SELKIRK — The Fire District is proposing a new station across from Lasher Road on Route 9W and renovations to the existing Station 2 in Glenmont, a project that is projected to cost $11.8 million.
The presented plan includes no tax increase for Selkirk Fire District residents and is aimed at increasing safety and efficiency for the volunteer firefighters that cover the area.
The vote for the station will take place on Oct. 6, from 1 to 9 p.m., at any three of the Selkirk Fire District stations. For more information on the plan, visit selkirkfire2020.org.
“The ability to pay for this new station was built into the budget in the last five years by the commissioners, who knew a new station was imminent,” Daniel Wagoner, capitan of Station 1 in Selkirk, said. “We are using the most conservative financial estimates possible. There is absolutely no tax increase for residents.”
Station 3 Captain Rob Messenger showed the proposal to about 40 people last Tuesday. The plan for the new station, which would be located adjacent to A.W. Becker Elementary School, includes a 23,573 square foot building with six drive-through bays. Messenger cited the need for drive-through bays after reading that several firefighters across the nation have been killed in accidents where drivers do not see the spotters helping to back the trucks in and hits them. Bays will also be taller, allowing for the evolution of firetruck designs and more space for modern equipment. The proposed headquarters scrapped the bunk rooms and museum mentioned in the failed 2018 plan, which residents voted down an $18 million project with an average tax increase of $100 per resident. The 2020 proposal also scaled down the remaining plans.
Station 2’s upgrades include two new, taller, drive-through bays and a re-work of the existing building to allow for more space for decontamination, including walling off the existing bays. The renovation measures 3,276 square feet. Pierce Communications president Jonathan Pierce said none of Selkirk’s three stations currently have a decontamination zone, or a place where firefighters coming back from a call can strip down from polluted gear and keep it away from common spaces or their homes.
“There is an increased risk of cancer for firefighters due to the number of toxins they are exposed to,” Messenger said. “It is imperative we provide areas for dirty turnout gear so we don’t stay in it any longer than we have to.”
Bob Mitchell, architect for Mitchell Associates Architects in Voorheesville, said move-in day for the new station, if approved, would be around April 2022. If the plan is approved in October, it will take five months for preliminary drawings to be done. After that, the project will go to bid in March. Bidding takes one month, which would put the beginning of construction in April 2021, starting a 12- to 14-month build. From completion, it would take about a year for everything to fall into place.
“This is the time to do this,” Messenger said. “We know a lot is going on right now in the world, but this upgrade and new station is for the safety of our team.”
David DeCancio, a member of a resident committee to help create the proposal, said not approving the plan is “kicking the can down the road,” adding recruitment and retaining existing membership will be hard without modernizing and bring current fire stations up to code.
Photos provided by Selkirk Fire District show a truck mere inches from the top of a garage at one of Selkirk’s stations. Others show volunteers wedged between the truck and a wall as they perform routine maintenance. Pierce said some trucks are too heavy for the existing infrastructure to support and in foul weather, crews have to go out and pack down snow or ice to make sure the trucks can clear the shorter bays.
“Firefighters cannot currently get in the truck while it’s in the bay because it’s too narrow and the exhaust from the truck fills the bay relatively quickly,” Pierce said. “It’s an unsafe practice, but they will get hurt if they get in before it moves outside.”
Wagoner said construction and the firehouse will have a limited effect on traffic, citing the average of one call per day between all three stations.
“We are not married to the design shown here and we are happy to make changes to it if that’s what residents want,” Messenger said. “We can absolutely move things around.”
Messenger also addressed questions about a fire department being so close to a school, answering Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk School District officials are on board with the project and hope it will be a good place for kids to triage if there is a problem at A.W. Becker and parents need to pick up their children.
Wagoner concluded it is time for the district to move into the 21st century, asking what future members will think if it’s not done now. Selkirk is responsible for the majority of Bethlehem’s fire districts, including the Port of Albany and the industrial complex on Creble Road. Panelists cited the recent chemical leak at SABIC as an example of why modern equipment is needed. As development in Bethlehem continues to prosper, the majority of the open land available is located in South Bethlehem.
“This is for my kids, my grandkids and everyone who will be walking through those doors in the future,” DeCancio said. “A band aid approach will not solve the problem here. This plan will meet the needs of this district going forward.”
Editor’s note: Information attributed to David DeCancio was edited to clarify that the bond issue will cover facility upgrades and not equipment.