The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Bedford Hills firehouse ahead of schedule, under budget

JOHN ROCHE PHOTO

Santo Curro, chairman of the Bedford Hills Board of Fire Commissioners, discusses progress of the renovation and expansion project for the Bedford Hills firehouse with architect Peter Helmes.

 
By JOHN ROCHE

Working quickly, staying focused on the task at hand and getting the job done well are nothing new for the emergency operations of the Bedford Hills Fire Department, but those same things can be said about the construction of the department’s new headquarters.

The major renovations and addition to the firehouse at 332 Bedford Road are on track to be completed later this fall, or at the latest, by year’s end —which would still be eight months ahead of schedule.

“We’re very pleased with the progress,” said Santo Curro, chairman of the Bedford Hills Board of Fire Commissioners. “We’re not only months ahead of schedule but we’re also significantly under budget. Those factors, along with not having to interrupt the regular operations of the department throughout the course of the construction, add to how pleased we are with how the project has gone so far.”

The new, state-of-the-art headquarters were scheduled to be completed in August 2012, but several positive developments that occurred early on in the building process speeded up construction, according to department officials and the architect for the project, Peter Helmes, of the Katonah-based Helmes Group.

Among those significant developments was the fact that blasting was not required to make way for the foundation of a two-story, 7,168-square-foot addition directly east of the existing firehouse. A private home on that spot had to be demolished, so it wasn’t until after that structure was taken down that crews realized blasting was not required. “Not having to go in there and blast the bedrock saved a considerable amount of time and money,” said Mr. Helmes.

Also adding to the cost-saving and expedited construction was the department’s purchase of a one-story office building across from the firehouse and a small parking lot next to that building adjacent to Route 117.

Initially, the plan was to construct the new addition first, maintaining the full operation of the existing structure. Then, when the new addition was ready, the department would move its apparatus to the new section and proceed with the renovations to the ground floor of the existing firehouse.

But buying the building, the former longtime site of Lloyd Bedford Cox Insurance, and leasing the parking lot from the New York State Department of Transportation, enabled the renovations and construction to be done simultaneously, saving both time and money, according to Mr. Curro. The department’s rigs are moved out of the firehouse during the day and parked in front of it and across the street in that leased lot. The one-story building serves as an annex, with office space, storage and meeting rooms.

“Even with the money we spent on the building and leasing the lot from DOT, that’s been virtually offset by the savings realized by being able to speed up the entire construction process,” Mr. Curro said. “Throughout the project, we have and will continue to make sure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.”

In December 2009, residents of the Bedford Hills Fire District overwhelmingly approved a referendum on a $6.5 million bond to pay for major renovations to the existing firehouse as well as construction of the addition. The increase in taxes stemming from the bonded project for residents of the Bedford Hills Fire District is expected to be about $100 a year for a home with a market value of $500,000, or $200 annually for a home with a market value of $1 million. Stores and other businesses in the hamlet, which also pay taxes to the fire district, will also help foot the bill for the expansion, funded through a 30-year municipal bond.

The upgrades and two-story addition were badly needed because the existing 12,700-square-foot firehouse, built over 50 years ago, no longer adequately met the needs of the volunteer department and the 17-square-mile community it serves, according to the district’s commissioners and members of the volunteer force.

Since regulations now require that all firefighters ride in an enclosed cab on any apparatus, rather than being able to hop on the back, today’s fire trucks are about 12 feet longer and significantly taller and heavier than they were in the past. Because of limited space at the former Bedford Hills facility, apparatus had to be parked in tandem, meaning firefighters had to pull one truck out in order to access the one parked behind it.

“We went to the community and explained that we outgrew the old firehouse in more ways than one, and the community supported our plans to renovate and expand,” Mr. Curro said. “It wasn’t just a matter of needing more space, although that was a major factor. Fire operations, as well as safety regulations and other rules and guidelines have evolved and expanded significantly in the past 50 years, and we needed a facility that could better meet the operational needs of the department.”

The soon-to-be-completed headquarters will increase safety within the facility for firefighters, speed up response times, vastly improve its energy efficiency and enable the firehouse to comply with state and federal mandates, including correcting the fact that the most of the current building is not handicapped accessible and lacks a sprinkler system, air-conditioning, adequate ventilation or efficient heating.

The old firehouse also lacked separate bathroom facilities for men and women, a working shower or a sleeping area. The new facility will also feature an improved training facility for volunteer firefighters and Town of Bedford personnel, additional space for on-site records storage, offices and a new command center.

The 108-year-old department is mandated to provide members with a fitness program, and previously did so by having volunteer firefighters exercise at a gym. “With an on-site fitness room, members of the department will be in the firehouse rather than at a gym in Mount Kisco, which is a benefit in terms of emergency response times,” Mr. Curro explained.

By realizing savings in other areas of the construction — which officials said they couldn’t accurately estimate right now, since the project isn’t completed — additional elements could be added, such as a new façade for the existing portion of the facility.

Other favorable factors also helped move the construction along, including the weather and a neighbor’s agreement that allowed contractors to access the rear of the building. 

Mr. Curro also commended the general contractor for the project, Franchise Contractors, based in Harrison, and Mr. Helmes for stewarding the construction. Department officials also asked that local contractors and materials from area suppliers be used whenever possible to give back to the community, but using a general contractor and architect as well as subcontractors from Bedford and northern Westchester for the majority of the work.

“We’re all here every day, so we’ve been able to address changes, problems and new ideas as soon as they come up, right on the spot,” Mr. Curro said. “That’s helped immensely in terms of the project itself, as well as in saving time and money.”


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Bedford Hills

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Katonah

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Mount Kisco

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SEPTEMBER 30, 2011