LettersThe Examiner

New Castle Needs a Firehouse to Properly Serve the Volunteers, Community

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On behalf of the New Castle Fire District No. 1, I would like to respond to some of the incorrect information in a guest column published in The Examiner News from three members of the Community Liaison Committee.

The lack of a master plan is not accurate. The fire district has been studying fire station space needs for nearly 20 years. We hired Mitchell Associates, a nationally renowned architect that specializes in designing fire stations, including those in Peekskill and Armonk. In addition, our modernization plan was made in consultation with experts across various fields including architecture, engineering, construction, traffic, environmental protection and New York State fire safety compliance.

The suggestion that the Chappaqua Fire Department be merged with the Millwood Fire Department does not provide a benefit because existing mutual aid with adjacent fire departments has existed for many decades. Mutual aid is enacted when there is a fire call that cannot be handled by one fire department and adjacent fire departments join in the call.

The column also raises the idea of a partially or fully paid fire department. The cost of a non-volunteer, paid fire department with salaries, health benefits and pensions would annually cost taxpayers more than the cost of the firehouse project. In fact, a study recently released by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York stated that New York’s more than 81,000 volunteer firefighters save taxpayers an estimated $3.8 billion a year in wages and benefits.

In addition, the current firehouse is not equipped for a paid department that would be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. National Fire Protection Association requirements, as well as a paid firefighters union, will require all of the upgrades that have been suggested to the existing firehouse and the new addition. Included will be the provision of a modern gym, training areas, lounge areas, offices for chiefs and officers, a kitchen and bunk rooms, etc.

Regarding the $15.2 million cost of the project, it should be noted that in order to control cost the Board of Commissioners voted to not go forward with renovations in the existing 1954 and 1979 spaces and not to go forward with fully finishing the second floor of the addition, thereby saving about $4.6 million. Since the project was first studied in 2003, construction costs have more than doubled and will keep rising.

In summary, the existing firehouse does not provide a modern healthy, safe or practical workspace for Chappaqua’s volunteer firefighters. There are no facilities for firefighters to change, shower and decontaminate after fire calls. There are no clean zones for firefighters’ gear, which is a huge health issue for the volunteers. Additionally, current industry standard engines, ladder trucks and tankers would not fit safely in the existing bays as the older pieces of apparatus age out of service, which is imminent.

Very importantly, your volunteer firefighters deserve a modern and safe fire station.

Please vote on Tuesday, Apr. 25 at the fire station at 491 King St. Polls open from noon to 9 p.m. Plenty of parking will be available.

Brian Murphy
Chairman, New Castle Fire District No. 1 Board of Commissioners

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