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The Keene fire hall, damaged by flooded Gulf Brook during Tropical Storm Irene. Photo: Kathy Regan
The Keene fire hall, damaged by flooded Gulf Brook during Tropical Storm Irene. Photo: Kathy Regan

Keene may relocate flooded fire station

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Voters in Keene will go to the polls next month to decide whether to purchase property for a new fire station. The old station was nearly washed away when tiny Gulf Brook flooded during Tropical Storm Irene last year.

As Chris Morris reports, Keene fire officials hope to buy the Mountain Manor on state Route 73, a site that would be safe from flooding in the event of another major storm.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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“Do you believe this? Do you believe this?”

It’s been more than six months since a stunned Gov. Andrew Cuomo viewed the remains of the Keene Volunteer Fire Department following Tropical Storm Irene. Now the Keene Fire District is close to buying property for a new fire station.

The total cost to purchase land and build the station could be between $2.1 million and $2.2 million, although officials hope to come in considerably less than that.

Alan Carey, director of the Keene Fire Board of Commissioners, says a permissive referendum on the proposed purchase of the Mountain Manor, on state Route 73 in the hamlet of Keene, will be held April 24 at the Keene Community Center.

Fire officials looked at nine sites that were available. The Mountain Manor, located across from Stewart’s Shop, was the most expensive piece of property but also the best, Carey says. “And by far, this site that we picked, other than the price, was the best suited to our needs,” Carey said. “It was by far the best for us as far as being high and dry, being accessible during any flooding. Some of the (sites) we looked at would possibly cut us off by flood waters.”

Syracuse-based construction firm Hueber Breuer has been enlisted to help fire officials build the new station.

Carey says the firm has helped the fire department deal with insurance companies as well as prepare for the permissive referendum and bidding process.

The fire district makes up about 50 percent of the town of Keene, which also includes the hamlet of Keene Valley, which has its own fire department. Registered voters in the Keene district will have the final say on whether to move forward with the purchase.

The Mountain Manor is owned by Linda LaBarge and is listed for sale at $399,000. Carey said the fire district hopes to purchase it for $300,000.

Carey said he hopes a portion of the project will be covered by FEMA, “We have applied to FEMA for what we deemed an unmet need, over and above insurance settlements, cash on hand, donations, etc.,” he said. “Hopefully we’re going to get a good portion of what we applied for. If we receive 50, 60, 70 percent of what we applied for, we’re in good shape.”

Town Supervisor Bill Ferebee says he likes the site for the new building, and the design, “They’re trying to build for the future,” he said. “I know included in their building is a meeting room, and of course a kitchen, which from the Irene storm, us trying to feed and house 60 National Guardsmen, I can see where we need that kind of location.”

Construction of the new fire station could begin in mid to late May, but Carey says the start date depends on what happens with the permissive referendum.

Carey says the six-month process for building the new station has been unbelievably frustrating, but he’s happy with the progress that’s been made, “We’re taking, although they’re only baby steps, they’re all forward,” he said. “And we felt that if we couldn’t get a start on the building by possibly mid-June at the latest, that we would not have a roof on the structure for winter. And that would end up costing us a lot more money in the long run.”

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