Department pushes for Sargent or Elks Lodge plots
By Jeff Simms
Beacon officials have narrowed their search to two sites for a consolidated city fire station: a one-acre parcel on the campus of Sargent Elementary School or a smaller lot across Route 9D at the Beacon Elks Lodge.
Lt. Tim Dexter, who is also the city building inspector, said officials considered as many as 17 sites before concluding that Sargent and the Elks Club ranked highest on a number of criteria. He said the most important — given the lack of land open to be developed in Beacon — was a central location that would allow the department to continue meeting its three-minute response time, the best in Dutchess County.
Sargent and the Elks Club both have their downsides. Because the Elks Club site is smaller, the department would have to build a two-story building, which would be more expensive. The Sargent location would require bringing in sewer and other utilities and taking down a number of trees.
However, because the Sargent property is owned by the school district and not on the tax rolls, its use would not result in a loss of tax revenue.
Dexter and Fire Chief Gary Van Voorhis spoke to the Beacon school board Oct. 24, asking for at least an “expression of interest” in selling part of the school property to the city. The lot they’ve targeted is a wooded swath of land to the west of the access road to the school.
While city officials have long considered building a central fire station, Beacon has received a $250,000 grant from Dutchess County to offset the cost of designing a station. The funds will be available Jan. 1.
“In order for us to be really productive with that funding, we need to know where we’re going to build,” Dexter told the school board. The fire department has had discussions with the Elks Club about its site, as well.
Beacon has three firehouses: the Lewis Tompkins Hose station on South Avenue, the Beacon Engine station on East Main and the Mase Hook and Ladder station on Main Street. Two of the stations are more than 100 years old and all three would become expendable if the department consolidates.
In 2014, a consulting firm, TriData Division of Arlington, Virginia, recommended building a 21,200-square-foot station at the city-owned Cannon Practice Field at Verplanck and Matteawan for what was then estimated to be $7.25 million. Dexter said that site is off the table because of a deed restriction dating to the 1920s that stipulates the land only be used for children’s athletics.
If the school board agreed to part with the land, the sale would have to be approved by Beacon voters. Because of the expense of holding a one-item special election, the referendum would likely be added to the May ballot, when several school board seats will be contested.
President Anthony White said opinions are mixed among the nine school board members but they plan to invite Van Voorhis and Dexter to the Nov. 7 meeting for more discussion. One concern is the safety of the 377 students who attend Sargent, but Dexter said the fire department has considered that and would present a plan.