Schenectady County

Niskayuna firehouse proposal passes

Voters on Tuesday backed Fire District 1’s plan for a $4.78 million expansion and renovation of the

Voters on Tuesday backed Fire District 1’s plan for a $4.78 million expansion and renovation of the Balltown Road firehouse.

The referendum passed 814-506.

Four years ago, voters rejected a $6 million plan by a 3-to-1 ratio.

“It’s a very necessary upgrade to the facility,” said Fire Chief Dale Lingenfelter. “We’re very grateful to the community for taking the time to educate themselves and understand the need for the project and follow through with the vote that they did.”

Lingenfelter said he believes the difference was the amount of information fire officials put out to the community.

“We didn’t allow them that time on the first proposal. We made it our mission No. 1 this time to make sure we got all the information out there and gave what they needed to make an informed decision,” he said.

The proposal calls for a roughly 9,000-square-foot addition to the south of the current 10,000-square-foot station. Fire officials have said that the new space is needed for apparatus. Because the current facility has a basement, there are concerns about the structural stability of the floor with the weight of parked fire trucks. The new bays would be built on a concrete slab.

The current facility, built in the late 1930s, would be renovated to be brought up to code, including installing an elevator for handicapped accessibility. Some of the existing space will be turned into storage areas or utility rooms, with the largest area being set aside for a public meeting room. One of the three current bays would be turned into a secure entranceway with an emergency phone for the public.

Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Ed Woehrle also said he is excited about the outcome.

“It’s been a project we’ve been working on since 2004. It finally came to fruition,” he said.

The next step is for the architect to design schematics for the heating, ventilation, electrical and other mechanical systems. Then, the project would go out to bid. If the bids came in higher than the approved amount, the plans would have to be revised.

“We’re hoping that it’s going to come in lower than that because of the economy. Things are down; contractors are looking for work,” Woehrle said.

Lingenfelter said he believes construction would start in the spring of 2011 and be completed late that year or by early 2012.

The 15-year bond would add about 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to residents’ tax bills.

Voters seemed to see the need for the project.

Resident Tom Donohue said he was persuaded to vote in favor after touring the station.

“The floors there have cracks, and whether they do it this year or five years from now, they’re going to have to do it,” he said.

Resident Andy Shave said he thinks a new fire station is long overdue.

“We’ve been here 35 years. They’ve served us well. It’s an old structure that needed upgrading. You can’t ignore it,” he said.

Not everyone agreed that the expense was justified.

“It’s a slap in the face because people are really hurting financially,” said Simon Weinstein, who voted no.

More than 1,300 people cast ballots at the Niskayuna Town Hall polling place. There are about 8,800 registered voters in the fire district.

“It’s been extremely busy. We have been nonstop since 9 o’clock,” said election official Kim Versocki.

Versocki reported no problems with the new electronic voting machines voters were using.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply