Fort Hunter proposes $1.5M in repairs for firehouse

— Photo from Google

The Fort Hunter firehouse is slated to get $1.5 million in repairs if a bond issue passes on Dec. 13.

GUILDERLAND — On Dec. 13, residents of the Fort Hunter Fire District will vote on a $1.5 million bond issue to repair their firehouse and also vote for a fire commissioner.

William Kanas, who chairs the board of fire commissioners, is running for the commissioner post, which carries a five-year term.

“We are passing a bond but we are not raising taxes,” Kanas stressed, explaining that the district had set aside money each year for repairs to the massive firehouse it built 20 years ago.

The current tax rate for Fort Hunter Fire District residents is just under a dollar per $1,000 in assessed value, Kansas said.

The mortgage was paid off five years ago, said Kanas, explaining the district had had a 15-year mortgage “so it didn’t burden the taxpayers.”

Constructing the five-bay firehouse with additional training and meeting spaces cost $4.5 million two decades ago, Kanas said. He said it is currently assessed at $3,144,000, which is the amount for the original bond.

The roof had a 20-year warranty and shingles have now come off, he said. In addition to replacing the roof, the $1.5 million bond issue will pay for electric and drainage work, replacing culverts in the parking lot, said Kanas.

“We need to do it all now,” he said.

Kanas estimated that 95 percent of the building’s use is by the fire department for training and storing equipment. It is also used for community meetings but not rented out privately, he said.

Eight fire departments provide coverage for the town of Guilderland and five of them — McKownville, Westmere, Guilderland, Guilderland Center, and Fort Hunter — focus solely on the town. Altamont also has a fire department which focuses on the village.

While the McKownville, Westmere, and Guilderland firehouses are located within a five-mile stretch on Western Avenue, Guilderland Center’s firehouse is on School Road and Fort Hunter’s is at 3525 Carman Road, where the voting will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 13.

Kanas described the 14 square miles covered by Fort Hunter as including part of the Pine Bush and New York State Thruway, including the rest area in Guilderland, over to the Schenectady border. Anyone who lives in the fire district, which includes about 3,800 houses, and is registered with the Albany County Board of Elections is eligible to vote on Dec. 13.

The department, which has about 55 volunteers, answers an average of 230 calls a year, he said, including fires, car accidents, carbon-monoxide leaks, and hazardous conditions.

Kanas said many people think Guilderland firefighters are paid; they’re not — they are all volunteers. 

Outside of cities, most firefighting is done by volunteers, according to a 2017 report by the New York State comptroller. There are over 90,000 volunteer and about 18,000 paid career firefighters in the state, the report says. Over the last three decades, the number of volunteer firefighters in New York State has declined by more than 20,000.

Kanas has been a Fort Hunter volunteer for 33 years and served on the five-member board of commissioners for 15 years.

He works in sales and grew up on Long Island in a family with a firefighting tradition, which has carried on to the next generation; both of his sons volunteer with the Fort Hunter department.

Describing the role of the board of fire commissioner, Kanas said, “We pay the bills.” This includes everything from legal to insurance fees, he said.

“We make sure all the equipment is up to date,” Kanas said, which ranges from buying paper towels to buying fire trucks.

He concluded, “We levy taxes,” and again stressed that the $1.5 million bond will not raise taxes.

On recruiting new volunteers, Kanas said of the departments in town, “We all struggle, but we all work together. A lot of people don’t have time to do it anymore.”

Fort Hunter has several 50-year members, Kanas noted.

“It’s important for the public to know, we’ll be there for you,” Kanas said. “We’re proud of being part of the community.”

More Guilderland News

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