The question isn't whether the village of Scotia needs a new fire station.
The current station, at Mohawk Avenue and North Ten Broeck Street, is over 100 years old. Quarters are cramped - the station is located in a small complex that includes village offices and the police department - and difficult for the disabled to access.
The case for modernizing this aging facility is strong, but that doesn't mean the proposal presented last week is above reproach.
Of particular concern is the village's plan to build a new fire station in an empty corner of Collins Park, with the main entrance on what is already a busy section of Mohawk Avenue.
The case for putting the fire station in Collins Park is that the town owns the land already, and building there will be cheaper and easier than the other sites that were under consideration
Now, I can't fault village officials for trying to keep costs down.
Voters rejected a $7.4 million firehouse bond in 2004, and there's no guarantee they'll support this new proposal, although I thought the cost - about $12 million - sounded fairly reasonable.
What troubles me is the loss of parkland that would occur under this proposal.
Collins Park is one of the nicest spots in Schenectady County - an oasis, as one village resident described it in a letter to the Gazette.
A fire station in the park would be a big change, one that can't easily be undone should residents experience buyer's remorse. Are voters prepared to give the go-ahead to a plan that permanently alters their beloved park?
It's a tough decision, but if I lived in Scotia, I'd want to hear more about the alternatives, which include sites on Sacandaga, Albermarle and Vley roads.
The village's $12 million plan would cover the cost of building a new fire station and also of renovating the existing fire station into new village and police department space.
According to a consultant involved with the project, that's an additional $1.75 per $1,000 for village property taxpayers, or an extra $175 on a home valued at $100,000.
The village needs permission from the state Legislature to use its parkland for another purpose.
Officials are proposing a land swap that would see its former sewer plant property at the end of Schonowee Avenue converted into parkland. That land would become the western edge of a trail for bikers and pedestrians along the Mohawk River.
This is an appealing plan, and if voters do approve the Collins Park firehouse plan, they will be getting something of value in return - new parkland that connects to the local trail system.
The question they must ask themselves is: Is it worth it?
Public parks are a precious community resource, and Collins Park is one of the best parks around.
Municipalities should only give up parkland if there are no other options.
Is that truly the case here?
Or is there another way?
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]