Higher bids push cost on new ambulance HQ
The $13 million proposed South Country Ambulance facility on Station Road could now cost as much as $15.7 million, Brookhaven Town officials announced earlier this month. At a town meeting on Nov. 16, Supervisor Ed Romaine said the reason for the $2.7 million increase was the project bids, which were heard in September, came in much higher than anticipated.
Due to the increased costs of labor and materials, a public hearing is set for Dec. 19 at 6 p.m. to give residents an opportunity for input on the new 26,000-square-foot building. Fourth District councilman Michael Loguercio put forth the resolution, which was unanimously approved. Before taking the vote, councilwoman Valerie Cartright expressed concerns over the rising cost estimate. “I’m going to be voting yes because the public hearing is an opportunity for the community to come out and speak. But I am completely against the fact that this is now being raised to over $15 million, when I was continuously told that we were going to do everything in our power to keep it under $13 million,” she said.
Romaine noted that the town would be working with both architects and the ambulance company to see if there is any leeway. “We’re going to take a look and see if we can use a project labor agreement that would reduce the cost,” he said. “But I would point this out. The [South Country] Ambulance District is our largest ambulance district and the only ambulance district without debt,” Romaine continued, adding that after the new headquarters are built, the district will have the lowest cost per-capita of the nine town ambulance districts.
The district, roughly the same size as Burlington, Vt., is on pace to respond to nearly 4,000 calls this year, according to South Country Ambulance Chief Greg Miglino.
First proposed in 2014, the town board approved the construction of the new ambulance building in October 2015. According to Miglino, the current facility on Montauk Highway can no longer meet modern needs. “The building’s initial construction dates back almost 80 years; it’s literally falling down around us,” Miglino said last week. He cited concerns over the structural integrity, mold and asbestos due to poor roof conditions. “It can no longer fit modern equipment needed for lifesaving operations, nor does it have sleeping quarters and associated accommodations for volunteers — eight to 12 a night minimum — that have to sleep at the building,” he said.
Miglino added that constructing the new facility will help the district cut operating costs by consolidating locations and the upgraded infrastructure will carry them for the next 100 years. “All of this is needed to maintain a level of readiness that our community deserves without endangering our volunteers,” he said.
Documents from the town meeting show that taxes to a “typical property” owner for the improvement would increase from $89.46 per year to $107.67 per year for a total of 20 years and for “residential property” owners, an increase from $96.15 per year to $115.08 per year for a total of 20 years.
In an interview, Miglino said that delays in the project timeline could have pushed costs up. “This delay was the result of town government trying to accommodate the demands of a few gadflies in the community. Their erroneous claims and frivolous legal filings have now cost this community millions,” he said, adding that since 2014, the cost of labor has gone up and construction companies once in need of work now have plenty and are courting higher prices. “In 2014-2015, when we tried moving this project forward, the cost per square foot for this type of municipal work was between $375 and $425. In 2017-2018, the same work is now between $525 and $700 a square foot,” he said.
He also noted that the “saving grace” might be the town’s excellent bond rating, which could allow them to borrow money cheaper than expected. “Any further delays, though, will undoubtedly result in a much steeper cost to our community with no additional benefit,” he said.
“We are as frustrated about this as anyone out there, but are at the whim of a process not controlled by us. This project has been scaled down and scrutinized since 2014 and it is time to move forward and provide our community and volunteers with what they should have.”
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