Vote set for Balltown firehouse

The future of fire protection for much of Niskayuna is going to be decided on Tuesday when voters cast their ballots on a $6.1 million proposal to build a new station house.

The project includes tearing down the 69-year old building at 1079 Balltown Road that's been used by Fire District #1 to house equipment and personnel since it first opened in 1937. Voters have to back the plan before the district can issue bonds to pay for its new building, and polls will be open at the firehouse from 6 until 9 p.m.

The vote comes little more than a month after a multi-million dollar expansion project was defeated by a wide margin in nearby Rotterdam Fire District #7, but supporters of the Niskayuna project are hopeful.

This is an exciting opportunity for residents and the district alike, said Edward Woehrle, Jr., a fire district commissioner. "The new facility will improve our ability to protect the lives and property of the residents in our district while enabling us to grow and respond to the community's needs."

Backers of Niskayuna's planned new firehouse point out that the existing structure doesn't have enough room for all the fire district's equipment. The building's condition also violates the state building code and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Construction of the proposed 21,700 square foot at the Balltown Road site would address all of those issues, according to Fire Chief Dale Lingenfelter.

"We will be able to provide our citizens with improved operations, efficiency and safety for our paramedics and firefighters, and allow for mandated spaces for security, storage, infectious disease control and training," he said.

The current station has gone through a series of changes since its inception with new additions being tacked on in 1947 and 1967. Nearly four decades ago, the latest expansion took place in a year when the fire district responded to only 125 calls. Last year the volunteer fire company responded to more than 1,730 calls for assistance.

Area fire districts haven't always had smooth sailing when seeking to make improvements to their facilities. Last month, Rotterdam Fire District # 7's $5.1 million bond proposal went down to defeat by a 275 " 30 landslide on Oct. 10. It would have doubled the existing fire station's size and backers claimed it was essential to improve service. Critics complained about the estimated $300 a year average tax hike that would have resulted if the bonding went through. ""

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