Vote yes to a new fire/police building

Even if most Tupper Lake villagers vote no in Tuesday’s referendum, they will still need new fire and police stations.

That was the case 19 years ago, too. Both stations were said then to be in dire need of replacement, but town voters firmly rejected a ballot proposal for a new building to house them together, along with the local ambulance squad.

The people spoke, and the police and fire departments have made do. Tax increases were avoided by riding further out on what’s left on these buildings’ lifespans.

Those lifespans are not infinite. Instead of borrowing money, this community has borrowed time on these essential facilities. The bills will have to be paid sometime, though – if not now, probably pretty soon.

How much longer can these departments make do until they reach a major crisis point – for instance, the fire hall’s brick facade peeling away to the point where it collapses, or police officers getting sick from mold? No one really knows, but the clock is ticking. Keep that in mind if you’re a Tupper Lake village voter.

That’s the main reason we encourage Tupper Lake villagers to vote yes in Tuesday’s referendum. This problem isn’t going away and needs to be dealt with; we worry about kicking the can farther down the road.

The current fire hall on High Street is still too small. Its tight bays create safety hazards, and the fire department has some of its trucks parked in two other buildings around town. It’s also had structural problems consistent with its age – 64 years.

The village office building that currently houses the police station has structural problems, too, which isn’t surprising considering that it’s almost 120 years old. The station floods regularly, and it’s too small for records, evidence and other necessities.

Neither building is accessible to people with disabilities.

Some people who agree about all this still doubt the proposal on the table, saying it’s more expensive than it has to be. We disagree. This thing should be done right, without being a Taj Mahal, and that’s what we’re looking at here.

It should have room for all of each department’s uses plus a reasonably sized space for meetings, training and community uses – for instance, to be used as a multi-agency command center in the next major crisis.

It should be built to last so that our great-grandchildren will still find it to be serviceable, not to shop garage or mobile home grade. The reason Tupper Lakers were able to stall on this need 19 years ago is that the departments’ old buildings, as problematic as they are, were originally built to a high enough standard that they had some life left in them. The generations of Tupper Lakers who built those have gotten their money’s worth and then some; we should want the same, rather than revisiting this debate in 30 years.

Some have said the timing of this request is bad because Tupper Lake’s economy has fallen on hard times, making it harder for people to pay taxes. That’s been true for a while, but one good thing about the timing now is that interest rates are especially low. Former fire Chief Mark Picerno says the bond should get between 2.5 and 3 percent interest, which is pretty low.

Plus, this would be a 30-year bond, so don’t think about the timing of now only. This is something Tupper Lakers would pay off incrementally for three decades. Things may get better during that time – but even if they don’t, the community will need new fire and police stations. Might as well do it now.