The Cicero Fire Department is asking for the public’s support as it prepares for a referendum to renovate Station No. 1 on Route 11.
The all-volunteer department, founded in 1883, has a total of 65 members and covers 12 square miles between the Cicero Fire District and the Cicero Fire Protection District. It has two stations, Station 1 at the four corners of Route 31 and Route 11, and Station 2 near Cicero-North Syracuse High School. The department has responded to more than 1,000 calls this year alone.
According to Cicero Fire Commissioner Jim Perrin, Station 1 is in need of significant repairs. Originally built in the 1950s with additional bays constructed in the 1980s, there are significant structural issues, along with asbestos on the second floor and numerous safety concerns.
“As we pull out, members are getting dressed and the apparatus is going out while they’re getting dressed,” Perrin said. “The apparatus is too close to the road. They’re stopping traffic to pull into the road, and lately, it’s been ugly, because people aren’t stopping for us anymore. Used to be, they’d stop. Now they’ll try to sneak around. And it’s getting worse.”
In order to correct the problem, the CFD has purchased the four-and-a-half acre property to the north using a Bond Anticipation Note (BAN). But before it can proceed with any expansion, the department needs the approval of the voters within the Cicero fire district. The town is divided into five fire districts: Cicero, Bridgeport, Brewerton, South Bay and North Syracuse. Each contract with the town to provide protection to its residents.
“Our fire district is pretty much one mile square radius from Station 1. Outside of that one-mile radius, we contract with the town for protection money,” Perrin said. “We have two budgets we work off of. Brewerton is the same. South Bay is an independent; they solely contract with the town. North Syracuse is a village department. They contract with the town and their village. Bridgeport is in another county, but they still contract to protect a small part of the town of Cicero. But when we do stuff as a district, only the district taxpayers have a say, even though a person in the protection area is getting the same service. We answer to the district taxpayers only.”
For the renovation of Station 1, the costs will fall to the taxpayers within the fire district. For those residents, the department will hold an informational meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, at the station. The department has hired Hueber-Breuer Construction Company to manage the renovation project; Perrin said the company has helped them pare down their “wish list” and costs.
“We started with a Christmas list of every single thing we wanted,” he said. “We hired these guys to move it forward in that direction, and they really tore it apart to figure out what we needed and why we needed it, instead of us just saying, ‘This is what we’re doing. Come vote on it.’”
With Heuber-Breuer’s help, the CFD was able to come up with five options for the project, as follows:
Option 1: New 22,000-square-foot site at Station 1, larger administrative offices, drive-through apparatus bays, larger community hall. Total cost: $6.6 million.
Option 1B: New site at Station 1, reduced square footage. Keep the community hall the same. Smaller administrative offices. New apparatus bays, but not drive-through. Total cost: $5.4 million.
Option 2: New site at Station 2. Total cost: $4.7 million.
Option 3: Renovate Station 1 with stand-alone fire bays. Perrin said this option wasn’t viable, so the board of commissioners didn’t price it out.
Option 4: Partial demolition and renovation at Station 1. This involves taking the front end off the building, moving it to the side of the site and renovating the existing community hall. Total cost: $4.9 million.
Option 5: Consolidation of the two stations. Due to the nature of the call volume throughout the district and the need to maintain response times at under four minutes, this option is also not viable so the board didn’t price it out.
After deliberating, the board opted to go with Option 1B, as that seemed the most viable and cost-effective option.
“It prepares us for the future and still allows us to grow,” Perrin said.
At this point, Perrin said the department didn’t know how any kind of renovation would affect residents’ tax bills, but that information would be available at the Jan. 6 meeting.
Perrin encouraged residents to attend and to support the renovation, noting that it would prove more cost-effective in the long run as well as provide for the growth and safety of the fire district.
“If it doesn’t get done, they’re going to continue to pay for it year after year with smaller repairs. We think it’s cheaper to do it now than to wait,” Perrin said. “It’s going to provide for growth. We felt, one, we had to get rid of our safety hazards, because if anyone ever gets hurt here, the taxpayers pay the insurance. We had to get off the road for the safety of the people driving on the roads. It’s going to help with service overall. We feel it’s got to happen.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.