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Vote on Cutchogue FD expansion set for Sept. 27; ZBA rules in favor of proposal

The town Zoning Board of Appeals has issued a negative SEQRA resolution for the Cutchogue Fire Department expansion and renovations. But voters in the Cutchogue Fire District still need to approve a $16 million bond on Sept. 27 for the project to move forward.

A summary of the estimated debt service and tax impact for a 23-year bond projects that a $15 million loan would result in a tax increase for fire district residents of $48.92 per $1,000 of assessed value. The same loan over 30 years would generate a tax increase of $44.59 per $1,000.

The proposed remodel would nearly double the square footage of the existing firehouse. Commissioners said most of the building would be torn down and rebuilt. The nearly 21,000-square-foot rebuild would add a second floor and more efficient, sustainable plumbing and electrical equipment, including solar panels on the roof. 

Truck bays would be built to accommodate future vehicle upgrades and the new building would meet accessibility codes, with steel and masonry construction throughout. An updated floor plan would include space for administrative workers, community meetings and storage, along with a kitchen, bunkroom and members’ lounge.

The timeline for the project is estimated at a year to 18 months from bond approval, commissioners said, with construction potentially beginning next spring. While work is in progress, fire vehicles would be moved to a building across the street and clerical work could be done in a rented office or a temporary structure. 

The firehouse, originally constructed around 1928, was last expanded in the 1990s. During a facility tour at an open house in late July, commissioner Mike Finnican pointed out several issues with the building, including cramped space, exposed electrical wiring and a leaking roof. 

According to presentation materials distributed at the open house, some response vehicles are already housed in a building across the street from the main firehouse, which can cause problems for volunteers reporting to two different buildings. Turnout gear is stored on racks near the trucks, which can be dangerous for members gearing up near moving vehicles.

The current building also lacks a required vehicle exhaust ventilation system, needed storage and ADA accommodations. Other concerns, according to presentation documents, include numerous structural cracks in the 1928 portion of the building and the proximity of the existing kitchen to the truck bays, which poses a potential health code violation.

Additionally, the chief’s office is in a basement with one exit, directly under bathrooms that have been prone to leaking in recent years, causing damage to equipment and records.

“Bottom line is, the building is in such disrepair, this is probably the best way to do it. Can’t put money into something that’s going to get worse and worse,” Mr. Finnican said last month. “You get an old building, keep putting money into it, you get to the point where it’s like a refrigerator — you fix it so many times, eventually you have to buy a new refrigerator.”