Press-Republican

January 14, 2013

$2.5 M Morrisonville firehouse addition up for vote

By FELICIA KRIEG
Press-Republican

---- — MORRISONVILLE — Soon, voters will decide on a $2.5 million update and expansion project for Morrisonville Volunteer Fire Department’s station.

A referendum vote is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31, said Gary Rabideau, chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners. 

The Clinton County and Town of Schuyler Falls zoning boards have already approved the project, fire officials said.

”We’re pushing for spring construction,” Rabideau said. “We would like as much input from the town residents as possible.”

The addition would include a decontamination room, a “day room” for mutual-aid departments, expanded office space, a new community room and a fitness center for department members. 

The updates also would make the entrance and bathroom of the building handicap accessible.

SOFT, HARD COSTS

The multi-million dollar price tag includes “soft and hard costs,” everything from attorney’s fees to bonding, Rabideau said.

”The Fire Department commissioners take the expenditure of taxpayer dollars very seriously,” a department press release said.

The annual tax rate, should the project be approved, would be 51 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on property in the Fire District, he said.

The increase would still put Morrisonville under the county average property-tax rate, Rabideau said.

SPREADING THE WORD

The project would likely be financed with a 20-year bond, he said.

The project has been in the works for awhile, with planning starting in April of last year.

Many who live in the Fire District are aware of the plans, as firefighters have been spreading the word for quite some time, Assistant Fire Chief Steve Brown said.

SAFETY RISKS

Some of the features the fire station is lacking pose significant safety risks, Rabideau said. The building doesn’t have a fire alarm system or sprinklers, and the electrical system is antiquated.

Those deficiencies would have to be addressed even if the project doesn’t pass, he said.

And the updates would put the fire station in line with new energy codes, Rabideau said, which would lead to savings down the line.

’CRAMPED’

The fire station was built in three phases, beginning in 1954. The most recent major construction was back in 1986, when firefighters volunteered their time to building a new bay, he said. 

The Fire District paid for the materials, he said.

The facility, located on Route 22B, has not been expanded or been updated in step with the increasing technology and size of modern fire equipment, the commissioners said in the release.

Architect Andrew Abdallah of the Architectural Engineering Design Association in Plattsburgh drew up plans for the addition.

They show five truck bays with larger doors and higher ceilings. 

“We’re cramped for room right now,” Brown said.

’SECURITY THREAT’

And there’s another issue with inadequate space, too. In one of the truck bays, firefighters are often suiting up in the area where they hang their gear, only a few feet from the truck, Brown said. And when the vehicle pulls out of the station, the fumes from the exhaust could contaminate the fire suits, he said.

The station currently houses three pumpers, two brush trucks, one rescue vehicle, one antique truck and a van that contains water rescue equipment.

Sometimes the van has to be parked outside because of space constraints and, although the firehouse has a surveillance system, this poses a security threat, Rabideau said.

DECONTAMINATION ROOM

The fitness room in the plans would contain weight-training equipment for the department’s 45 firefighters; the “day room” would give mutual-aid companies a place to gather and relax when they are covering for Morrisonville.

The community room, used for department fundraisers, would almost double in size, with enough seating for 99 people, Rabideau said. 

The “deconditioning” or decontamination room would give firefighters a place to strip off their gear and take showers after returning from a fire. The industrial washer purchased by the department five years ago and the dryer they bought last year would go in that room, he said. 

The washer and dryer are safety precautions, since the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration found that firefighters who wear gear that hasn’t been properly decontaminated face an increased risk of throat cancer, Fire Chief Kevin Randall said.

MODERN-DAY MISSION

“Simply stated, our building is much too small for our modern-day mission,” the release said.

The Fire Department’s budget for 2013 is $326,872, Rabideau said.

Email Felicia Krieg:

fkrieg@pressrepublican.com

TO LEARN MORE Registration for voters in the Morrisonville Fire District is set for 6 to 9 p.m. today at the Fire Station, 1927 Route 22B. An informational meeting for the public on the firehouse expansion is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday. Fire District commissioners and the architect will be in attendance, taking questions and showing the conceptual drawings. A referendum vote on the project is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31.