Voters approved the $5.27 million bond that would allow the Westmere Fire District to construct a new firehouse in the place of its current firehouse on Western Ave. The bond was approved by a 254 to 123 margin by voters.
Fire Commissioner John Keimer said the district is very happy with the results of the referendum.
A two to one margin, in my opinion, in any election is a very positive outcome, said Keimer. He said the results show that the issue was not a contentious issue among the community.
The district announced its plans to build the new firehouse in January. At the time Chief Charles Cahill said `The current structure is outdated and no longer meets safety and regulatory requirements.`
Keimer specifically mentioned the need to repair the heating and air-conditioning, plumbing, and electrical systems, and to repair the building’s roofing structure by 2013.
He also said the bay doors to the building will not accommodate future fire trucks, and that the piecemeal additions to the building over the course of the decades since the original building was built make renovation more expensive than replacing the building, and pose a safety concern with the current building being to close to the right away on Western Ave.
While the bond approved by voters was for $5.27 million, the projects cost could reach up to $6.6 million, according to information from the district. Fire Commission Tom Remmert said at the Thursday Feb. 25, public information meeting on the project that the $6.6 million dollar number represents the maximum amount the district could spend on the project, which includes the deconstruction of the current firehouse, construction of a building to temporarily store two of the district’s fire trucks, and the construction of the new firehouse.
`It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we came in under budget on these numbers,` said Remmert, at the meeting.
A number of voters who supported the bond had a connection to the fire district.
Phyllis McClarty, a district resident, said she voted yes on the referendum because of her family history with the district. `My father has been a 50 year member of the fire district. I grew up in the firehouse and they do a damn good job,` she said. She said she also voted in favor of the bond because of the large percentage of the town served by the fire district.
According to Remmert, one-third of the town’s taxable property is within the district.
David Spawn, who served in the district for 39 years, and his wife Susan, also voted yes because of a family history with the department. According to Spawn, his grandparents were founding members of the department.
Bill Swartz, a 29 year veteran of the department, also voted yes on the bond. `We’re getting to big for the fire house,` he said. `It’s not up to code; it has to be brought up to standards.`
Keimer said that while the fire house has over 60 active members who widely supported the referendum, the amount of voter turnout also show it received community support as well. `I think we have about 4,000 registered voters, this [turnout] is almost ten percent of the community,` he said.
The district’s attorney, William Young, said that will the exception of a fire commissioner election six years ago, this voter turnout was the highest he has seen in his 30 years representing the district.
Keimer said the next step the district will take is to solicit bids from contractors for the project. Initially, the district planned for the deconstruction of the current firehouse to take place this Spring.
`Spring has just sprung, so to say,` said Keimer. He said now that the bond has passed the district will have to take a look at the time tables.
`Pretty soon bulldozers and equipment will be out there,` he said.