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New Castle Fire District to Delay Vote on Firehouse Expansion

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New Castle fire commissioners have agreed to delay the $17 million firehouse expansion and modernization referendum, citing challenges created by this winter’s COVID-19 surge and the need for more time to plan the project.

The New Castle Fire District No. 1 Board of Fire Commissioners agreed last Thursday to postpone the tentatively-scheduled Apr. 5 referendum until at least June and possibly until sometime in the fall, in part due to recent pandemic restrictions and the inability to meet effectively in person.

Meeting with bond counsel and doing what’s needed to provide voters with the chance to apply for absentee ballots through the fire district’s website are other factors that came into play.

Commissioner Brian Murphy made the motion to hold off on the vote at the Jan. 20 board of commissioners meeting, and the resolution was unanimously approved.

“The Board recognizes that additional time is needed to continue collaborating closely with the all-volunteer Chappaqua Fire Department and other stakeholders,” the commissioners said in a joint statement last weekend. “Furthermore, working with the board’s bond counsel (is necessary) to ensure that all resolutions are properly developed in compliance with New York State law and other necessary steps are fully planned and executed.

“The Board has enthusiastically agreed with a recommendation from the League of Women Voters of New Castle to provide a mechanism on the website to enable application for absentee voters. These are just a few examples of factors that the Board is considering as part of this project while navigating COVID-related restrictions that have impacted the project timeline.”

Commissioners do not expect that the delay will affect the scope of work or the projected price tag of $16,992,906 that was announced at the board’s December meeting. Last month, commissioners announced for the first time a tentative date for the vote and the upper limit of how much the district could borrow.

If the referendum is approved later this year, the money would provide the Chappaqua Fire Department with the space to accommodate modern emergency apparatus and equipment as well as decontamination facilities. An update of the firehouse, located at 495 King St., is necessary to comply with current industry-standard workplace regulations and requirements for enhanced worker health and safety.

The project would also make improvements to the firehouse, which would then see it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Before the vote, commissioners will schedule a series of public outreach sessions, build a new enhanced website with more background and information, upgrade video equipment with the help of the New Castle Media Center to tape the meetings and formalize the recently established Community Liaison Committee, according to the board. All of those efforts are currently underway.

Should the referendum be approved, the Town of New Castle would need to grant final site plan approval for the project to be built, the board said.

The plans were submitted last April by the fire district’s engineers at John Meyer Consulting and its architect, Mitchell Associates Architects.

“It’s taken quite some time to get it through the town for several reasons – COVID restrictions, people working remotely – there are outstanding questions, there are a few additional things that we’re working on, but we do look forward to getting the site plan approved in the near future,” Board Chairman Terence Hoey said at last Thursday’s commissioners’ meeting.

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