McKownville fire department proposes $3M renovation

— From McKownville Fire District Commissioner James White

This elevation by Delaware Engineering, DPC shows how the front of the McKownville firehouse would look after proposed renovations are complete.

GUILDERLAND — Residents of McKownville will vote on Tuesday in a special election on whether to approve a $3,231,000 renovation of their firehouse.

Voting will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse at 1250 Western Ave.

The proposed renovation to the 49-year-old building would more than double its square footage, vertically, with the addition of a second floor.

The changes proposed will mean greater safety for the all-volunteer firefighters, said James White, a commissioner of the McKownville Fire District. Now, he said, the fire trucks vie for space with the firefighters’ personal-equipment lockers. “We’ve had trucks back into the lockers,” he said. “It’s a situation we feel we have to change.”

Eight fire departments provide coverage for the town of Guilderland; five of them, including McKownville, serve districts that lie entirely within the town. The McKownville, Westmere, and Guilderland firehouses are on Route 20, located within a four-and-a-half mile stretch. The combined budget for the fire departments serving Guilderland, a town with about 35,000 residents, totals about $3 million annually.

The building has gone through multiple makeovers but has now gotten to the point where it no longer meets the needs of a modern fire station, the five commissioners wrote in a letter to fire-district residents. More space is needed to meet the expanded federal and state requirements for firefighting equipment, and the building’s footprint cannot be substantially enlarged, they wrote.

White said that a bond provider has not yet been secured, but the $3,231,000 figure is “what we hope to get.”

The existing firehouse is 6,338 square feet. Plans call for adding 6,600 square feet on the second floor, with total square footage to be 12,938.

The plan is to open up the first floor as much as possible to allow more room for firefighting equipment, improved first-floor safety, and a designated communications/data center. White said that communications is now done at just one desk on the first floor that is shared by the person who does data entry and by any firefighters receiving and tracking communications from the 911 dispatch center.

 

— From McKownville Fire District Commissioner James White
The proposed second floor of the McKownville firehouse includes a dedicated training space, members’ room, meeting rooms, and personnel workstations, as well as a bathroom accessible to people with disabilities.

 

As he spoke with The Enterprise by phone, White said, he was sitting on the bumper of a fire truck purchased a year ago. “I don’t really have a spot to talk with you, so I’m sitting on the bumper of the truck,” he said. He noted that the truck is quite large because it holds 1,000 gallons of water, which is necessary, for instance, for fighting fires on the Northway, where, he said, “There is no water.” He noted that when the department put out the open bid, seeking to buy the truck, only one manufacturer was able to supply a truck large enough.

The fire district includes the Northway to the Albany city line, White said, which he estimated is about a mile. He said this also includes the Crossgates exit, which he called “a hazardous spot.”

The first-floor redesign will include opening up the wall and moving the lockers.

The second floor will include a dedicated training space, two meeting rooms, a kitchen, a members’ room, a commissioners’ office, and a chief’s office. Storage areas will be put in on both floors.

There will be many other improvements, including making the firehouse fire-compliant, with a fire suppression system installed throughout the building to New York State building code and National Fire Protection Association standards.

The electrical system will be redone for increased safety and capacity.

An updated heating and cooling system will provide more efficient climate control.

Colors and finishes will be cool and reflective, for improved visibility; fluorescent and light-emitting diode lighting will be used for high visibility and low energy use. The building facade will be made of materials consistent with the surrounding community. The parking area lighting will be improved and upgraded.

An elevator will be installed, to make the entire building accessible, to comply with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA-compliant bathrooms will also be built.

The useful life of the building following the renovation is expected to be 50 years or more. The revamped building will also be a Red Cross-compliant shelter.

White hopes that financing will be over 25 years, with a four-percent interest rate. This would mean an initial annual debt payment, he said, of $202,692.

The total assessed value of all properties in McKownville, according to the letter to residents from the fire-district commissioners, is $231,025,565.

The 962 residential and business parcels in McKownville would each pay $0.89 per $1,000 of assessed value, White said, with the average yearly payment for a residence coming to $136.58.

This amount is a 65 percent increase over the current fire-district tax rate of $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed value, said White.

The McKownville Fire Department currently has 50 volunteer firefighters and an additional 20 non-firefighting members. Some of these, White said, are retired firefighters who may not want to fight fires any more but want to retain membership and continue to contribute. The Ladies’ Auxiliary has 10 members, he said.

It will be easier to keep volunteers coming, White said, with a more safer and more welcoming firehouse. “You’ve got to have a decent place,” he said.

More Guilderland News

  • Westmere Fire Department is in good shape, in terms of recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters, according to President Barry Nelson. 

  • The zoning board will hold a public hearing Wednesday, Jan. 15 on how big the signs can be for WellNow, a new emergent-care facility set to open in McKownville. 

  • Subcommittee member Daniel Centi said he thinks that the recent nomination of town-board candidate Laurel Bohl at the April 2019 caucus highlighted a flaw in the caucus system: that anyone can be nominated and become a candidate, without prior vetting by the Guilderland Democratic Committee. He wants to look into whether the party can legally find a way to require that anyone planning to enter the race at a caucus must be vetted in advance. 

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