Fire Facility Proposed for Cottekill - BlueStone Press
August 23, 2017
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Fire Facility Proposed for Cottekill

Ulster County seeks new preferred location for Fire Training Center

Jodi La Marco, BSP Reporter
Posted

Ulster County’s 1,400 firefighters, most of whom are volunteers, often travel long distances to reach facilities where they can complete initial and ongoing trainings.

“We have over 50 fire departments in the county that need to provide training. That’s becoming a greater burden. The state has increased the number of hours of training that are necessary,” explains Deputy County Executive Robert Sudlow. “Each of the local departments has really taken on yeoman’s work to do this training and to get it coordinated. With a county this size, we’re kind of at a disadvantage. It’s tougher to attract volunteers. Due to the size of the county, those volunteers have to travel great distances for their training.”

In 2015, the Ulster County Executive’s Office sent out a press release claiming that the demand for such a facility had become “critical,” announcing its intention to “fast track” the construction of a fire training center. However, the press release did not include a potential location for the facility.

On May 16, the Ulster County Legislature passed Resolution 149 authorizing an $82,406 site analysis study to examine potential locations for a new training facility within the county. Previously, the resolution had named a parcel owned by SUNY Ulster in Cottekill as a “preferred site,” leaving many Marbletown residents deeply concerned over the proposed location.

In addition to classroom training, controlled burns fueled by propane, hay or wood would also take place on site.

“I am a Cottekill Road resident. I became aware of this facility proposal about three weeks ago,” said resident Claire Flemming during Marbletown’s May 2 Town Board meeting. “Speaking for myself and others, we do cherish the services of the firefighters … it’s just seemingly not the right site. We’re in a residential neighborhood, and this type of facility is more typically appropriately sited in more industrial regions.”

In a statement from Marbletown’s Environmental Conservation Commission, it was also noted that the unbuilt parcel is home to a number of species of wildlife: “The site itself includes a thriving wetlands, and the nearby area is habitat for apex predators such as barred owls, black bear, coyotes and fishers, the presence of which is evidence of a particularly rich ecosystem.”

Some were also upset over a perceived lack of communication on the part of the county.

“The county needed to go out to have public hearings to reach out to the community to keep all of us informed. The president of the college didn’t know about the final site from the county until two or three weeks ago. There was a breakdown in communication along the way,” said Marbletown legislator Rich Parete, before votes were cast the evening of May 16.

In response to public concerns, the “preferred” Cottekill location was removed from the resolution. Although the parcel owned by SUNY Ulster is still being considered, the UCPB will now need to examine alternative sites.

Last month, Dennis Doyle, director of County Planning, reached out to legislators asking for site suggestions. Doyle specified that viable locations will likely need to possess at least 5 to 7 acres of land, and gave respondents until May 31 to submit their recommendations. Marbletown legislator Manna Jo Greene offered a list of eight sites. The suggestions are a mix of town-, county-, and privately owned properties.

One well-known site is a 90-acre parcel at 250 Ulster Landing Road. Owned by the Town of Ulster, the site is already home to a fire training facility.

Another site that has attracted attention is a town-owned 189-acre site on Clearwater Road in New Paltz. The property contains a transfer station, closed landfill, ballpark and the town Highway Department.

According to the Program of Design Elements contained within the county’s contract with CT Male, the facility would comprise a number of buildings. The four-story burn facility itself would have a footprint of approximately 6,000 square feet. The active practice area would contain concrete pads where firefighters could drill extractions and car fires, and would possess a truck parking area, a single-story maintenance building, and below-ground water storage.

The contract also estimates that the fire training center would contain a single-story building with two classrooms and office space, and roughly 75 parking spaces.

The project is one of several included under the County Executive’s Capital Improvement Program, and it carries an estimated price tag of $1.92 million.

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