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Oct 21, 2015 10:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bridgehampton Fire District Voters Approve New Fire Truck

The Bridgehampton Fire District held a budget hearing for the 2016 proposed budget, which will increase by 22 percent. ALISHA STEINDECKER
Oct 21, 2015 10:32 AM

Bridgehampton Fire District residents approved the purchase of a fire truck on Tuesday night, and also weighed in on the district’s proposed 2016 budget, a 22.3-percent increase over this year’s.

By a vote of 78 to 33, residents approved a 10-year $850,000 bond to pay for the new truck. According to Fire Commissioner Bruce Dombkowski, there were a total of 113 votes, but the district can only count 111 of them because it was unclear if two people were registered to vote in the district.

The district will use capital reserve funds for the remainder of the cost of the truck, which is just over $1 million.

The Quint truck is special in that it is self-sufficient, as it has a large water tank, foam and a 77-foot ladder, and the district has been relying on mutual aid when it needed that type of truck. “Aerial trucks are critical to both the safety of our residents and the safety of our firefighters,” district officials wrote in an open letter in The Southampton Press on September 17.

The new truck will replace an old fire engine that was due to be retired in 1989, according to Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners Ray Topping Jr.

“It is the best thing that ever happened to the district,” Mr. Dombkowski said, adding that the district had been 15 years behind the times without this truck. “We got what we wanted.”

It takes 270 days to assemble the truck, which means that the district will not have it for about one year.

As the bond referendum took place in the new firehouse, at the old one next door Mr. Topping, along with Commissioners John O’Brien and Fred Wilford, and district treasurer Earl Gandel, were explaining the importance of the new truck to the few residents who attended a hearing for the proposed 2016 budget. It would be more $647,400, or about 22 percent, more than this year’s budget, an increase of $2.8 million to $3.4 million.

The fire district would collect $3.02 million in taxes, $747,400 more than this year, roughly a 33-percent increase over the 2015 $2.28 million tax levy.

The attorney for the fire district, Bradley Pinsky, explained Tuesday that the tax increase per $1,000 of assessed property value is $0.50, which means that the owner of a $500,000 home would pay $25 more in 2016.

The proposed spending plan allocates significantly more funds for equipment, which would climb from $81,000 to $487,000, mostly to pay for radio repeaters and air exhaust equipment.

A radio repeater is both a receiver and a transmitter. Mr. Pinsky explained that for one radio operator to talk to another, both of their radio antennas have to have a clear line of reception, which is rare. “A repeater fills the gaps, like a cell tower, so the radio hits the repeater first and then the repeater relays the radio transmission,” he said. “They are needed because there are a number of dead spots in Bridgehampton where people will be in houses or on the street and have no communication.” Another radio tower may be needed, but Mr. Pinksy said that will not be known for a few months because the district needs to meet with a consultant.

The district is spending $100,000 on the air exhaust equipment, which is needed because, in the garage bays, diesel exhaust from the trucks hits a dangerous level. “When the vehicles leave the garage and those dangerous and hazardous chemicals poison the air, the exhaust system quickly evacuates that air by attaching a hose,” Mr. Pinsky said. The hose will prevent the air from circulating in the garage or firehouse, blowing it outside instead.

“I feel confident that we are not going to have to raise our budget line next year,” Mr. Topping said. “We have a ceiling that we are not supposed to break through and we had to do it.”

Mr. Topping explained that the district is due to replace 11 fire trucks, and will do so over a period of 20 years. He said previous boards should have allocated money toward replacing the trucks as they expired, on a yearly basis, but they did not, which has left it up to the current board to start replacing them. Each year, the district will set aside $298,666.67 to ultimately replace the vehicles, Mr. Pinsky said.

“This budget is just a one-shot deal—there will be nothing like this again,” Mr. Wilford said. “We pierced the cap big time this year,” he said of the state’s cap on tax levy increases, which the district can pierce with approval from the fire commissioners.

The five members of the public in the audience, who were mostly Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee members, indicated that they were thankful to have the budget explained in greater detail. Last week, they had expressed frustration about the lack of communication between the fire district and the community, and even had told many community members to vote “no” on the bond proposal.

“If you had sent a person over to our last CAC meeting and just given us this description, we would understand,” CAC member Julie Burmeister said. “When we understand, we are agreeable.”

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Julie, ever have a notion to attend the FD board meeting??? How about asking them to a cac meeting??? Think ahead...
By knitter (1858), Southampton on Oct 21, 15 12:28 PM
Congrats on the passing of your budget. As a Fire Chief in a small community myself, I grew up in Bridgehampton and I know how hard it is to deal with special interest organizations. We meaning our commissioners and myself have been keeping our budget to a minimum, so not to add the burden of higher taxes to the taxpayer. Unfortunately with the rising costs of firematic equipment it is very difficult. Hats off to you and good luck with your new truck.
By FredG (1), Tivoli on Oct 24, 15 7:14 AM
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