By Dan Hust
CALLICOON June 28, 2005 If voters approve it later this summer, the old Mills Garage in Callicoon will become the sparkling new home of the Callicoon Fire Department.
Last month, voters approved the $215,000 sale of the current firehouse on Hill St. next to the Western Hotel.
But that was only half the job. Up the hill on Route 97 sits Callicoons former Chevy dealership, awaiting the go-ahead for a $1 million renovation to turn it into the new firehouse, complete with three large bays, meeting/office space and even a bell tower.
On Thursday, the Callicoon Fire District Board of Commissioners headed by former Mills Garage owner Charlie Mills met at the firehouse to plan for this next major step.
Wurtsboro architect John Horton was also in attendance to show the commissioners what the new firehouse would potentially look like and fill them in on what it all would cost.
While the garage is structurally sound, it was never a firehouse, and its 50 years old, so a fair amount of work is involved about $800,000, estimated Horton.
That doesnt include his fee nor a host of others, which the commissioners agreed would likely push the rehab projects cost past the $1 million mark.
The tax impact hasnt yet been calculated, but the commissioners plan to convey that information and anything else voters ask of them at a July 7 public hearing set for 7 p.m. at the current firehouse.
Theyre understandably nervous about the publics reaction to such a large undertaking, but theyre also heartened by the recent vote that showed area residents think it really is time for the fire department to have the space and facility it needs to properly protect their safety.
So at the July 7 meeting, theyre preparing to show not just the tax impact but the whys and wherefores of decisions made on the interior and exterior of their new home.
And if the public doesnt like some aspect of it, theyre prepared to respond to those concerns. After all, its the taxpayers who will be making this a reality.
Still, said the architect, this isnt a fancy, frilly project with lots of excess costs. At most, Horton explained, he could slice $80,000 off the project likely taking the aesthetically pleasing landscaping and bell tower with it.
The big hitch is youre changing the use of the building, he said, explaining the major reason behind the expense of the project. A good portion of this [cost] is generated just by the building codes.
But time isnt on their side. The buyer of the current firehouse has the cash in hand, said commissioners, and hes given them six months after the closing to move out.
The buyer may have to be a bit more flexible, indicated Horton, who said it would take three months to get everything ready for bid after voters approve the project, then another month for the actual bidding, then another month to award the bids, and then a minimum five-month construction schedule and thats a best-case scenario, assuming that bids come in under the budget allowances and that construction remains on schedule. (Since theres little digging involved, work can continue through the winter.)
The commissioners plan to meet in public session this Thursday, June 30, at 7 p.m. at the current firehouse to finalize the project and create a brochure and presentation for the public meeting July 7 all in an effort to gain that crucial public approval in a vote that will be held later in July or August.
Its an investment, said Commissioner Marc Sturdevant, in the communitys future.
This firehouse is going to be here another 100 years, he explained.