Mount Kisco officials explained to residents last week why the village has proposed a $10.25 million referendum that would pay for renovations at the volunteer fire department’s three firehouses.
The proposition, which will be on the ballot on Nov. 7, would pay for infrastructure work and upgrades accounting for more than $6 million at the Mutual Engine & Hose firehouse on East Main Street, the Green Street facility that houses the Union Hook & Ladder Company and Mount Kisco Fire Rescue Police, and the Independent Fire Company firehouse on Lexington Avenue.
There has been no significant work done on the buildings in more than three decades, said Frank Mannion, chairman of the Mount Kisco Board of Fire Commissioners.
Planned work would enhance energy efficiency and bring the facilities up to code. Other projects included in the bond are roof and window replacement; equipment upgrades; improvements to make the firehouses compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA); updating antiquated electrical systems; installation of LED lighting; and replacing nonfunctioning cameras and generators.
There would also be a small addition to each firehouse that will provide additional room for each company and its equipment.
Mannion said trucks and equipment are much larger than when the firehouses were constructed, requiring additional space. There is also a need for facilities for women because when the existing firehouses were constructed volunteers were exclusively men, he said.
At the Oct. 17 forum, resident Nancy Gould-Ralphs questioned why Mount Kisco has separate firehouses.
“You’ve got duplications of any number of the services,” she said.
Mannion said officials explored building a new single firehouse but it would cost about $14 million and would not include the purchase price of the property. There is no parcel of municipal land large enough to accommodate a single facility large enough that could serve the entire department’s needs, said Mayor Michael Cindrich.
It would also cost the village $4 million to $6 million to buy a parcel for that purpose, he said.
Resident Jill Berkowitz-Berliner asked why there are three small firehouses close together and why one large firehouse was not constructed instead. Mannion responded that historically the village has operated with separate firehouses most of the time.
Mannion explained that two trucks are required to put out a small house fire and larger commercial building fires require a more extensive response from the Mount Kisco Fire Department and mutual aid from neighboring departments.
“When you have a fire, one engine is not enough,” Mannion responded.
Also, three firehouses make it easier for volunteers to report to the firehouse closest to where they live, added firefighter Rich Alexander.
Furthermore, the village provides firefighting service under paid contract to portions of Bedford and New Castle and the firehouses need to be properly located to respond to calls in those communities, Mannion noted.
Cindrich said he has been discussing a renovation plan for three years with the volunteer fire companies.
“It’s something that is needed,” he said.
If the referendum is defeated, the village would have to spend $5 million to $6 million to upgrade the firehouses to meet current laws, including ADA compliance, Cindrich said.
Resident Ralph Vigliotti, who opposes the referendum, said the village should have considered consolidating the three facilities into two new houses, with two companies in each building. There are private properties that could contain two firehouses, he said.
Vigliotti also said the cost of the improvements should be shared by New Castle and Bedford, as each of those municipalities currently has a contract with the village to provide firefighting service to some of its residents. New Castle and Bedford residents do not have a vote on the referendum.
“We’re moving a little quick,” Vigliotti said. “We need to take a hard look at consolidation.”
Village Manager Edward Brancati said taxes on the average home would rise by $34 a year if the proposition is approved.