FIRE TRAINING FACILITY ON HOLD
Beekman Fire District Postpones Three and a Half Million Dollar Bond Proposal
By Michele Llanes
During a regularly scheduled meeting of the Beekman Fire District last night, the 3.5 million dollar bond proposal for a Fire Training Center on Greenhaven Road in Poughquag was postponed by the Commission indefinitely. Four Commissioners approved and one opposed the postponement of the bond. The Commission stated the reason for the vote to postpone was the current financial state of the town. The fact that the proposal met with much disapproval from Beekman taxpayers may have also been a factor.
At the first of two scheduled public information meetings,on October 19th, the Beekman Fire Department and District were met with Beekman taxpayers who questioned the need for the proposed training facility for a small town with a small volunteer fire company who’s active interior and exterior fire fighting membership is reported to be well under 50.
The Fire Districts reasons for the training center, as outlined in their mailer sent to all Beekman households, ranged from better trained volunteers that might one day save the readers life; to a way to “bring in more business” by out of town fire departments using the facility and potentially visiting a Beekman business. Other reasons included, keeping volunteers qualified to ensure the department remains volunteer, training consistency and attracting new members.
During the meeting the Beekman Fire District representatives gave a heartwarming presentation on what the Fire Department volunteers provide to the community of which no resident attending disputed, but “the presentation failed to answer many taxpayer inquiries adequately,” reported one resident.
When asked by residents, why not use the Dutchess County training facility available 20 miles away in Poughkeepsie, the summary response from Chief Thomas Kinsley was that it is too far away, takes the fire fighters and equipment out of service for a day which puts the town residents at risk. Taxpayers disputed that, pointing out there is always mutual aid from neighboring towns available, the training could be completed in 4 or 5 hours and Beekman Fire Department could attempt to leave a team and equipment in the town to provide coverage. Kinsley responded that they “just do not have that luxury.”
East Fishkill Fire District has a training center less than 6 miles away and has confirmed that they allow all fire districts that provide mutual aid to use it for their required training. Chief Kinsley agreed and stated they do take advantage of that training center but explained the planning involved often proves to be difficult due to the fact that they must reserve the facility well in advance. Kinsley added that if Beekman had their own facility they could train monthly, weekly or daily if needed.
Residents questioned whether any grant requests have been written to help offset the cost to the taxpayers? The Chief first stated that there weren’t any available and then added the fire department is made up of volunteers and does not have full time staff to research grants.
The Fire District reportedly spent $80,000 on the engineering and planning for the facility to date but questions such as; what will the maintenance and upkeep be, what will the environmental impacts be, what about prevailing wind and its potential to shut the facility down, basically were left unanswered.