The children of several Cicero Fire Department members had a chance to wield the ceremonial golden shovels at the groundbreaking of the new station Oct. 29. From left to right, Ally Florczykowski, Ralph and Sebastian Howe, Bob Mayers, Collin Barrett, Shaylin Florczykowski, Jackie Mayers and Jayden and Bre Perperian. (Photo by Ashley M. Casey)
By Ashley M. Casey
After four long years of planning, the Cicero Fire Department has finally begun to build a $4 million fire station next to the existing Station No. 1 on Brewerton Road. The department held a ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 29, and the new station is slated to open in August 2017.
“Four years ago, the board of fire commissioners recognized that our current station — built in the 1950s, renovated in the ‘80s — now presents several safety issues for our firefighters,” said Chris Hines, president of the CFD’s executive board.
According to the CFD, Station No. 1 has extensive structural issues and asbestos, and traffic on Route 11/Brewerton Road poses a danger when fire trucks are exiting the station. Voters approved the construction of the new station in a referendum held in November 2014, having shot down costlier proposals in February and August 2014.
Despite receiving voter approval nearly two years ago, the CFD was not able to begin construction until now due to difficulties in finding funding for the project. An audit done earlier this year by Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci showed the department is in significant fiscal stress.
Thanks to lenders from M&T Bank and a grant secured by Assemblyman Al Stirpe, the new fire station is on track to be completed next summer. The Cicero Fire District will lease the new station from the fire department. The one-story, 17,000-square-foot building will house five apparatus bays, sleeping quarters, offices, a kitchen, training rooms and a community room.
Members of the CFD community and local government officials braved the chill Saturday for the groundbreaking ceremony. Town councilors Dick Cushman and Mike Becallo attended; Becallo, who is also a volunteer firefighter, was one of several guest speakers. Supervisor Mark Venesky and councilors Vern Conway and Jonathan Karp were absent. Relations between the CFD and the Cicero Town Board have been tense since the town’s budget process in 2015.
“This is awesome for the town of Cicero; it’s awesome for all the firefighters in Cicero,” Becallo said. “If we’re not protected, then we can’t protect you all, so that’s huge. … I am very happy that cooler heads prevailed in the end.”
Fire department officials spoke of years of meetings, emails and back-and-forth among the CFD, the community and local government before the new station could come to fruition.
“The district taxpayers … voiced their concerns very loudly the first time we tried to do this and they turned down our proposal,” said Jim Perrin, chairman of the CFD Board of Commissioners. “So we sat down and listened to everything they had to tell us … and came up with a new way to do this.”
Tim Burtis, Onondaga County legislator for the third district, thanked the CFD for their service and looked ahead to a positive future.
“When I interact with the men and women here at Cicero Fire, I think a lot about their public service and what they have sacrificed: their time, their money and the possibility of physical danger. It’s very humbling to get to know each one of these folks and to think about my service compared to your service, and I thank you,” Burtis said. “I look around and see men that have served this town for decades. … I’m very hopeful that the future is bright and that the days filled in this hall are positive.”
Rick Nemier, a member of the Onondaga County Volunteer Firemen’s Association board of directors, also congratulated the CFD on the future building.
“Although you’ve called that building home for a long time, I’m sure it’s going to be a short time until you call this one your home too,” Nemier said.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.