Fire District looks to expand
BAY SHORE—Bay Shore Fire District officials say they are looking to expand the district lines, which would allow hamlet residents living north of Sunrise Highway to vote in district elections.
The fire district provides protection services to over 33,000 residents within an eight-square-mile area, which runs from Southern State Parkway to the Great South Bay, according to documents provided by the district.
The possibility of expanding the district arose about two years ago when Bay Shore approved an $11 million bond for the fire district. The vote drew attention to the fact that residents in North and West Bay Shore, along with the Village of Brightwaters, couldn’t vote on the referendum.
“It’s been that way all my life,” fire district chairman Greg Nardone said, adding that when he was younger, his father used to take issue with the fact he couldn’t vote in fire district elections because he lived north of Sunrise Highway.
Nardone, along with district manager Bill Stenger, explained that Bay Shore Fire District provides protection services to residents north of Sunrise Highway and the Village of Brightwaters through a contract with the Town of Islip.
As a result of these contracts, residents living outside the official district lines pay a slightly larger share of the district tax levy, according to reports.
Nardone and Stenger also refuted certain aspects of previous reports on the subject, which they felt implied that current district lines have a racial bias. They acknowledged that residents living north of Sunrise Highway are more racially diverse, but insisted that has nothing to do with why the district exists the way it does. In order to provide some “historical perspective,” Stenger explained that the current district lines date back to the 19th century, when much of the area north of Sunrise was farmland.
Every year, a new seat on the board is put up for a vote. Terms are for five years. Stenger described low voter turnout as “typical,” not just in Bay Shore, but also for fire districts in general. Only a few dozen residents voted in the latest district election, which was held in December and saw chairman Nardone’s reelection. He ran unopposed.
In regards to the expansion, Nardone said that “everyone is warm to the idea,” adding that the move will only be positive for residents.
Brightwaters Mayor John Valdini said the issue of expanding the district has been discussed informally for a long time. Valdini applauded the fire district for the job it does, along with its efforts to expand. “I think it would be good for all the communities involved,” he wrote in an email.
The fire department is currently in the process of renovating its facility on 5th Avenue. They are currently operating out of a building on the corner of Belford Avenue and Tillie Street. Stenger hopes the new facility will be ready by the summer.
The renovations are the result of the bond that was approved in late 2016, which also gave the district four new fire trucks. The district employs nine full-time employees and five part-time employees, according to Stenger. The district also has 155 volunteer members and responds to about 11,000 calls per year.
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