The Cicero Fire Department held its fifth public information meeting Monday, Jan. 6, to advise taxpayers about its plans to renovate Station No. 1, located at the corner of Route 11 and Route 31 in Cicero.
Though much of the information had been previously presented, this was the first time members of the Cicero fire district got the chance to hear how much the proposed reconstruction could cost. According to Cicero Fire Commissioner Jim Perrin, the department is looking at a total of $5.6 million to renovate the apparatus bays, rebuild the station and address the safety issues at the site. Perrin said that works out to about $74 a year for taxpayers within the fire district. A vote is expected some time in February.
“We can only build to the amount we budget for and get passed and can’t go one dollar over without going back to the voters,” Perrin said, “whereas if we don’t use what we get approved for then we can take that off the price and lower the tax bill.”
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.
The department provides protection to the entire town, but only a small portion of that is within its fire district. Cicero also has four other fire districts (Brewerton, South Bay, North Syracuse and Bridgeport). All five also contract with the town to provide protection to the areas outside their specified district. Residents within that fire district pay taxes that help support the department; those taxes would also help support the renovation, if it passes a referendum vote.
According to 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. For the renovation of Station 1, the costs will fall to the taxpayers within the fire district. The department has hired Hueber-Breuer Construction Company to manage the renovation project.
About 15 to 20 taxpayers attended the Jan. 6 meeting, where many agreed that the renovation was necessary. However, several asked that the department renegotiate the fire protection contracts with the town to help offset the costs.
The next public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the station.
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.