May 18, 2012


Firehouse in need

A couple of weeks ago we saw a fire truck slowly driving our small lane in Katonah. This wasn’t a fundraising drive; firefighters explained they were going house to house, studying the road for water hookups. Each home was assessed so that no one would be inaccessible in time of emergency.

This kind of proactive safety measure is reassuring in a time of increasingly complex and potentially devastating emergencies our fire companies face on a daily basis. To that end, they require up-to-date equipment, facilities and resources.

The Katonah Fire District is proposing to renovate the department’s firehouse, including replacing the 54-year-old concrete floor that can no longer bear the weight of heavier apparatus and installing a new generator to keep power on during storms and other emergencies.

On Tuesday, May 22, voters will be asked to give the district authority to expend no more than $3 million of which approximately $2.5 million will be raised by issuing bonds with a 10-year maturity. The remaining $500,000 will come out of the fire district’s capital reserves.

It is estimated the increased cost to an individual Katonah property owner will be about $1.42 per $1,000 of assessed value, which translates to an increase of about $108.12 per tax year for the average Katonah property owner. That increase will only be assessed over the 10-year course of the bond. The increase for individual taxpayers in the fire district would not kick in until 2013.

The project, with an estimated price tag of $3 million, needs the approval of a majority of the approximately 4,000 taxpayers in the district to proceed.

Proponents say that the renovations, repairs and annex alterations would enable the department to meet new safety, training and regulatory requirements, including unfunded mandates handed down from the state.

In addition to repairing and resurfacing the concrete floor in the firehouse, another key component of the renovations would be replacing the 26-year-old generator with one capable of supporting the full electrical demands of the 17,240-square-foot facility during power outages. During the severe storms that hit the Bedford area in 2011, the commissioners pointed out, the firehouse was without power for three days at a time but still handled the high volume of emergency calls resulting from the storms.

A new generator would also make the firehouse more suitable for residents should it be needed as an emergency evacuation shelter for the community.

The dispatch room and chief’s office need to be reconfigured and upgraded to accommodate an increased need for office space, computers, file storage and changes in dispatch procedures, according to the commissioners. The plans also call for the driveway and parking areas to be resurfaced and interior painting and other minor spruce-ups throughout the building.

The existing annex building to the rear of the firehouse would also be expanded to provide increased storage, including for the department’s rescue boat and the historic 1928 American LaFrance pumper wagon, as well as nonemergency fire equipment and equipment for the department’s annual carnival and parade.

The annex expansion would also include a three-story, 16-by-16-foot tower structure that would be used for state-mandated bailout rope training. Fire commissioners say the training tower may be used by the volunteer fire departments in Bedford Hills and Bedford Village.

The current building, despite being over 50 years old, continues to serve the needs of the community and the all-volunteer fire department. Katonah is fortunate that they were able to sidestep an expensive teardown that could have cost far more. The commissioners are presenting a prudent course of action that will serve Katonah’s residents in terms of fire safety and protection. Those qualities cannot be measured by price, but are particularly vital as our hamlet’s first responders. While significant, these are relatively small measures to ensure that when those emergencies arise, firefighters can respond with the full resources available.

Building plans are available for review at the firehouse, located at 65 Bedford Road. All registered voters in the Katonah Fire District can vote on the mandatory referendum regarding the bond that would pay for the bulk of the project. If approved, construction would begin late this summer, with completion anticipated by the end of 2012.

Let’s get this important project started with a yes vote on the department’s election day.



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Bedford Village

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Bedford Hills

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Katonah

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  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

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  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

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Cross River

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