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Fire Commission expects to pierce tax cap

Word has come that one of the most dedicated firefighters in Shelter Island history has passed away.

Shelter Island Fire Commissioners struggled Monday night to bring the district’s 2019 budget below the state-mandated tax cap, but ultimately voted unanimously to pierce the cap, although not by much.

The budget proposal is $871,700, down from its starting point in August of just over $1 million. The revised budget still comes in $24,000 more than the number they would have had to hit to keep within the mandated tax cap.

The commission postponed structural repairs to the Heights Firehouse that had originally been budgeted for $200,000 in next year’s budget, deciding instead to slot in $50,000 toward those repairs they hope to make in 2020.

Commissioner Keith Clark told his colleagues he and his brother had inspected the building and determined the job could cost more than the original $200,000 and that a real cost wouldn’t be known until steps were taken to start the project.

At the same time, Mr. Clark said the building, which dates to 1895, would be sturdy enough to withstand another year without repairs.

Chief Anthony Reiter offered to forego a new chief’s vehicle even though it would disrupt the plan to buy vehicles on a five-year plan when the trade-in value is highest. After some discussion, commissioners agreed to keep the $50,000 allotment for a new vehicle in the 2019 budget.

Commissioner Greg Sulahian pointed out that the budget numbers aren’t “bogus,” but based on real needs that he believes the public understands.

Commissioner Larry Lechmanski said the budget reflects several factors including: plans to purchase a new truck in 2019; radios and transmitters to comply with upgrades required by the Federal Communications Commission; and the chief’s vehicle.

Also considered was that income expected from Elite Towers for the proposed new tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane won’t be banked until next year. A final public hearing on the tower proposal is scheduled for September 28 before the Town Board. If all goes smoothly, the board could vote to approve the special permit that allows Elite to proceed with construction of the 120-foot tower.

Commissioners agreed to give Elite a three-month extension on its contract for a fee of $2,500 payable now, to clear the project for construction. At the same time, they said the initial $150,000 fee expected from Elite at the start of the project wouldn’t be forthcoming until at least the end of this year or sometime next year if the project gets Town Board approval.

That delay in receiving income, along with the district’s not receiving a share of the fees Elite collects from companies putting antennas on the new tower, changed the budget dynamics for the commissioners.

A public hearing is slated in October on the budget. Commissioners could make changes to the budget before finalizing it — something that by law must be done by October 22. But they don’t expect any further changes will keep them from having to pierce the tax cap.

As for the already approved tower at the Center Firehouse, Fred T. Nudd Corporation in Ontario, New York, one of two bidders, won the construction contract. That bid of $132,346 is $70,000 less than the second bid.