Roughly 100 people turned out Sunday for the groundbreaking of Millwood's new firehouse, the culmination of work and planning that has taken years.
Speakers referenced how the journey began in 1990 when a report preceded a key determination that Station #1, located at 60 Millwood Road, needed to be replaced.
“Well it's 23 years later. We stand at the site, which will be a modern, state-of-the-art firehouse that respects taxpayer dollars, the surrounding neighbors and most importantly our beloved volunteer firefighters," said Fire Commissioner Alan Schapiro, who gave some perspective by noting that 1990 was when Windows 3 was released and the show "The Wonder Years" was popular.
The new building, which will replace a structure that was built in 1924, will be located at 100 Millwood Road, a site of nearly nine acres that is hundreds of feet to the east of the existing firehouse. It will be roughly 18,000 square feet and have five bays. The plan is to demolish the old building and to sell its site.
“A modern building was needed to move us into the future," said Fire Chief Greg Santone, who has served in multiple roles over the years and recapped the history of the process.
Firefighters were extolled for their work by multiple speakers. Officials also repeatedly praised residents for their support, including overwhelming approval in 2011 of a $9.95 million borrowing vote for the project.
“Thank you again for recognizing that our volunteers need a safe, modern building, not only to fight fires, but also to attract and retain volunteer firefighters," said Board of Fire Commissioners Chair Hala Makowska.
The event's attendees at the site included New Castle Town Board members, county and state officials, and members of New Castle entities such as the Planning Board and the Millwood Task Force.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said it is a “day that is a long time coming and you should be proud as a community, not only in the greater New Castle area but certainly here in the hamlet of Millwood.”
County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, whose district includes New Castle, said he was “very very proud to be here" and added it has been “a long struggle.”
The long saga had many turns and chapters.
Santone noted that other scenarios looked at included renovating Station #1 or replacing it with a new building on the same site. Neither options advanced, and Santone noted that the current site was difficult and includes a small lot size.
Before the replacement gained momentum and broad support, there were some disagreements.
The process reportedly intersected with controversy in 2004, when eminent domain of the Millwood Lumber Yard property was mulled to obtain a site, according to reports from the time and subsequent resident recaps.
The fire district purchased much of the current site in 2007 and later acquired a small nearby parcel. Further controversy stemmed from the creation of a capital reserve fund, which was criticized for its use. There was also concern about an earlier proposal for the site site that involved a larger firehouse, the district noted in a subsequent presentation.
ultimate iteration was unveiled in 2010, which followed a change in board composition. It went through a detailed
environmental review by the commissioners before the referendum.
Roughly five acres of the site will have disturbance and the
district's consulting team has helped with the environmental aspect.
Once the bond vote was approved, the fire district needed approvals from the planning board, with the project subject to review for more than a year before approval was granted. The district entered the bond market earlier this year.
Several got turns to dig a golden shovel into the ground. Work on the site began this summer with clearance of vegetation. The project is expected to be completed in November 2014, Makowska said.