Construction of a new firehouse for the Upper Jay Volunteer Fire Department cleared an important hurdle Tuesday night, as residents of the fire district voted overwhelmingly to move ahead with the project.
The 58-10 vote lets the Upper Jay Fire District borrow no more than $100,000 for the new firehouse, which will be located at 161 Valley Road, near the town of Jay's Highway Department. Fire District Commissioner Wayne Roberts told the Enterprise Wednesday that he's grateful for the community support.
"We had six public forums," he said. "We had probably between 20 and 30 people show up at every one of them, and every one of those was really positive. So we were pretty confident last night that it would pass, but it still gave you butterflies until we actually counted."
The current fire station on state Route 9N, next-door to the Wells Memorial Library, was heavily damaged by floodwaters caused by 2011's Tropical Storm Irene. The new location moves the firehouse away from the banks of the East Branch of the AuSable River into an area that Roberts described as an old farm field.
Roberts said the new location will be safe from future flooding.
"If it floods there, Noah is going to be coming along in the Ark," he said.
The projected cost of the new firehouse is about $2.1 million, Roberts said. That figure includes the cost of the land, which was recently purchased for about $25,000, as well as engineering and construction costs.
Roberts said the fire department has received about $900,000 in flood insurance reimbursements but is still waiting to find out how much disaster aid it will get, if any, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"They just gave us a bunch of real low-ball figures, and we appealed," Roberts said. "So far, it's not going anywhere. In fact, we just requested an extension because the time period is running out for the Irene disaster."
If FEMA aid doesn't come through, Roberts said he thinks the state will. He said that when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced funding for the Keene Fire District last fall, state emergency officials also said they'd provide funding to Upper Jay.
"But when the governor was here last fall, that was before (Hurricane) Sandy came along," Roberts said. "That could have changed a lot of things."
Roberts said if the district takes out a full $100,000 loan, a taxpayer with a home assessed at $100,000 will pay an additional $12 a year in taxes - "about the price of a couple of Big Macs and an order of fries," he added.
The Upper Jay Fire District covers a big geographic area. It runs from the Wilmington town line on Springfield Road to the town of Keene line on state Route 9N, and about halfway along Route 9N toward Jay. The district also extends to the Lewis town line on the Jay Mountain Road.
Voting was held at the Wells Memorial Library from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.