GFD holds vote for $3.9M bond project

— From the Guilderland Fire Department

Renovating and expanding the current firehouse, at 2303 Western Ave., to the tune of $3.9 million, will enhance the facility’s safety and functionality, according to David Messercola, chairman of the board of fire commissioners.

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Fire Department will hold a public vote on Aug. 27 on a $3.9 million bond for a renovation and expansion project.

David Messercola, the chairman of the board of fire commissioners, told The Enterprise that the fire department had already held three public hearings — one required by law and two voluntary — about the project and the bond, but that none of them were well-attended. The first hearing, he said, had no attendees, the second was attended by one department member, and the third had four attendees.

“This project has actually been in the works for almost 20 years,” said Messercola, although the current firehouse, at 2303 Western Ave., near the intersection with Willow Street, is only 19 years old.

He was on the original building committee, and he said that, at the time, it was acknowledged that the firehouse being built would be too small; it was limited in size by a sewer system behind it and a historical building to the east of it.

“Over the past 15 years, we have been paying off the original building, and slowly acquiring land to the west, and paying that off, as well,” said Messercola, noting that the department did not want to take out a bond when it had other existing debt.

The current firehouse has three apparatus bays for five trucks; three offices shared by more than 20 people; no meeting space; and no training room, he said. 

“The facility just doesn’t meet the needs of the community,” Messercola said.

The department decided to go forward with the project now, rather than to wait another year, because the bond rates are low, and the construction market is still “soft,” according to Messercola.

The average fire district homeowner, he said, with property valued at $246,500, would see a tax increase of less than $70, or roughly 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The bond would be limited to 15 years, so the median total cost over that period would be approximately $1,049.

“We’ve been very cognizant of the tax impact,” Messercola said.

There is no grant money available for the project, he said.

In comparison to other fire districts that recently built new firehouses and renovated current ones, Messercola said the Guilderland Fire Department project would be less expensive. The Westmere Fire Department took out a $5.27 million bond for a new firehouse in March 2010.

“We’ve been planning this for two years, and actively working with an architect for eight months,” said Messercola. “It’s certainly not going to be the Taj Mahal or anything; it will be a value-engineered building.”

The bond referendum will take place at the Guilderland Fire Department on Aug. 27, and is open to residents living in the fire district.

“We have always been lucky to have good community support,” said Messercola.

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