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County leaders gamble on constructing fire training facility

Firefighters from several area fire agencies battle a blaze in September 2009 in Warrensburg that destroyed the original Oscar's Smoke House, which was rebuilt soon after. Just this week, Warren County supervisors okayed a plan to build the initial building of a bicounty fire training center in Queensbury to help bolster the rosters of area fire companies as well as keep the skills of firefighters up-to-date.

Firefighters from several area fire agencies battle a blaze in September 2009 in Warrensburg that destroyed the original Oscar's Smoke House, which was rebuilt soon after. Just this week, Warren County supervisors okayed a plan to build the initial building of a bicounty fire training center in Queensbury to help bolster the rosters of area fire companies as well as keep the skills of firefighters up-to-date.

— With a grant deadline looming and taxpayer money at risk, Warren County's leaders decided Feb. 17 to purchase a $119,000 prefabricated building as the initial facility of a bicounty firefighters' training center.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors cast their vote of approval after assessing the risks of spending $200,000 or more on the building which might not be reimbursed if the building were not erected and ready for use by March 31, when a deadline for a state grant is effective. The grant covers about 90 percent of the costs.

Five county supervisors – Fred Monroe of Chester, William Kenny and Bud Taylor from Glens Falls and Matt Sokol and William Mason of Queensbury voted against going ahead with constructing the building. Monroe argued that the project, despite its merits, posed a risk for taxpayer money if the building wasn't in place in less than six weeks, and that other similar grant money might be available in the future. But the other 15 supervisors voted for constructing the building after hearing the pleas of county Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure.

“I implore you to move ahead with this, it's a great project,” he said, noting that firefighters from all over, including those employed by area paper mills, would likely be using it.

This “mask confidence” instructional building would be used to train firefighters from the two counties, familiarizing them with firefighting strategies and equipment.

The Washington County Board of Supervisors, partners in the project, also approved the building purchase Feb. 17.

The facility is to be constructed off Queensbury Ave. in Queensbury.

For years, area firefighters have had to travel for hours to attend training sessions. The building is the first facility of a fire training campus, which has been envisioned for nearly a decade. In the mid-2000s, a $4.7 million structure had been proposed, originally at Adirondack Community College. The conceptual center was moved to a 32-acre site near the Warren County airport after concerns were raised. The project has been envisioned as a method of boosting membership in local fire departments as well as keeping firefighters' training up-to-date.

LaFLure noted that the county has a $146,000 set aside in a capital fund for the project, but $200,000 in engineering services will need to be spent on the center, a figure that prompted questions from Queensbury Supervisor-at-large David Strainer.

But two upcounty supervisors expressed solid support.

“”We owe it to our emergency volunteers, and it's time to move ahead on this,” Horicon Town Supervisor Ralph Bentley said.

“It's a bit of a gamble, but the facility is much needed and it will be a well-used facility,” Thurman Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said, soon before the affirmative vote occurred.

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