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Fire commissioners settle on $936,910 budget

Shelter Island Center Firehouse

They called it a public hearing, but nobody came to hear what Shelter Island Fire Commissioners have decided on for spending in the 2019 fiscal year.

With no public comments, the commissioners agreed on a spending plan of $936,910 of which $895,710 would be raised from real estate taxes. The balance comes from interest income and money paid by the Village of Dering Harbor for fire protection.

Plans for structural repairs at the Heights Firehouse have been delayed for at least a year since it was determined that it would cost about $200,000. Commissioner Keith Clark told his colleagues in September that the job was far more extensive than they hoped, but that the building would be sturdy enough to hold up for another year.

The budget was reduced from an original more than $1 million in spending.

Still the commissioners are piercing the tax cap by $24,010, something they have avoided doing in past budgets. But Commissioner Larry Lechmanski despite every effort, it couldn’t be avoided this time.

There are several expenses upcoming, including a major investment in new radios necessitated by a Federal Communications Commission.

Revenues that the Fire District hopes to receive from a deal with Elite Towers to build a new cell tower at the Manhanset Firehouse have been slow in coming. The Town Board is expected to expedite the approval of a special permit needed for the cell tower after the most vocal critic and nearest neighbor to the site backed off after he was given assurances there would be noise abatement steps taken.

The district would get an initial payment of $150,000 and half the revenue Elite Towers receives from those companies opting to place their antennas on that new tower.

That revenue couldn’t be counted in the 2019 budget until it is assured the tower will be built.

The Fire Department is also planning to place its own antenna on that tower to improve communications and would not be charged any fee for doing so.

It needs the new antenna to end areas of blacked out signals that could prohibit firefighters handling a blaze in the Rams and/or Hay Beach areas when the responders might need to call for backup assistance.

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