TUPPER LAKE - The committee that has been evaluating the options for building a new fire hall found that a combined fire, rescue squad and police department building would be the best option.
They chose two sites - one near the civic center on Santa Clara Avenue and one across the street at the corner of Santa Clara and McLaughlin Avenue - as ones that would fit the most needs of Tupper Lake.
Sean Foran, a contractor hired by the village who worked with the committee for the last nine months, presented the results of their research at a public forum Tuesday night at the Goff-Nelson Memorial Library.
Tupper Lakers Mary Peryea and Ron LaScala, who is running for village trustee this November, fill out a survey looking for public input on the options for a new fire hall at a Tuesday night public forum.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
The committee met 10 times since Jan. 31. They evaluated nine potential options for a new fire hall, including renovating the existing one, demolishing the current one and building on the same site, and creating a new building at a new site that incorporates the fire department and rescue squad while moving the police department into the rescue squad's current facility.
Two options weren't feasible, so they weren't scored, but the remaining seven were scored on how they would meet the needs of the area. A combined public-private fire, rescue squad and police building met 93 percent of needs, while a public fire and police building came in second at meeting 83 percent of needs.
The committee also evaluated 15 sites where a new building could be constructed. Out of those, nine were deemed not feasible, so they weren't graded. Those included several sites near the town hall, which are close to wetland areas, and the former OWD factory, which would cost too much to make accessible for fire trucks.
Foran noted that it may be possible to use any of the sites that weren't scored, but it didn't make sense when there were options that were clearly better and would cost less.
The committee scored six sites on how many needs they would meet.
"We are narrowed down dramatically from where we were nine months ago," Foran said.
Of those, both the civic center and Santa Clara corner sites were scored as meeting 94 percent of the areas needs.
The runner-up was the nearby village Department of Public Works site, scored as meeting 74 percent of needs, which Foran said would be a concern because of the lack of direct road access.
Other viable options included a Lake Street site where a large building burned down in a fire last year. It was ruled as meeting 57 percent of needs. Foran said it would be a hassle to clean up the site, and it drops off steeply from the road, which would be a problem.
Foran said he and the committee took a long look at the former Holy Ghost Academy site, but there were concerns about that being in a residential neighborhood, so it only scored as meeting 54 percent of needs.
The old Rite Aid site, at the corner of Park Street and Wawbeek Avenue, was deemed expensive and difficult for getting large trucks in and out, so the committee scored that as meeting 53 percent of needs.
Foran said the committee - made up of members of the fire department, village and town boards, taxpayers, rescue squad and a police officer - is now focusing on the two sites on Santa Clara Avenue.
"It's what appears to be the best decision for the town and village of Tupper Lake right now for the type of building we're trying to build," Foran said.
Foran then discussed the costs of constructing a new building. He said he was surprised that when he looked at financing options between public and private buildings, the prices were closer than he expected.
"I'm going to be honest with you; this process did not turn out the way I thought it would," Foran said.
Working with a private building is generally considered to be less costly than a public building since labor prices can be cheaper without prevailing-wage requirements. But with higher interest rates that come from taking out a private note, the cost was a lot closer to the cost for taking out a public bond with lower interest rates than Foran expected - a difference in tax implications of about $6 per $100,000 in assessed property value.
If the three agencies were to incorporate into a single building, Foran projected that a public project would cost about $5.7 million and a private project would cost $4.9 million. The village would pay 65 percent of the costs, and the rescue squad would pay 35 percent, based on each agency's use of the building space, Foran said.
A 30-year mortgage would mean a tax implication of $73.53 per $100,000 in assessed property value on the village's portion with a public building, and $66.69 per $100,000 in assessed property value for a private building.
The building could only be private if the rescue squad is willing to join the project and take the lead on it. Foran said squad members will need some time to evaluate their options and vote on it. Before the feasibility process started, the squad had decided not to wait for the other two agencies to get their differences straightened out, and they had launched a campaign to raise money to renovate their existing facility on High Street.
Foran noted that putting all three departments together into a 22,300-square-foot building would save 3,500 square feet of needed space because the three agencies could share meeting spaces and other facilities.
"There's a lot of savings to be had," Foran said.
Foran said the committee now is looking for input from the community on the project.
"We've put a lot of cards on the table tonight," Foran said.
He said the next steps include finishing talks with the rescue squad, then finalizing a site and deciding whether the project will be public or private. After that, he said the committee will likely come back to the public with a decision and start talking about financing options.
The project would be subject to a referendum if it's publicly funded.
Village Trustee Rick Donah noted at the end of the meeting that the village has reduced the public costs of the fire department in recent years as it eliminated paid fire drivers and stopped buying the department new machinery.
The current fire hall on High Street has a number of problems, including that it isn't accessible to people with handicaps, the bays are so narrow it becomes dangerous to pull trucks in and out, and the front facade of the building has separated from the structure. Foran said he usually has to present a number of slides to prove to the public that their existing facilities are not adequate, but "this fire station demonstrates it very well on its own."
The existing police station, in the lower level of the village offices on Park Street, is also sorely lacking. There is no access for people with handicaps, it floods frequently, and the evidence facilities are inadequate, in addition to a number of other problems.
A copy of the full feasibility study that was created out of the effort will be available at the village offices and other sites, and fire department officials said they plan to put it on their website, www.tupperlakefire.com, though it wasn't posted yet this morning.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.