Story by Katie Krahulik
The Warwick Fire District is seeking approval for a $4.6 million 30-year bond to build a new 10,000 square foot firehouse for Engine Company Station #3 located at 132 South St. Extension in order to accommodate modern fire apparatus. At the Open House held on Sat., Jun. 15, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners George Schick delivered a presentation to Warwick residents detailing the need for a new firehouse and providing estimated figures for the construction.
The crux of the issue is an undersized truck room that cannot fit the necessary sized vehicles and equipment to combat modern emergencies. Schick explained that the rebuild is a last resort and the result of a failed attempt to make-do with the current firehouse. After an engineering company did a study on the facility in 2008, the company learned that there was no feasible way of expanding on the current firehouse to accommodate the apparatus. The Board of Commissioners and a building committee of Engine Company 3 members began making plans for a new firehouse shortly thereafter.
Schick said that Station #3 is especially relied on for their rescue truck, the apparatus used in motor vehicle accidents. This is the truck that houses the Jaws of Life, a tool used most frequently in recent years. Compared to the 83 fire calls in 1967, the company has responded to 500 calls in 2018 alone, and Schick said a good percentage of these calls are car accidents.
As more and more accidents involve cars of modern makes and materials such as electric cars, hybrid cars and other cars made of hardened steel, it is growing increasingly challenging to cut open damaged vehicles and remove passengers.
“We need to carry a larger variety of equipment to be able to deal with that and so we need a bigger truck. We can’t fit a bigger truck in this building,” said Schick.
Vote to be Held on July 2
The bond approval will go to a vote on Tues., Jul. 2 in the meeting room of Station #3 on South St. Extension between 6 and 9 p.m. Schick said the projected tax increase for the average taxpayer in Warwick would be $43 a year.
Warwick residents are currently paying roughly $217 a year for fire tax. With the bond, Schick said the annual fire tax will raise to about $260. As of now, the bond will have a 4% interest rate. The commissioner said they are trying to see if they can do better than that. The estimates were provided by Munistat Services, Inc., a financial advisor to local governments, school districts and other tax-exempt organizations.
“I think we have a pretty solid estimate here,” said Schick.
Additional Firehouse Shortcomings to be Corrected with New Facility
In addition to the undersized truck bay, the commissioner said the building suffers from an array of wear and tear that leaves conditions unsafe for the volunteers. There are multiple leaks and mold issues as well as major cracks in the foundation of the firehouse and along the apron in front of the truck room garage doors. Schick also explained that the small meeting room limits training and fundraising opportunities put on to supplement taxpayers’ money.
The company architect, Peter A. Cirillo, helped design a building that has a bigger truck room and meeting room as well as more parking spaces and gear lockers. The new facility would be handicap accessible, energy efficient, it would contain a decontamination area where members can wash themselves and gear of any toxic residue and it would have an engine exhaust removal system.
Projected blueprints and enlarged images of the completed firehouse were on display for the public to see at the Open House on Saturday, detailing dimensions and floor plans.
As other local fire stations are expanding and rebuilding, Schick drew comparisons to the recently remodeled firehouses in Greenwood Lake, a $5.5 million dollar project spanning 11.5 thousand square feet, and in Harriman, NY, a 5.6 million dollar project spanning 11 thousand square feet.
The Warwick Fire Department protects the fire district in the Town of Warwick that doesn’t include Pine Island, Florida or Greenwood Lake. The fire district functions as a separate sub-division of the State of New York, so the construction of the firehouse is not subject to the zoning requirements mandated by the Village. Schick said their team has consulted with appropriate experts to ensure the construction of the building does not cause any environmental or archaeological issues.
“We take this really seriously. We’re taxpayers. We live in this town. We have friends in this town. So this is a serious thing. You can see this isn’t something we’re doing on a whim. The plans for this started in 2008 when we had the engineering study done. So we hope that you see we put the work in and this is the key that we think we need to protect this fire district,” Schick said before opening the floor for questions from attendees.
Questions from Attendees
The first question was posed by a young listener who raised his hand and asked, “Why do you have that old fire truck if you’re not going to use it?”
The commissioner responded by explaining that the truck is a historic token used in parades.
“It would still work! We can still take it out to a fire, but I don’t think anybody would be too happy if we brought a 1929 fire truck to a burning house,” said Schick.
A resident member asked for an estimate on the construction time frame to which the commissioner said they anticipate breaking ground in spring of 2020 and completing the project in 10 to 12 months.
Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton asked, “What is the plan during construction to stage equipment?”
Schick responded, “We have space in other firehouses. We’ll move some of the auxiliary equipment out to Station 4. I’m not sure if we have a plan as to which truck is going where. There is room at Station 2 and room at Station 1. We’ll put one piece of apparatus in each.”
Another attendee asked, “Is there going to be [a truck] on this side of the tracks?” to which George said, “I’m not sure we can accommodate that, but we can look at it.”
Another young resident asked, “How old is your firehouse?” The commissioner said the house is 50 years old. The young boy let out a “Wow!” to which Schick responded, “Yeah, tell me about it.”
If the public has any questions or wants more information, they may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.