The Examiner

Mt. Kisco Weighs New $8M Referendum to Pay for Firehouse Upgrades

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By Sean Browne

Mount Kisco officials are considering a roughly $8 million referendum this fall to have enough money to pay for the originally proposed renovation and expansion of the village’s three firehouses.

Following a May 14 meeting with the Mount Kisco Board of Fire Commissioners and the fire department’s chiefs, Mayor Gina Picinich said the sentiment was to try to find a way to pay for the needed project.

“The fire companies have asked us to go out to the public to fully fund the total project as initially envisioned,” Picinich said. “It’s going to cost about $18 million.”

Voters approved a $10.25 million bond in November 2017, but the village has been unable to proceed with the project after H2M architects + engineers of Melville, N.Y., the firm retained by the village to draw up the plans, significantly miscalculated the price of the work during pre-bond planning. The errors were discovered in February when bids returned for the Green Street firehouse far exceeded estimates.

At the Apr. 29 Village Board meeting, H2M CEO Richard Humann told trustees that the latest estimate to complete the job was $17.5 million.

Frank Mannion, chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, said due to the age of the firehouses, the size of the trucks and equipment and current regulations, the proposed upgrades to the three firehouses is essential.

“I did not want to be here asking for more money,” Mannion said. “But this is a necessity and we have to ask the Village Board to put this on as a referendum for the fall and give the taxpayers an opportunity to support us again.”

He said it is estimated the project would raise taxes 5.18 percent, or about a $213 tax increase, for the average Mount Kisco homeowner during the first year of a 15-year bond. The village is limited to a maximum 15-year bond because of a stipulation in state law, Picinich said.

Calling it “a very drawn out, painful experience for everyone,” she said that to take on the additional $8 million debt would likely mean exceeding the tax cap for an extended period of time.

“Every year at least three members on our Village Board would have to vote to fund the $8 million increase,” Picinich said. “If there is a no vote to fund this then we would have to shave off whatever that amount is in our operating budget because we have to pay for the debt.”

Officials will have to decide before the end of June whether to pursue a referendum to have it appear on the November ballot, Picinich said. Board members urged residents to send e-mails or letters to Village Manager Edward Brancati over the next few weeks so they can try to gauge public support for another bond.

Trustee Peter Grunthal said he would be in favor of asking residents to support another referendum.

“I think we should very seriously consider putting this on a ballot in November, and see what the citizens have to say and get them all the information they need and ask them to remember that if smoke is coming out of their house at three in the morning the fire department will be there to put out whatever has to be put out,” Grunthal said.

At the moment he said he is unaware of a contingency plan in the event a referendum fails or the community objects to officials asking for more money.

Deputy Mayor Jean Farber said Mount Kisco’s predicament is not because of the decisions or actions of anyone connected with the village.

“All of us just have rage against what happened,” Farber said. “This is just so totally unfair and it’s no fault of anyone in this community. We’re just stuck in a terrible position.”

H2M has errors and omissions insurance. Farber said the village is still considering all of its options.

Picinich said the board’s decision regarding a referendum will be largely guided by community feedback.

“The challenge is obviously there’s a need and how much money do we have to meet the need, and again, that’s up to the taxpayers in this community,” she said.

Martin Wilbur contributed to this article.

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