The Setauket Fire District has hired Melville-based architectural firm H2M to develop two sets of plans for the Main Street fire house, which district officials have long said is in need of major redevelopment.
The process "is in its infancy right now," according to district manager Dave Sterne, who said H2M will construct both a plan for renovation of the existing fire house and a separate plan for demolition and rebuilding of a new fire house.
The hiring of the architect comes after the fire district commissioned a usability study in November of 2011. The study, which cost the district $12,000, found some significant safety, health, and accessibility issues at the Main Street fire house. A meeting was held in March to invite residents and community groups to talk about the results and next steps. In April, the fire district issued an RFP (request for proposals) seeking interest from local architects; two submissions were received and H2M was selected.
"Our goal with this entire project is to be as transparent as possible so the community can support the project," Sterne said.
However, at least one community group feels there needs to be more communication. Ron DiBiase, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, said the organization recognizes that either significant improvements to the existing facility or the construction of a new building are badly needed. But, he said, there needs to be more transparency in the process.
"If you’re going out and looking at an architect, the community should have been involved," DiBiase said. "When you have clarity with regard to information ... you instill trust. The community can see what you’re doing, why you’re moving in that direction, why you’re spending our money in this matter."
The details of the full contract with H2M were not immediately available.
According to the district's RFP, the architect will not only assess current and future needs of the fire district and create plans for redevelopment, but it will also prepare estimates of the costs of the various proposals and serve as the district's consultant during the process of informing the community.
From the RFP:
Proposals shall give due consideration to the topography, the historic nature of the community, the central location of the facility in the community as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic patterns. Proposals shall provide for a modern efficient facility and shall give due consideration to reasonable energy efficiency measures as well as environmental concerns.
The district's usability study, authored by Huntington Station-based architect Frank G. Relf, cited "inadequate clearances around the vehicles and between the gear racks and trucks in the apparatus bays which does not comply" with Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Fire Protection Association regulations. That study recommended building additions to the apparatus bay and renovating the existing bay to enlarge the space, at an estimated cost of $1.1 million.
Fire commissioner Rich Leute, who serves on the district's building committee, said the building was built in the 1930s and has been "patched up and patched up" since then in a way that's visible when one walks through the building. The goal, he said, is to build a modern facility that will meet federal, state, and town codes while also meeting the needs of the fire department and the community. He said the community will be invited to participate in the process after the architect completes the needs assessment. "I want to ensure people do have their say," he said.
Whether there's a new building constructed or renovations to the current building, Leute said the fire district wants the community to feel that it's "their fire house." Not only will it be used for fire protection, but local nonprofit organizations such as scout troops can use the space for free and community members can rent the space for events.
"We're going to work hard with them to make sure their needs, the needs of the fire department and the needs of the fire district are met, otherwise we're not doing a service to our people," he said.
The Setauket Fire District twice floated bonds for the construction of a new fire house on Main Street: one in 2005 and one in 2009, both of which failed. Leute said the district has since learned from those experiences. "We've made great strides," he said. "Years ago, there was limited to no interaction with community organizations."
The Setauket Fire District, which funds the Setauket Fire Department, covers about 28 square miles and serves Setauket, East Setauket, Old Field, sections of Stony Brook University and its hospital, and parts of Stony Brook, Lake Grove, Centereach, Port Jefferson, and Port Jefferson Station.
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Editor's note: This story was updated at 9 a.m. to include comments from a representative of the fire district's building commitee.