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Plans, Budget For Proposed Millwood Firehouse Unveiled

New plans represent change from 2008 version.

The Millwood Fire District's Board of Fire Commissioners unveiled site plans and early budget numbers for the proposed new firehouse that is intended to replace Station #1 in downtown Millwood.

At a meeting on March 15, three different site plan proposals were unveiled: Alternative A, Alternative B and Alternative C. The proposed firehouse is set of a parcel of land that is 700 feet east of the current station, known as the Realis property, which was purchased in 2007, according to the district Web site. An additional amount of land next to it, called the Cortez property, is currently in the process of being acquired, according to Commissioner Alan Schapiro.

The three plans have general similarities: all of them assume a driveway branching off of Millwood Road (Route 133) that would run next to a proposed right of way for the Town of New Castle called Allen Avenue. A retaining wall would also be built and run parallel to the driveway, separating it from neighboring property. Finally, a storm water basin of varying shapes will be located on the northeastern part of the property, with a septic system on the southeastern part.

However, there are several key differences. Alternative A allows for a "drive-thru" firehouse, where vehicles can drive around the back pavement and drive through the firehouse and out onto the main road again. Alternatives B and C are known as "Back-in," where vehicles will have to back into the building. Alternative C will also have a building that points in a western direction, while Alternative B will have a firehouse pointing in a northwestern direction, facing directly towards the retaining wall.

The commission has decided to go with Alternative C as its preferred plan. Dominic Calgi, president of Calgi Construction, the company that is doing project management, said that it is the most cost effective. In contrast, Calgi said that Alternative A would be about $500,000 more expensive than Alternative C, and Alternative B would cost about $200,000 more. This is due to more concrete being used (particularly in A, which would need more pavement for a drive-thru) and because the other choices propose longer retaining walls.

The firehouse itself is proposed to be roughly 18,000 square feet and to have two levels. It would have five apparatus bays, with an option to add a sixth bay, according to Mark DuBois an architect with Ohlhausen DuBois Architects, the firm that is handling the project. It will also have about 50 parking spaces, and the septic area that would be 15,500 square feet. Major rooms will include a Radio Room, a Ready Room, a Membership Room, an Exercise Room and a Multi-Purpose Room, said DuBois. In contrast, the previous proposal, which was brought up in 2008, was about 19,800 square feet, according to the presentation.

DuBois said that it should be more than just a functional place, but a place where there is a sense of community and that people will want to join because it's such a great place.

The unveiling of a new firehouse comes in response to a revamped planning and public input process. In the presentation, Hala Makowska, chairwoman of the commission, said that there was a lack of public support for the previous proposal from 2008, based on a public hearing in response to its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). She said that concerns ranged from feeling there wasn't enough justification for the building size, a DEIS that did not have complete analysis and no financial analysis on the impact of the firehouse.

With a change in membership of the commission in January 2009, Makowska said that they took a new direction. In doing so, they took another look at the 2008 assessment study done by JLN for developing the building program. The company's report was updated last July to include a hypothetical scenario where Millwood would go from having a volunteer fire company to a paid one, Makowska said, in order to anticipate such a scenario for the firehouse's use. Under the estimate done by JLN, they company said that 36 paid firefighting personnel would be needed, as well as administrative support, to meet the standards of the National Fire Protection Agency, Makowska said, noting it as a heavy burden.

In addition, financial controls would be undertaken, with "permissive referendums" for each project phase, and with Calgi doing project management. Three resident experts were also brought on. They are: Tom Curley, an architect and former member of the New Castle Planning Board, Phil Rice, an engineer and member of the Millwood Taskforce, and Michael Levy, a retired head for Deutsche Bank's Global & International Equity Investment, Makowska said. A company called SCN has also been brought on to act as firematic consultants. Heading civil engineering will be a firm called AKRF, and Farrell & Fritz will provide legal counsel, according to Makowska.

Makowska said that there was a philosophical approach being taken with three key elements: having a functional and safe firehouse, respecting taxpayer dollars and showing pride

"We want people to see that building and celebrate it," she said in referring to its impact on the taxpayers.

Altogether the new proposal is projected to cost $12,854,191, versus $16,232,103, a 21 percent decrease in cost, the presentation noted. A bond that could be between $9 million to $10 million is anticipated for paying for the project, with a referendum in late August or early September as a goal. It is hoped that a new DEIS will be completed by May 24, with public hearings on it targeted for late June or early July. A final EIS is listed as having a target o late August. Makowska declared this to be a "living schedule," which could be adjusted based on feedback. Also notable are future plans for selling the original Station #1 on 108 Millwood Rd., which were stated in the presentation.

A second meeting for the plans is scheduled for tonight at 7:30 at Station #2 on the west end. It is located at 366 Croton Dam Rd., in the Ossining postal zone. For more information, go to the fire district site at www.millwoodfiredistrict.org.

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