scheduling of a New Castle firehouse referendum has been put on hold until fire commissioners can form a group to meet with community members and provide details of any expansion.
Since late 2019, the Board of Commissioners has periodically addressed the potential scheduling of a proposition to address space and safety needs at the facility at 495 King St. in Chappaqua. However, last week Board of Fire Commissioners Chair Terence Hoey said there won’t be a vote until district officials have interacted with residents on the key issues facing the firehouse and the district.
“There isn’t a specific timeline, there isn’t,” Hoey said. “I believe that the time is not right to continue discussion with respect to a specific timeline.”
Over the next couple of months, commissioners plan to establish a group and schedule meetings with residents to answer questions and provide information, he said. After that, the board could come up with a schedule, including informational meetings and a referendum date, if the community is generally in support of a plan and the board has demonstrated a need, Hoey said.
Throughout last year, estimated project costs were repeatedly promised to the public but were not formally discussed. Then in October, commissioners met with architect Bob Mitchell to review preliminary drawings. At the time, Mitchell said the schematic design had been completed and a design development would need to be created before a more accurate estimate could be provided.
The only estimates for a possible two-story addition were from last March, totaling just over $12 million. That estimate was later placed on the fire district’s website. The figure included $10,217,806 in hard construction costs and another $1,846,422 in soft costs.
In addition to fitting larger trucks, there are health and safety issues that must be addressed in a modern firehouse. Room to disinfect equipment after firefighters return from a fire and removing clutter so the volunteers have quick and easy access into and out of the building were among the most significant concerns, Mitchell said in his presentation last fall.
Hoey said once representatives have met with residents it might be appropriate to move forward.
“I don’t think we’re in a position right now,” he said. “I think this board needs to spend a couple of months discussing this issue, and then considering all options, perhaps after establishing a conversation with some of the residents.”
Resident Lynne Lambert applauded the commissioners for wanting to receive public feedback before pressing forward with a referendum. Lambert said she believed that public outreach by Millwood fire officials may have been the difference in getting the referendum approved for their new firehouse.
“I felt it came very late (in the process) in our last referendum in 2016, and having that along the way would be incredibly helpful,” she said.
The 2016 expansion referendum was badly defeated; however, a subsequent vote was approved to buy the adjacent parcel on King Street to accommodate a future expansion.