Saratoga County

Charlton firefighters make pitch for new station

Voters rejected three previous attempts to build new house
It's a tight fit for engines and firefighters at their station on Charlton Road at Charlton Volunteer Fire Department.
It's a tight fit for engines and firefighters at their station on Charlton Road at Charlton Volunteer Fire Department.

CHARLTON — At the Charlton fire station, the trucks sit within a few feet of the back wall, but just inches from the front bay doors.

That sort of thing, and the narrow spaces between trucks, is why firefighters say they need a new station.

“The No. 1 reason we are here tonight is the safety issue between the bays,” said Sean Foran, executive project manager with Hueber Breuer Construction of Syracuse, which has done the initial design work.

About 70 people gathered for nearly two hours Thursday night at the Charlton Road station to hear the volunteer company’s final case for a $4.2 million station that would be built a half-mile away, at Charlton Road and Peaceable Street.

Firefighters hope to overcome past resistance to higher fire taxes — resistance that resulted in the defeat of several previous referendums on plans for new stations, most recently in 2010.

The latest proposal calls for the district to borrow about $3.7 million for the station, which would raise the annual property taxes by $83 for a home assessed at $100,000, based on 30-year bonds, assuming a 4 percent interest rate. The remainder of the cost would come from a capital reserve fund, so the exact tax rate increase is not known.

Plans call for a vote on the newest plan to be held Tuesday, March 26, at the fire station. Voting hours will be noon to 9 p.m.

The current fire station, in the middle of the hamlet, dates from 1922, with some upgrades in the 1950s. It has low ceilings and short bay doors, very narrow spaces between trucks and other issues that firefighters say make it unsuitable for modern firefighting equipment, and potentially unsafe to work in.

Plans for a $3.2 million station were defeated in 2005, and plans for a $2.8 million station were defeated in both January and July of 2010, with both those defeats coming by fewer than 30 votes.

But firefighters said the underlying issues haven’t changed and early last year they began working on new plans. There have been several public meetings to discuss options.

The district wants to build on a five-acre property on the south side of Charlton Road near Peaceable Street that it has owned since 2008.

The fire company also says call volumes have been increasing in recent years, with more than 200 calls answered in 2017. An analysis done as part of a new building study found that about half the calls are for medical assistance, and 15 percent are for motor vehicle accidents.

“Most of our calls are not mutual aid. Ninety percent of our calls are from inside the district,” said Fire Chief Dean DeCapria.

‘”The number of calls goes up five, ten, fifteen every year,” DeCapria said.

In early 2018, the fire district formed a building committee. Working with Hueber Breuer, the committee looked at eight options ranging from renovation and repair of the current station to construction of a station at a new site. Hueber Breuer also worked with the Burnt Hills Fire District on its new northern station, which just went into service near the Ballston Town Hall.

The committee’s proposal is for a 9,300-square-foot, steel-framed three-bay building, with 14-foot-high doors, that would cost an estimated $4.2 million. Part of the cost is driven by a requirement that the building be able to survive natural disasters, the consultant said.

Hueber Breuer thinks the cost estimate is accurate, based on its experience building dozens of fire stations. “This is not our first rodeo,” Foran said.

A final piublic forum before the vote will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at the station.

If voters approve the proposal, fire district officials would like to go to bid in late spring and be ready to start construction in August.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected]or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Saratoga County

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