Referendum will be brought before voters
On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Westmere Fire District received Zoning Board approval to build a new firehouse in place of its current firehouse at 1741 Western Ave.
The project has also been met with approval from town officials, but the public has been quiet on the issue.
Zoning Board approval was the last major hurdle for the $5.74 million project before residents will be given the opportunity to vote on authorizing the district to issue a $5.27 million bond to cover the majority of the costs of building the new firehouse. The referendum is scheduled for Tuesday, March 23, at the current firehouse. The remainder of the costs associated with the construction of the firehouse will come from the district’s reserve fund.
According to the district, the estimated tax levy to cover the cost of the bond will be $0.24 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $47.27 on a property valued at $200,000.
The district received approval from the town’s Planning Board at its Wednesday, Jan. 27, meeting. However, the Zoning Board could not vote on the measure at its Wednesday, Feb. 3, meeting due to a procedural requirement stating that it must first be considered by the Albany County Planning Board.
The Albany County Planning Board considered the measure just before the Wednesday meeting of the Zoning Board.
We received an e-mail from Leslie Lombardo, senior planner at the Albany County Planning Board, indicating that they are deferring to local consideration on the referral, said Peter Barber, chairman of the Zoning Board.
Skip Francis, of CT Male, the designer of the new firehouse, said a number of additions have made to the design of the firehouse since the last meeting of the Zoning Board.
`We enhanced pedestrian improvements along the front, along Western Ave,` said Francis. He said the design included a stamped-asphalt walkway for pedestrians in front of the firehouse.
He also said `the district is willing to coordinate with the Building Department for what may be needed at that location.` Specifically referenced was the addition of a crosswalk along Centre Drive, the road immediately to the west of the building, and the expansion of the sidewalk to Westmere Terrace, to the east of the building.
The board unanimously approved the new firehouse.
`The fire station is attractively designed and will be a positive addition to the neighborhood,` said Barber. He said the building will add green space, sidewalk improvements and improve pedestrian access in the area.
The district will hold an informational session for the public to explain the need for the new firehouse on Thursday, Feb. 25, at the current firehouse.
According to John Keimer, a fire commissioner for the district, the public has not shown a great deal of interest in the new firehouse or costs associated with it.
`It’s been real quiet as far as the public goes,` he said.
There has not been any public comment on the district’s plans at the Planning Board meeting, or at either of the two Zoning Board meetings.
Keimer said he hopes the public will be responsive to the information session.
`We’ll pack the room full of chairs. Hopefully people will come out,` he said.
He also said the public is invited to comment at the Board of Commissioner’s meetings held on the second Monday and fourth Thursday of each month. The next board meeting will be on March 8.
If the referendum passes, the district will begin the deconstruction of the existing firehouse in the spring, and begin the construction of the new firehouse in the construction season of 2011. Once the initial construction begins, the new firehouse will take a year to complete.
The Westmere Fire District covers the area in Guilderland from Schoolhouse Road to the Prospect Hill Cemetery. To find out if you live in the district, send an e-mail to [email protected] To comment or provide feedback on the project, send an e-mail to [email protected]