Schenectady County

Voters reject Schonowe firehouse proposal

Voters soundly defeated a $3.25 million proposal to build a new station for the Schonowe Fire Depart

Voters soundly defeated a $3.25 million proposal to build a new station for the Schonowe Fire Department.

The resolution was shot down Tuesday by a vote of 166-114. Fire Commissioner Barry Gray said the board will now need to decide whether to make repairs to the aging building to bring it up to code or go without using the second floor, which was cited by the state Public Employee Safety and Health Department earlier this year.

“That’s got to be determined,” he said Wednesday.

The 22-member company was proposing to build a 12,200-square-foot, three-bay facility in the parking lot adjacent to the existing building. The old building would have been demolished as part of the project.

Fire officials were hoping to replace the station on Gordon Road with a structure that would better support modern fire equipment. Built in 1948, the old station is lacking in space and is aligned on the property in a manner that makes it difficult to park fire vehicles inside.

The total cost of the project would have been bonded out over 25 years and cost residents 87 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a $200,000 home would have paid an additional $174 each year under the proposal.

The Schonowe proposal is the second major firehouse project to be shot down by voters in less than a year. In October, voters in the Pine Grove Fire District rejected a $3.5 million plan to renovate the 30-member company’s existing station and add 4,200 square-feet of space.

Gray said Schonowe members didn’t conduct any exit polls to gauge why the resolution was rejected and were surprised by the outcome. He suspected low turnout — about 35 percent of registered voters in the district — played a role.

Gray said the company will need to decide whether to conduct extensive repairs to the building so they can continue using the second floor. The meeting room is already closed to the public and will be off-limits to the fire company after June 2013, when the waiver allowing them to use the space expires.

Gray said the company would need to build a new staircase and elevator to continue using the space. In addition, he said the rest rooms would need to be moved and the kitchen updated, projects that still don’t address the functionality of the building as a firehouse.

“The Board of Commissioners is going to have to sit down and discuss what avenue we want to take,” he said.

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