TOWN OF WALLKILL—The Pocatello Firehouse in the Town of Wallkill is asking taxpayers to approve bonding for $800,000 worth of improvements and an additional story to their one-story firehouse off of Mount Hope Road.
An additional $414,225 could be added to the cost once interest from the debt payments is factored in, according to a preliminary debt service schedule prepared by Capital Markets Investors, LLC. That would bring the total up to $1,214,225 to taxpayers in the fire district.
Speaking at an informational meeting on April 18, Pocatello Fire District Commissioner, Ron Broas, said the building has not been up to code for a while.
“Right now we don’t have anywhere we can shower, which is a requirement. We have no place to put a laundry [facility]—they [the firefighters] should be washing their turnout gear,” Broas said. “We’re not asking for the moon.”
The second story addition would have a men’s’ and a women’s’ bathroom, a shower, a training room that could be divided in half, a kitchen, a meeting room, and six offices that could double as training rooms, said project Engineer Amador Laput from Fellenzer Engineering, LLP. External and indoor stairwells would be added to provide two egresses as well.
Altogether it would increase the roughly 6,000 square foot firehouse by 3,726 square feet.
Outside the firehouse, Laput said they planned to repair the culvert that was washed out during Hurricane Sandy and the blacktop would be paved and new lines drawn for better parking.
The current three-bays would be expanded to four, with a two-truck drive-through bay that would replace the current meeting room on the first floor.
“We’re never going to be bigger than a four engine house,” Broas said.”We’re just planning for the future in case we get another piece.”
If there is money left over, they would also like to make the first-floor bathroom handicapped accessible and upgrade the kitchen.
The fire company received a $50,000 state grant through Sen. John Bonacic’s office that will pay for the engineers and architects’ fees, and has $100,000 in savings it would be willing to put towards the repair should the bonded money fall short, Broas said.
While they are seeking approval to bond $800,000, if the bids come in below that, they would use any extra money to do add alternate projects like the first floor kitchen and bathroom, and if there is still money left after that, “we won’t bond for the full $800,000,” Broas said.
He said the fire fighters would be willing to pitch in money, both of their own and revenue from the cell tower behind the firehouse they rent to AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to cover the first floor renovations.
The project received unanimous approval from the Wallkill Town Planning Board in February, but they cannot move ahead till the property the firehouse is on changes hands.
The Pocatello Fire Company, a volunteer organization that built the firehouse in 1963, wants to sell it to the Pocatello Fire District for $10 because they cannot afford its upkeep anymore. And for capital improvements to be made, it is easier if the District owns it because they can issue bonds, something the non-profit company cannot.
“The [Fire] Company did go to the bank,” Broas said. “And they wanted every member to sign for that loan.”
Their attorney, Brian Newman, said he did not know how long that process would take, but Broas said he hoped to award the bids by late June or July.
In that time, the bond rates the estimated debt payments are based upon could change dramatically, said Beth Ferguson, the agent from Capital Market Advisors, LLC that made the estimated payment schedule.
She used a current annual interest rate of 3.5 percent assuming the District, which is not currently rated, has an “A” rating. The schedule is spread out over 25 years with an estimated $88.26 a year charged to district taxpayers whose homes are assessed at $150,000. That number goes to $117.67 a year for taxpayers with homes assessed at $200,000.
She said the interest rates paid on bonds, called coupons, could fluctuate quite a bit, but declined to give a range.
“I don’t know what the Federal Reserve is going to do or if other things happen in the world,” she said in a phone interview. “If we were doing it today, this is what it would look like.”
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