By Andrew Rudansky
The referendum asking for a $3.9 million bond to purchase the Pulver Gas property on Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton passed in a 138-20 vote in what Bridgehampton’s Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Steven Halsey said was the next step in a long process.
Halsey called the passing of the referendum on Tuesday, October 18 was “a win-win-win. It’s a win for the people, it’s a win for the department, and it’s a win for the entire fire district.” The commissioners have argued that, as the demands on firefighting in the district change, the department needs space in which to expand.
With this hurdle crossed, the district must now finalize the purchase of the property by December 15.
The passed bond referendum will effectively increase the taxes of all residents of the Bridgehampton Fire District for the entire period of the 15 year bond.
The fire district affected by the new tax stretches from Watermill, containing Bridgehampton, Sagaponack as well as parts of Wainscott.
While the exact increase for each citizen won’t be determined until the rate of the bond is finalized, the fire department released estimates of the tax increase based on a bond rate between 3.5 and 3.75 percent. If a house is assessed at $600,000, the expected increase in annual property taxes is $15.31. If assessed at $1 million, the increase will be $25.69. If a house is assessed at $2 million, the owner could expect an increase of $51.38.
At an information session last Friday, Halsey made the case for why the department thought it was necessary to purchase the nearly half-acre property from the Pulver and Ensign families who are the current owners.
“[The Bridgehampton Fire Department] is currently on a very small piece of property,” said Halsey, “from the outside it might look expansive, but it is not.”
Halsey along with the other members of the Board of Fire Commissioners explained that the current facilities were inadequate for the increased demands put on the department.
In 2010 the Bridgehampton Fire Department received 1322 emergency-related calls. So far this year the department has already received 1100 such calls.
“The fire service has changed over the years, it is not the same animal that it was ten years ago, not even five years ago,” said Halsey, “We would be far more efficient and productive in handling these challenges with the new Pulver property.”
“Trust me, if we don’t buy it, somebody else will definitely snatch it up,” said Halsey at last week’s information session. He said that the real estate agent representing the Pulver Gas Company had several other commercial parties who were interested in making an offer.
The property has a 95-foot front property edge looking out onto Montauk Highway, contains a two story, 8,000 square foot main building and a 2,300 square foot garage.
A stipulation in the purchasing contract allows Pulver Gas Company to continue to occupy the property for the next two years as tenants of the Bridgehampton Fire Department. The company would pay an annual rent of $100,000 to stay in the building. This money would go directly to mitigating the cost to the taxpayers.
At the meeting, the Board of Fire Commissioners also proposed selling an unused 60-by-100 foot piece in Wainscott owned by the department to further offset the cost of the bond.
Halsey said he was unsure how the department will use the property once Pulver Gas leaves in 2013, mentioning numerous options including knocking the building down for parking, renovating the building to accommodate more meeting rooms, or even keeping the building as is and using it for offices.
“During that two year period the Board of Fire Commissioners will decide exactly what to do with the property,” said Halsey.