Tesei, chief make case for northwest fire station
GREENWICH — The possibility of building a fire station in northwest Greenwich dominated Monday’s budget hearings as First Selectman Peter Tesei and Fire Chief Peter Siecienski tried to make the case — again — that the region of town is in need of better protection.
Tesei is requesting $100,000 in his proposed 2019-20 municipal budget to evaluate potential properties for the station. If that gets approved, the plan is for the property to be identified and purchased next fiscal year with actual construction of a $5.4 million station in 2021-22.
King Street and Riversville Road are being considered as possible locations.
Under the plan being advanced by Tesei, a northwest station would be used by both the Greenwich Fire Department and Greenwich Emergency Medical Service. It would have two bays for the fire department, two for GEMS and house three firefighters per shift.
Tesei said other options, including placing career staff at the nearby Round Hill Volunteer Fire Station and putting on additional firefighters at other stations, were considered, but adding a station was determined the best option from public safety and financial perspectives.
“The costs continue to rise as solutions are delayed,” Tesei said. “Proposed construction costs are nine percent more expensive than the period in 2016 when we first came forward.”
Tesei pressed the need for the station to house GEMS as the service must keep ambulances in the area.
“They have a temporary facility known as station four and the facility is in disrepair and requires investment,” Tesei said. “The facility is not adequate for operational needs, lacking climate control and an environment to properly store ambulances.”
The request for fire station money will be considered when the Budget Committee holds its vote on March 1.
The fire station has long been a priority of Tesei’s and fire officials. Most recently, a property at Fairview Country Club on King Street had been identified for the joint fire and GEMS station. But the RTM put the kibosh on purchasing it in 2016, voting to remove it from the budget.
But the RTM last September passed a sense of the meeting resolution calling for Tesei to return the station to the budget.
Siecienski on Monday discussed the different kinds of emergencies the Greenwich Fire Department responds to beyond fire calls. The department performs water rescues, responds to carbon monoxide incidents and “just about anything else the community wants to call us for because in their eyes it is an emergency.”
The chief pressed the need for response times at the industry standard of four minutes, noting that some locations in the backcountry have been classified as having very little to no fire protection.
BET member Karen Fassuliotis, reacting to a map showing response times in Greenwich based on current station that Siecienski showed, said there were other parts of Greenwich, not just the northwest, that go beyond that four-minute response time.
“Why wouldn’t this mean we would put other fire stations in other places?” Fassuliotis asked. “How many fire stations are enough?”
Siecienski said is is correct that the majority of town is outside of the four-minute range, but it is “a matter of what’s being protected as far as the density, what’s being protected as far as life hazard and property value and the frequency of calls.” Siecienski and others noted the presence in that region not only of residences, but also Sacred Heart Greenwich, Brunswick School and several senior long-term-care facilities, as well as the nearby airport in White Plains.
“You’re not going to have a system that’s going to put the entire town into a four-minute response pattern,” Siecienski said. “It would not be cost effective … I can’t change the distance. I can’t have fire trucks run faster. My concern is how do we take care of this high value, high life hazard area and provide some protection similar to what the rest of the town has.”
BET Budget Committee member Leslie Tarkington wondered why more isn’t being done to keep the properties from being developed in parts of town where there is so little fire coverage, saying the town fire marshals should have done something if it is such a dangerous part of town.
“Why aren’t we working together as a team instead of creating hazards that are creating risks for all residents?” Tarkington said.
Tesei said that is an area best dealt with by the town’s land use departments but cited the availability of property in northwest Greenwich and his view that it would be discriminatory to allow structures to be built in some parts of town but not others.
“I don’t know how the town could discriminate against (Brunswick School) expanding on a vast property because other institutions were already there,” Tesei said.
Tesei and Siecienski said there has been strong support from the schools and others in the area.
A full copy of the presentation is available online along with other information about the proposed 2019-20 budget.