Town of Batavia Fire Department officials tonight outlined their plan to build a new $3.2 million, 10,000-square-foot substation – complete with a dormitory wing for “resident” firefighters -- on Stringham Drive.
“We want to be good neighbors, and give a heads-up to what we’re doing out there,” said Gary Diegelman, chair of the department’s building committee and member of its board of directors, during a public informational meeting attended by about 30 people at the Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.
Many of those at the meeting were residents of the area on Stringham Drive near the proposed location of the new fire hall.
Diegelman said the new building will feature two drive-thru bays and entrances from both Stringham Drive and Clinton Street Road. With the drive-thru bays, the trucks will not have to back up to enter and exit the station.
It will replace the current Station 2 which is located on the north side of Clinton at the corner of Stringham. The department’s headquarters will continue to be Station 1 on Lewiston Road, across from Kmart.
While no one objected to fire department’s proposal – “I’ve got a fire department in my backyard, and I have no problem with that,” said Wayne Benz, owner of a four-family home next door – several homeowners said they were concerned about a retention pond on the property for water runoff and the fire hall’s proximity to their houses.
“People are afraid there will be standing water and whether it will be an eyesore or a mosquito breeding ground,” said Brian Odachowski, who purchased Dana Stringham’s home at 5017 Clinton Street Road last year. “There’s already a drainage problem for people on the lower end.”
Odachowski, who said the fire hall will be in his backyard, said his main concern is “how much of the greenspace (buffer between his property and the fire hall) will be taken away.”
He said he was hopeful that the retention pond will be “done in the right way … to stop the massive runoff that would sweep into the backyards of people living there.”
Diegelman said the fire department contracted with architect Mitchell Associates Architects of Voorheesville and with the Western New York engineering firm Clark Patterson Lee.
“All he (Robert Mitchell) does is fire departments,” Diegelman said.
He said the department purchased the property about three years ago and “got the bumps out of the road.” With that, it is ready to present its proposal to the Genesee County Planning Board (this Thursday night) and then to the Town Planning Board (on Feb. 20).
Other details of the plan include a 25-car parking lot in the back and a five-car lot in front, an electronic message sign at the main entrance off Clinton Street Road, and a decontamination room to keep firefighters’ gear separate from the rest of the building.
Diegelman called the addition of four dorm rooms a “bunk-in program,” noting that other departments in New York State are doing this.
“It’s a space for four members to live there, sort of like a college dorm,” he said. “It could be for younger guys, and there will be set rules for them, and tasks for them to earn their keep.”
He said the benefit of such an arrangement would be that the bunk-ins would be there to “respond to calls – they’ll be the first out to get on the truck and go – but obviously we’re going to take into consideration that they have jobs, too.”
Diegelman, who was joined by Fire Chief Dan Coffey and other firefighters at the meeting, said the department’s fiscal responsibility has enabled it to proceed with the venture.
“We have money in the coffers (because) we’ve been putting money into the building fund account,” he said. “We will put down a substantial amount on the building (he later indicated the down payment will be around $1 million), and we will hold some back for furnishings (including TV screens and computers for the radio room).”
He said they will borrow the rest, and that he was confident the entire project could be paid off in 10 years. He said the existing substation will not be sold or torn down “until we decide what to do -- not in the near future.”
When asked if maybe the department’s budget was too cash heavy, he quickly responded, “Not at all.”
“The Town knows very well what our budgets are,” he said. “We present our budget to the Town Board every year, so they’re very aware of what’s in our coffers. They’re very aware of the projects that we have.
“We just purchased a brand new aerial truck. We determined a long time ago that any equipment purchases – trucks, etc. – would be paid by cash. So we pay for all of our apparatus with cash, and then the buildings get financed.”
He said the original plan was to construct a 16,000-square-foot, three-bay station, but the decision was made to go smaller – “partially due to cost, partially due to necessity.”
Diegelman noted that the new substation is needed due to expansion in that area of Batavia.
“We know that that end of town is building up a lot. They just put the big fieldhouse out at the college, and Oakwood Estates out there on East Main, Mueller’s building another big warehouse there, or it’s Hood now … so we got to know that it’s building up on that end of town. So we need to be progressive enough to be up with the times.”
He said that after obtaining planning board approvals, he anticipated that construction bids for the project would go out in the spring, and groundbreaking would take place sometime this summer.
Photos at top -- Gary Diegelman, left, addresses concerns of Brian and Julie Odachowski as other Stringham Drive-area residents look on; overhead look at the location of the new Town of Batavia Fire Department substation (outlined in black). The existing substation is across Stringham Drive, facing Clinton Street Road. At bottom, architect's rendering of the building (dark shading), which has two stories on one side and is designed to last 75 to 100 years. Clinton Street Road is at the bottom of picture. Photos by Mike Pettinella.