CHARLTON — The Charlton Volunteer Fire Department resurfaced plans to build a new fire station or renovate the existing facility at a public forum on Thursday.
If the department moves forward with a referendum, it would mark the fourth one in the past 13 years.
Voters in the Charlton fire district first defeated a plan in 2005 for a $3.2 million firehouse, and again for a $2.8 million facility in January 2010 and July 2010.
The department has put together a building committee made up of residents and volunteer firefighters. It also hired Syracuse-based Hueber-Breuer Construction Co. to conduct a feasibility study.
Sean Foran, executive project manager of the Division of Fire Protection Services, said the company would be assessing the current condition of the Charlton Road station as well as the value and the ability of the facility to meet the needs of the public today and in the future.
He added that Hueber-Breuer would also be analyzing recent call volume to better understand where the density of calls is coming from to determine the best location for the fire station.
Charlton Volunteer Fire Department’s fire station was built in 1922, the same year the department was founded.
Foran cited not enough spaces between fire engines, storing gear and equipment too close to fire engines, and safety concerns about the possibility of firefighters being hit or driven over by a fire truck due to lack of space.
There are seven options on the table for the department. They include a new station or pre-engineered metal building on the department’s property on Peaceable Street, a new station at the existing Charlton Road site, a new station at a new site, repairing the existing station, repair and renovating the existing station and repair, or renovating and adding an extension to the current facility.
The feasibility study will look at issues such as health concerns, providing safe apparatus bays, security, and a facility that maintains community aesthetics.
The last referendum defeat in July 2010 would have raised fire taxes by about 50 percent.
The fire department decided to hold two votes in 2010 as the first one in January was defeated by about 30 votes with 498 votes cast.
While the July 2010 vote resulted in a larger turnout with almost 700 votes cast, it was also defeated by a little more than 30 votes.
The proposed station would have been located approximately a half-mile east of the hamlet on Charlton Road, on land the fire district previously purchased.
Commissioner Bob Legere said the department’s building committee is made up of all new people with a new direction.
“The bays are too small and the trucks are too big for today’s standards,” he said. “Our bays also face the road, which causes problems when we pull the trucks out.”
Legere said the committee has just started to of explore the department’s options.
“There’s no time frame right now,” he said.
Volunteer firefighter Peter O’Brien said the department’s aging fire station forces firefighters to breathe in exhaust fumes when firetrucks are warming up in the winter. He added that it has also limited the department’s options on purchasing used firetrucks.
“Used firetrucks are more cost effective, but they don’t fit in here,” he said. “We have to buy custom-built firetrucks, which are a lot more expensive.”
O’Brien said he’s looking forward to exploring the options for a new or renovated fire station.
“We have to modernize to stay competitive while fighting fires,” he said. “I hope the community comes out to these meetings and hears what’s going on instead of sitting at home and deciding to vote against it.”
Charlton Town Supervisor Alan Grattidge said while the fire department is a separate district, the town still supports their plans.
“This is a subject that’s come up in the last 10 years, and they weren’t successful,” he said. “This time they’re trying to be more inclusive and educate the residents on why they need the new building.
“The town recognizes we need fire service, so we’re looking to support the fire district in any way we can to allow them to do the job they volunteer to do.”
Grattidge said while the town is supportive of the fire department’s plans, they still have to gain approval from residents.
“Their challenge is to get the majority of the people to support this and get a successful vote on a referendum,” he said.
Stephen Anderson, a 25-year Charlton resident, said the fire department’s current facility doesn’t fit with the surrounding historic district.
“There’s a cinder block, flat roof building in the middle of a historic district,” he said. “I’d like to see this place go away and be replaced with green space.”
Anderson said while he supports having an adequate facility for the fire deparment, he wants them to only build what they need.
“Town Hall cost a huge amount of money and, while it’s beautiful and immense, it’s excessive,” he said of the $4 million Charlton Town Hall, which opened in 2009.
Foran said community involvement along the way is crucial.
“Hueber-Breuer believes it’s a community process and we want the community to give input,” he said to attendees. “It’s important to get people involved early.”
Several attendees of Thursday’s community forum expressed frustrations about lack of attendance and notification about the meeting.
Foran said the building committee will meet every three weeks, and the feasibility study is expected to be finished in October.
He added that the commissioners would have to approve the study findings before meetings are held regarding the building design. Specific project details would be followed by a referendum.
“Don’t expect a referendum until February or March at the earliest,” he told the crowd.
Another community meeting is scheduled for Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. at Charlton Volunteer Fire Department at 786 Charlton Road in Ballston Lake.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County