Fire official says building from ground up is cheaper than updating facility
On Thursday, Feb. 25, the Westmere Fire District held apublic information session on its proposed new firehouse, where representatives from the department, and CT Male Engineers discussed the need, costs of, and construction process for the new building.
The meeting began with Westmere Fire Commissioner John Keimer describing the process that led to the decision to build the new firehouse. He said in 2005 the district formed a building committee that was tasked with making a list of what was needed in the current firehouse.
Rank on top, by far, was this building being too close to Route 20, said Keimer.
He said some other concerns were the small size of bay doors for the fire trucks, asbestos abatement, and inadequate bathrooms to accommodate both male and female firefighters.
In the summer of 2006, the district hired the engineering firm CT Male to look at the building, and determine what needed to be done to bring the building up to date.
`They went through this place tooth and nail,` said Keimer.
Keimer said that they found that the electrical panel is too close to diesel fuel and the truck bays, the communication booth is located in the back of the bay, whereas it should be in the front, there were inadequate water treatment and heating and cooling systems, as well as water in the basement.
The firm also said that the roof would need to be replaced by 2013.
According to Keimer making all the necessary repairs without changing the roofing structure would cost $2 million, and making another addition to the building would cost $5.1 million and take 18 months, however, completely replacing the structure would cost $4.9 million, and take 12 months.
`We believe this is the best option and the best value for our community,` he said.
Keimer was followed by Richard A. Campagnola, principle architect from CT Male. Campagnola said that when the current firehouse was built, there was no building code.
He said the current building suffers `a tremendous amount of heat loss,` and that through a partner ship with NYSERDA, the new firehouse will be 25-35 percent more energy efficient.
The truck bay doors will also be expanded to 14 feet so that they will be able to accommodate larger fire trucks.
`Typically, now, we are designing firehouses with 14-foot-by-14-foot doors,` said Campagnola.
One of the concerns raised by the public at the meeting was that the planned cost for the project as presented at the meeting was about $6.6 million. However, the brochure released by the department in January places the total at $5.74 million.
`The original brochure was basically phase two of the project,` said Fire Commissioner Tom Remmert.
The brochure did not include the costs associated with the first phase ` the deconstruction of the current building and the construction of a building to house two of the fire trucks to keep the district operational.
`The bond resolution requires all expenses to be included,` said Remmert.
He also said that the amount to be bonded is still $5.27 million, and that number represents the maximum amount that could be bonded.
`It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we came in under budget on these numbers,` he said.
Another concern brought up at the meeting was whether it would be prudent for the district to consider consolidation as a cost-cutting measure.
Chief Charles Cahill said that consolidation would make the firefighters have to travel further to reach there destinations.
`Response time here at the Westmere Fire District is very good running further is going to lower that rating,` he said.
Remmert said that considering the amount of property in Guilderland, the district is already servicing more than its share of property. Within the district are about 2,700 homes, 600 businesses, eight apartment complexes, and Crossgates Mall.
`One-third of the town’s taxable property is in the Westmere Fire District,` he said. `For us here, we are already consolidated,` said Remer.
Finally, a concern was raised by the neighbors on Westmere Terrace of how the the construction of the new firehouse would affect their quality of life.
`We are going to be living with two years of construction. How is this going to affect us as neighbors?` asked Virginia Zuspann.
Campagnola said he intends for a construction fence to be put up when work on the project begins.
`We intend for all construction activities to be kept up front,` he said.
He did say the neighbors will feel some of the effects of the construction.
`Part of what we will be doing is the compaction of fill,` he said.
The neighbors will feel the vibrations of the compaction; however, Campagnola said that the contractors will break down the compaction to smaller scales, and that they will not have to go very deep into the ground due to the fact that the new firehouse will not have a basement.
Keimer said comments can still be sent to [email protected], and that the public is invited to speak at the Board of Commissioners meeting taking place on Monday, March 8.
With the approval of the town and county planning board’s and the town’s zoning board, the only step the district needs to complete is voter approval at the bond referendum on Tuesday, March 23. To find out if you live within the Westmere Fire District e-mail [email protected]