To move forward after their bond vote defeat in the summer of 2013, the Lido – Point Lookout Fire District held the first community forum to discuss moving forward with renovations and upgrades needed at district properties.
Representatives were there from all the local civic associations.
The basic synopsis is :
1 Ye Olde Firehouse is off the table.
they are moving forward with repairs based on the insurance money that they will be getting to restore it to “pre-Sandy” condition plus necessary code upgrades.
2) Lido firehouse and Point Lookout firehouse need renovations and expansions, also to somehow include the uses of the Fire Commissioners, Administration and command center that are no longer to be separately built.
With a short discussion from Commissioner Andy Richter, they turned over for questions and comments from the 40 people in attendance.
Once again the question of the future of the fire department and that they may need to get paid firefighters came up
I asked what “would be the difference in the building requirements for paid versus continued volunteer force “Is it the same building?”
The answer “it’s fairly similar – the same apparatus , the locker room, the bunk room, the training room, showers, administrative staff. You’re going to have to cover all the things the same way.”
He said the only thing different is the area required for the firefighters’ “room” depends on the number of paid firefighters.
It was brought up again later-
We will need the exact same firehouses for a paid force as well. Confirmed!!
Someone brought up “why can’t we contract out to the Long Beach Fire Department.”
The closest firehouse would be in Long Beach and they’re having a bigger shortage of manpower than we are. The paid (firefighters) … Don’t leave the city of Long Beach, that’s in their contract.”
Seeing that the discussion was losing sight, commissioner Richter went back to the bottom line… “If you’re wiling to pay them, then why don’t we [continue to] have our own fire department?”
Stephen Schaffer from Lido Homes Civic Association had some suggestions about recruiting and incentives for recruits. It was explained that many of these are already in place. The big one was just eliminated by Nassau County but may come back. I think his ideas should still be pursued.
Mike Fichtelman, Vice President of Lido Dunes Civic Association said there were “Three main reasons” the bond vote Failed:
1- taxes: some will be against them no matter what and they don’t care
2- they weren’t told about it. Didn’t know how much their taxes were going to go up and why
3- there was some (question against) the real needs of fire department.
“You should identify the top reasons it didn’t pass.”
Rob Humphries said “Assess why it is, what people didn’t like about it.”
Stephen Schaffer from Lido homes :
” 7.5 million was a big number .. There were questions of insurance and FEMA money. [ed- we have received the maximum we can to date] If it were 5 million maybe people would’ve said “ok”. There were unanswered questions about Ye Olde Firehouse. Some people in Lido said ‘I don’t know why I’m building a community room for the residents of Point Lookout’. ”
Commissioner Richter said about grants etc.
“There’s no offsets. We are paying the freight. It’s out of our pockets.”
Commissioner Chas Thompson said that Long Beach has so few firefighters they have been here a mutual aid calls three times in the past year, Point Lookout- Lido fire department has gone to help Long Beach 60-65 times. (Twice today!)
It was mentioned that we should consolidate to one centrally located firehouse. The response was that will probably cause everyone’s homeowners insurance to go up because everyone’s response time would dramatically increase, and the district would lose its “class 3” status. Commissioner Richter said “we work very hard to keep it a class III because that effects your homeowners insurance for fire. That has to do with where this fire house is, that has to do with where the Lido fire house is.”
“We can spend a lot of money on an analysis and it is going to come back to the firehouse here, and that firehouse there.” He said in response to spending what could easily be tens of thousands on “consultants” to find that out.
Commissioner Steven Weitz discussed the elimination of the command Center building. “That means that there was $1.9 million of the total to look at Lido fire house and headquarters and what can we do to reconfigure… To give us the same functionality as the command center was going to provide.”
“This board made a commitment that we would take a look at Ye Olde firehouse” see above for the synopsis, the second draft plans using the received insurance money alone, will be available in February for the renovations.
Ex – Chief Tim Collins said he was against the last plan. He spoke to the large number of grants the department has earned the last 8 years compared to prior saying we are all lucky to have “one of the best trained and equipped” departments around because of the large amounts the district has earned. He said “the ‘clubhouse’ has been thrown around a few times – the guys and gals come here so we want to give them a little incentive. Imagine you build a building without making it comfortable for the people?
He spoke to the fact of it being difficult for young families to afford to live in this town and watch their taxes go up. “If they come back with a plan that’s a little bit cheaper, I think they’ll be more receptive.
“Don’t think these guys are being irresponsible. These are some of the most responsible guys the fire department’s ever had. We’re lucky to have them.
He continued “Don’t think you’re being cheated- not by them and not the fire department. The fire department needs help and we need more people. We can’t keep raising the costs because then people can’t live here.
Common ground has to be reached, something needs to be done.”
Don Kelly of Point Lookout Property Owners said “It would please everybody to see communication structured in such a way so that there would be an …. interchange of the community, of the commissioners, and the firemen to be able to come up with ideas. I think everybody wants the one thing – they want to see the firehouses upgraded. It’s got to be a team effort”
He said to keep your eyes peeled for PLPO “By The Sea” newsletter that gets mailed to every house in the district monthly.
Andrew Richter summed it up: “The more people become engaged and involved in what needs to be done here, the easier our jobs are going to be. We want to all get on the same page. We want the vote to be a formality.”
Mark your calendar.
Second meeting will be held
Tuesday Jan 21, 2014 7:30 pm
What do you think?
You know what they say opinions are like, so stop reading now if you’d rather not know mine.
I want to thank the numerous people I met and talked with about this issue on both sides: who shared their opinions, comments, and knowledge and participated in this discussion. Its obvious people Continue reading