Schenectady County

Niskayuna fire district seeks voter OK for renovations

A Niskayuna fire department that handily lost a bid for a new station in 2006 is returning to voters

A Niskayuna fire department that handily lost a bid for a new station in 2006 is returning to voters with a scaled-down plan.

Niskayuna Fire District 1 is expected to hold a vote as early as March on an estimated $4.78 million renovation to its firehouse on Balltown Road.

The proposal is to expand the station to the south, to provide modern bays for larger fire equipment. Trucks housed at the department’s River Road substation can’t fit at the Balltown Road firehouse, Fire Chief Dale Lingenfelter said.

The plan is a scaled back version of a $6.1 million plan that would have replaced the firehouse altogether. Fire district voters resoundingly defeated that proposal in November 2006 by a ratio of 3-1.

Mindful of the previous defeat, Lingenfelter said district officials have tried to learn from post-vote comments they received.

“Probably the most prominent thing that came out of that was that people said we did not take enough time to communicate the project to the public and give them time to consider it,” Lingenfelter said.

“That was one of the main focuses this time around, to make sure we take every effort and every opportunity to keep the public in the loop regarding what we’re working on.”

To help achieve that, the department has scheduled a list of open houses and meetings where residents can learn about the proposed project firsthand.

One of those meetings is at 10 a.m. at the station on Sat. Jan. 30. Officials are expected to go over the history of the project, explain why it’s needed and show exactly what will be done.

A similar meeting has been set for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9.

There are also open houses Sunday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon and 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday. Four others are also scheduled.

Fueling the new plan is a change in state building codes, Lingenfelter said. When the 2006 replacement project was proposed, renovation was not possible. But changes to state codes would allow the station to be expanded, he said.

But the problems with the circa-1939 station have remained the same, Lingenfelter said. Larger trucks can fit and heavier trucks aren’t allowed inside — the floor structure can’t handle them.

Generally, Lingenfelter said, departments with two stations should rotate the trucks between buildings. They can’t do that here. Trucks from other departments stationed at the firehouse on mutual aid also can’t fit.

The new bays would also include a decontamination area for cleaning equipment and a storage area.

The work would require a 15-year bond, which is the maximum term allowed for renovations, Lingenfelter said.

Estimates are that the project would cost homeowners 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed value annually.

A final date for the vote hasn’t been set, he said. But officials are looking at the end of March.

Factoring in for inflation, Lingenfelter estimated the current proposal marks a 24 percent reduction from the old plan.

The meetings, including one with immediate neighbors, held so far have gone well, he said.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “But so far it’s been a pretty good experience.”

The district serves about 4,200 parcels and about 11,000 people in an area that straddles Balltown Road from Village Road to the Rexford Bridge.

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