Tesei: Northwest Greenwich Fire/GEMS Proposal Does Not Come on a Whim.

Letter to the editor Submitted by First Selectman Peter Tesei May 5, 2016

After months of planning and the continued gathering of information and documentation, the discussions of the proposed 2016-17 budget are winding down and will culminate with the 230-member Representative Town Meeting holding its annual budget vote on May 9, 2016 at Central Middle School.

As you may know, an integral part of this year’s proposed budget is the Town’s long-established plan to address higher than average Greenwich Fire Department response times to households in Northwest Greenwich. Response times in this area range from eight to 12 minutes as opposed to response times that range from four-and-a-half to just under seven minutes in other fire districts in Town.

Life safety – the protection of all town residents and resources – always has been a central focus of my administration. The budget proposal to purchase land in Northwest Greenwich to build the joint Fire Station / Greenwich Emergency Medical Service (GEMS) facility does not come on a whim.

The need for expanding Greenwich’s firefighting capabilities has been well documented for years.

During the late 1990s, the Town moved forward with the establishment of the North Street Station (Northeast) and it came on line in 2000. This was the result of a Town-wide fire services study conducted by Buracker and Associates. This study also became the basis for moving forward with the rehabilitation of our existing fire stations and the plan for establishing the Northeast and Northwest stations. In December 2000, the Fire Station Improvement Plan was initiated to assess the condition of all stations in Town. It resulted in the renovation of the Cos Cob station that was completed in October 2004; the 2010 completed renovation of Glenville, and the construction of the Central Fire Station and Administration Headquarters, that is on schedule for completion by the end of 2016. We also have plans to renovate both the Byram and the Sound Beach stations in the next five years. To that end, the 2016-2017 Budget includes funding to begin this process for the Byram Station. The 2009 Plan of Conservation and Development includes Action Item 4.26 “Reinforce the neighborhood village concepts by….retaining fire stations, civic centers and religious institutions – all of which provide a sense of history and cultural place.”

The POCD also supports the need for a Northwest station through Action Item 4.31: “Funding for the new fire station on King Street should be provided.”

Contrary to some criticism lobbed by pundits, there is a need and a resulting direct benefit to the residents of Northwest Greenwich. In addition to the thousands of homes in the Northwest District, there also are two private schools, three life-care facilities, and two houses of worship, one of which also provides day care services. The station also would be in close proximity to a major regional airport from which both incoming and outgoing flights regularly fly over the Town of Greenwich.

After years of effort, the Town has worked to identify parcels that would be suitable for a combined fire station and GEMS facility. The current location of GEMS Medic 4 at 1327 King Street was purchased more than a decade ago before engineering studies proved the site was unsuitable for a combined station.

The current proposal before the RTM has been vetted by and has the support of the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) that voted to finance the purchase of a 4.27 acre parcel from the Fairview Country Club at 1241 King Street for $2 million, as well as $500,000 for architectural and engineering plans.

This parcel is much larger and able to accommodate a joint station for both Fire Station 9 and GEMS Station 4.

The proposed 2016-17 budget submitted by the BET – with the appropriations to begin funding the Northwest Fire /GEMS facility – to the RTM, is an affirmation of the due diligence and careful deliberations of several town departments and my administration.

We steadfastly stand in support of this proposed project as it is illustrative of the fiscal conservatism for which Greenwich is known. We are continuing the commitment to invest in our community – our human and material resources.

It is my hope that the RTM – the 230 members of this august body who were duly elected to represent the interests of all Greenwich residents – will follow the leads of the BET and the Board of Selectmen, and the Planning and Zoning Commission which approved the Municipal Improvement project status on Tuesday evening, and vote affirmatively to approve this project.

See also:

Northwest Greenwich Fire Station: Yes or No?

 

  • Frankin FGreenwich

    Excuse me. We want to build a firehouse to serve 1600 residents (maybe 800 households). Every other firehouse serves 10,000 residents. I guess this became important when Jim Lash moved to back country, At the cost of a NPV of $20 million, the cost is $25,000 per house. It is cheaper to buy everyone a sprinkler system.

  • Allison Vera

    I’ve read so much about this, I can argue both sides. Objectively, the station will serve more than the current residences of the area. There are facilities that bring many more people into the area on a daily basis.

    And, as Greenwich is slowly evolving into a city, and land is getting more expensive in most areas of town, where do you think the next development spurt will be? Where is the relatively inexpensive land?

    But that is the possible future. Right now, the vote is simply to purchase land. All things considered, I am coming to believe it is a prudent investment.

    p.s., I will agree that the timing on this, with Jim Lash coming back to the BET, is mighty suspicious.

  • RTM Member

    “It is illustrative of the fiscal conservatism Greenwich is known”

    You have publicly stated over and over again that despite having a permanent multi-million operating fire department cost increase—you have identified NOT ONE offset to balance the proposal. Your so-called “fiscal conservative” principles now explains why the Town taxpayer has had a 50% increase over the last 10 years without significant expansion of services.

  • Greenwich Taxpayer

    It is absurd that a First Selectman, who says Greenwich First as a campaign slogan, pits neighborhoods against each other, all while saying otherwise. This is not needed and the RTM should vote NO!

  • anonymous

    For the First Selectman to promote the proposed Northwest fire station without ever mentioning its full cost is irresponsible, at best. Greenwich cannot afford this. The RTM must vote no in its budget vote on Monday.

  • Maura

    Neighboring municipalities have significantly lower budget costs per fireman then Greenwich. Its been pointed out on multiple sites that Port Chester’s career firefighters were budgeted at approximately 100k per year for base salary and benefits. In Greenwich, 12 career firefighters is projected to cost 2.1 million.
    Why is so much more expensive here? We should be demanding a full accounting of the budget and assurances that we are running a safe but cost-efficient system before investing more in capital and/or operational funds.
    I am also very concerned that we are using such an outdated study that began with one huge flaw which was to maintain the current, village based stations. We are attempting to retrofit an old, inefficient system instead of designing and building a fire coverage plan that maximizes safety and efficiency for the entire municipality.

  • Allison Vera

    I agree it is retrofitting an old system, but what do you imagine it would cost to rebuild the entire system from the ground up?

  • RTM Member

    I CANNOT support the project until we see: a) we see offsets in the operating plan, b) more use of volunteers like our neighboring towns who are treated well, c) location actually is optimal to serve that location (which it doesn’t), d) townside service model to show response times against call volume expected – do we need all the stations to service the town?

  • Heather D

    We are faced with a current system that was not well planned, has cost & continues to cost too much, a union that is as I type negotiating with the town for higher wages, a preposed location that possibly does more for NY than for our town, & firm reassurals from all Greenwich higher-ups that nobody will at any point make a move to rectify past/present planning errors & even discuss rearranging any station. RTM members, who are expected to vote on this quagmire have been given incomplete or contradictory information, washed out maps that lack the important data points, have on occassion been bullied for asking certain questions, & have been stonewalled by the fire department after being told that’s where missing data could be found. Combined with the failed land purchase we have already suffered, anyone who says this is a no brainer and simply a safety issue must not have been attending meetings/keeping up with dialogue from either side. I cannot in good concious vote through such a ‘plan’ as currently sits before the RTM, & find this string of op-eds unprofessional.

  • Allison Vera

    “firm reassurals [sic] from all Greenwich higher-ups that nobody will at any point make a move to rectify past/present planning errors & even discuss rearranging any station” ??? What the heck? Did somebody mention something about unprofessional?