By Jano Tantongco
After 59 years of serving the community, the Dix Hills Fire Department headquarters now needs to be renovated, said Fire Commissioner Michael Plumitallo at a community meeting held on Sept. 13 to discuss a bond needed to fund the construction.
About 25 members of the community gathered at the Dix Hills Fire Department (115 Deer Park Road) to attend its first of five town-hall style meetings, which are intended to discuss the proposed renovations to the department’s headquarters.
In 2011, the department made attempts to gain approval for renovations, but they encountered friction in getting their plan off the ground, with a major point of criticism being lack of transparency and community involvement.
However, since then, members of the department are eager to open their doors to the public.
“I feel that, in the last three years, we’ve listened and we learned from the community. They’ve come to a number of our meetings over the last year,” Plumitallo said. “There’s a melting pot of knowledge in these areas. That’s why it took us so long.”
Plumitallo said that the department aims to construct a pre-engineered building north of the existing headquarters on Deer Park Road. This building would take over rescue operations, hosting a four bays that would fit modern-sized vehicles. The existing headquarters would be extensively renovated to bring it into compliance with modern safety standards and would shift toward administrative purposes. Full details of the proposed renovations can be viewed at Dixhillsfd.org.
If the project is approved by January 2017, the renovations are expected to be complete by 2019. The project is estimated to cost $8 million; $4 million would cover the renovations to the existing headquarters, $3 million would pay for a new, pre-engineered substation, and $1 million would go toward property site work.
As it stands now, the fire department’s operating budget allocates $450,000 to the capital reserve fund specifically for headquarters renovation. Access to these funds is now available, since bond payments from previous projects were paid off last year.
Capital reserve transfers of $450,000, starting with one this year and then two more -- one in 2017 and one in 2018 -- along with an additional $150,000 already in the capital reserve fund, will combine to fund $1.5 million of the project.
The rest of the funding will come from the proposed 25-year, $6.5-million bond. The first 1-percent payment will begin in 2018. Full annual payments of approximately $450,000, depending on the interest rate, will begin in 2019.
With such a funding structure, Plumitallo said residents would see no tax increases.
Allen Fritz, who’s been living in Dix Hills for 46 years, lives just blocks away from the fire department and attended the meeting last week.
“If you don’t have a decent fire department, you may not survive. It’s a necessity. Do I want it in my backyard? If I had a choice, no, but it’s here, so I say yes,” he said. “You have to be realistic.”
He recalled 2011 when the plan was first presented to the public.
“I think it was costing us money,” he said. “Now, it’s not costing us money. That’s a big plus.”
The vote to approve the bond will be held on Nov. 1, from 4-9 p.m., at the fire department headquarters. The second community meeting was scheduled for Sept. 20. The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. The final two meetings are slated for Oct. 13 at 10 a.m. and Oct. 26 at 7 p.m.