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Expansion under fire

"When they came back with an estimate of $5.2 million, we were all surprised," Sylvester said. "None of us anticipated that high a price tag. The cost of building materials went through the roof between 2002 and 2005, while we were doing our planning."

The fire commissioner also said that the fire district is subject to the same construction laws that apply to municipalities, such as the Wickes Law, which requires a minimum of four prime contracts for general constructing, electrical, mechanical and plumbing work.

"There's no way the state allows a municipality to save money or cut on a building project," Sylvester said, adding that about $2 million of the requested bond issue is for anticipated costs associated with managing four contractors.

"The other $2 million is all contingency money that may, or may not, ever get spent," he said. "The bond issue is for what the architects proposed."

If voters approve the proposal during the three-hour balloting period from 6 to 9 p.m., Oct. 10, the bond will paid off over 15 years. Sylvester said that property owners in the district would see approximately $4,000 in extra taxes over the 15-year repayment period.

"You look at $4,000 over 15 years," Sylvester said, "you can't buy a good used car for that."

Although he is in his 70s, Bill Zimmer still volunteers at Schonowe as a firefighter.

Zimmer expects the fire district portion of his tax bill to jump from slightly above $200 per year to a little over $500 per year if the bond resolution passes.

"I think it's a little too lavish, what they are proposing," Zimmer said, "Granted there are a few things that are required, but I think it's more than what is needed for one of the smallest fire districts in the town."

Firefighter George Van Schaick echoes Zimmer's concern.

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