Brookhaven Town is moving forward with negotiations to purchase seven parcels of land on the west side of Station Road near Beaver Dam Road in Bellport to build a new, $13 million headquarters for South Country Ambulance Company.
The town had considered properties between Doane and Post avenues on nearby Montauk Highway, but found them to be too expensive and too small to house the proposed, 26,000-square-foot building, town attorney Marie Michel said during a South Country Community Café meeting Tuesday night.
Michel said the properties on Station Road would cost the town about $200,000.
“It wouldn’t be fair to the community to potentially increase the cost of the project by $500,000 to $1 million,” by purchasing on Montauk Highway, Michel said. “The town made a determination it would be cost prohibitive to move in that direction.”
She also said the Montauk Highway land totaled closer to two acres and, thus, was not large enough for the building as it’s currently proposed.
The Brookhaven Town Board — which oversees the town’s ambulance districts — has authorized, by resolution, to begin negotiations with seven different Station Road landowners, she said, “and, if necessary, proceed with eminent domain.” The town owns one of the parcels.
The Town Board approved the borrowing of the $13 million by district taxpayers in October after 18 months of public debate in the town and village halls — with the plan’s more outspoken detractors coming out of the village. With interest, that $13 million would end up being closer to $17 million, town officials have said.
One of those detractors, village resident Anne Hayes, said Tuesday evening that she found through online research that some communities are moving away from the model of housing ambulances in brick-and-mortar buildings.
Instead, she said, EMS services are being provided through more of a mobile, strategic location system similar to police, “where ambulances can circulate and be in particular areas that are known to have a higher likelihood of need, resulting in better response times and better services.”
“If you go to the strategic location provision, it appears to me that it’s not in the best interest of our community to incur a $13 million debt that over the life of the loan is going to approach $20 million if we’re going to need to go to a strategic system that would not involve the use of a brick-and-mortar building,” she said. “We’re going to end up with a taxpayer-funded huge structure that’s not going to have any use after a little while.”
MIchel responded that North Shore University Hospital ambulance officials, which utilize a strategic mode, had made a presentation at Town Hall at some point. During that time, the officials also indicated Nassau County has an entirely different ambulance provider system than those in Suffolk County.
“The strategic location approach, that’s entire up to the Town Board, for them to determine whether that’s an appropriate approach to an area like Suffolk County,” she said. “I think they’re very happy with the current system.”
The Town Board voted unanimously in October to approve the borrowing for the headquarters.
As for the potential of the land being acquired through eminent domain, newly elected Town Councilman Michael Loguercio said it’s certainly his hope the town and the landowners could reach an agreement.
“I would rather see this go through negotiations, where everyone feels that they’re happy with the deal,” he said. “But, if it’s for the greater good [eminent domain] and that’s what it takes then that’s what we’ll do if that’s what will help the community be better serviced by an ambulance.
Michel said that, as of now, six property owners feel their land was under-appraised by the town.
Top: The current South Country Ambulance headquarters on Montauk Highway and North Dunton Avenue has been determined to be outdated and potentially unsafe. (Michael White file photo)