Featured Story

Fire taxes to go down; Commissioners discuss cell tower revenues

JULIE LANE PHOTO There are proposals for placing a tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane.
There are proposals for placing a tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane.

Fire District taxes will go down for homeowners in 2018, it was learned at the Board of Fire Commissioners meeting last Tuesday night.

Even though the budget shows an increase of some $15,000 or 1.89 percent, the tax base has increased so that the Fire District tax bill for a home assessed at $814,000 will decrease by $6.62.

The tax base is the assessed value of properties and structures that have been added to the tax rolls during the year.

Fire District taxes for a home assessed at $1.5 million will decrease by $12.20 according to District Secretary/Treasurer Amber Brach-Williams. “The tax cap has not been pierced,” she said.

But, according to the commissioners, this may not be possible in the future. Commission Chairman Larry Lechmanski explained that Suffolk County is phasing out the current radio communication system requiring the district to switch from low band to high band frequency. “The high band frequency will increase safety and efficiency,” Mr. Lechmanski added

This switch will require a 120-foot white pole antenna at the Center firehouse costing about $125,000.

In the meantime, plans are underway to construct a cellphone tower at the Cobbetts Lane firehouse. If this is finally approved, the Fire District would receive $150,000 from the company installing the tower. This would pay for the antenna behind the Center firehouse, the commissioners said.

Additionally, the company building the tower would install, free of charge, a new high band antenna on top of the tower. With two new towers, one at the Center and the other at Cobbetts Lane, the fire district will have nearly full coverage with new radio communications.

“The lease on the cell tower will pay for the new equipment we have to buy for the men and the vehicles,” Mr. Lechmanski said.

He added that, “We really do not have a choice in this matter. The safety of the firemen and the people of Shelter Island is at stake.”