Governor Andrew Cuomo came to the rescue of Keene today, pledging $640,000 in state funds to rebuild a fire house destroyed by the floods of Tropical Storm Irene a year ago.
Cuomo said the state had to step in after the Federal Emergency Management Agency reduced the amount of money it offered for replacing the fire house.
“The building was cut in half, and we said not only will we build back, but we will build back better than before,” the governor said at a check-signing ceremony at the site of the future fire house on Route 73.
The new structure will have more room for trucks, equipment, and personnel, Cuomo said.
Since the floods, the fire department has been storing its trucks and ambulances at other sites around town, according to Keene Supervisor William Ferebee. Consequently, he added, “our response time is longer.”
Ferebee said the town hopes to break ground in September and move trucks into the building by mid-December. The building is expected to be finished in the spring.
The fire house will cost $2.3 million. FEMA initially offered to contribute $640,000 but later cut the amount to $340,000. The state intends to make up the difference and kick in another $300,000 to pay for the property where the fire house will be built (across from the Stewart’s Shop in the hamlet of Keene). Additional funds will come from Keene’s town’s insurance policy and a bond approved by town residents.
The town had already accepted bids from contractors, but the project came to a standstill when FEMA changed its offer. The state had to act quickly before the bids expired, which would have required the town advertise for new bids—a process that could have delayed work for months. Keene officials were anxious to begin construction well before winter.
Half of the old fire house was washed away by a swollen Gulf Brook during Irene.