Schenectady County

Pine Grove firehouse upgrade sought

Firefighters with Rotterdam’s Pine Grove fire district are hoping taxpayers will fund an overhaul of

Firefighters with Rotterdam’s Pine Grove fire district are hoping taxpayers will fund an overhaul of their aging firehouse next year.

The 30-member volunteer fire department covering parts of Princetown, Rotterdam and Guilderland is advancing a $3.5 million plan that would renovate the existing station and add 4,200 square feet of space. Fire Commissioner Herb LeTarte III said the project would be the first substantial renovation since a two-bay garage was added in 1984 and only the second since the building was originally constructed.

“But it hasn’t been changed dramatically at all since it was built in 1970,” he said.

LeTarte said there is a lengthy list of issues with the station. For instance, the building isn’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities act, has its electric utilities located within a flood plain and lacks the space to accommodate modern equipment.

The cost to renovate the station on Dunnsville Road is close to $1.9 million, he said, and the renovation wouldn’t do anything to resolve the issues with space.

“There’s nothing frivolous in the package,” he said.

The project would construct a new bay that would fit up to six vehicles. The new apparatus bay would also house gear lockers, a compressor, and an air-pack fill station. The project would also add showers and a maintenance workroom for cleaning equipment.

The existing fire station would get a new public entrance lobby along the east side, while the existing truck bays on the southwest corner will be dedicated to housing emergency rescue vehicles.

If approved, construction would be done in two phases so that the station could remain in service. The first phase is tentatively planned for April, with construction expected to wrap up in 2013.

The cost would be bonded over 25 years. The cost to taxpayers varies depending on the town where they reside.

Rotterdam residents could see an increase of about 77 cents per $1,000 of property value. A resident with a $200,000 home could expect a tax increase of about $154 per year, according to the district estimates.

There are 1,485 homes in the Pine Grove district. LeTarte said the district’s population is roughly twice what it was when the station was first built and is due to get larger with the construction of several new developments.

Last year, Pine Grove firefighters responded to 183 calls.

So far this year, the department has answered more than 200 calls, including 60 responses during Tropical Storm Irene in late August.

The district will conduct a public hearing at the station starting at 7 p.m. Monday. The vote is scheduled at the station between 6 and 9 p.m. Oct. 25.

LeTarte acknowledged the vote is coming at a time when residents haven’t been very supportive of paying additional taxes. In December 2010, Rotterdam voters resoundingly defeated a referendum that would have created a special tax district to support Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc., the town’s not-for-profit ambulance company.

Supervisor Frank Del Gallo’s 2012 town budget proposal carries a 2.83 percent increase in taxes, while cutting a total of 16 jobs. He’s warned that the town could face a double-digit tax increase if those jobs are restored.

Still, LeTarte said many of the district residents he’s talked to about the project have seemed supportive.

Regardless, he said something has to be done to bring the Pine Grove station into the 21st century.

“We’ve got to do it at some point,” he said.

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