Bridgehampton Vote Tuesday on $1 Million Fire Truck

The Bridgehampton Fire District is asking the public to approve a $1 million bond proposal with a vote to be held on Tuesday, but the district has come under criticism for what some people are saying is a lack of public input and transparency on the process.

The money would pay for a new truck, a combination pumper and ladder that would have a large tank and a 77-foot ladder. John O'Brien, one of the fire commissioners, said it would give the firefighters an edge in fighting fires that are on the second or third floors. The truck is valued at $1 million, but the cost may be offset by reserve funds the district could choose to use, so the final amount to borrow may be less than $1 million, Mr. O'Brien explained. He said the truck would replace one that is 47 years old.

The vote will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the district's fire station, at 64 School Street in Bridgehampton on Tuesday. A public hearing on the district's proposed budget will be held the same day, at 7 p.m. in the old fire station, which is next door to the modern firehouse. At that time, the public will have the chance to ask questions on the regular budget.

The fire district is proposing a 2016 budget of just under $3.37 million, a year-over-year spending increase of $614,000, or 22.3 percent. Fire district officials incorporated $350,000 from its reserves into this number. The proposed tax levy is about $3.02 million, or $737,400 more than last year, which represents a 32.5 percent increase.

"Over the past number of years, trying to always save money is not always the best thing to do, and now we're in a position where a lot of our trucks have to be replaced because they're very old," Mr. O'Brien said.

During its Sept. 28 meeting, the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee passed a resolution asking the fire district to postpone its bond vote to a later date and to hold a public meeting about it to be able to better inform the public, which the C.A.C. says lacks adequate information. However, at least one member of the C.A.C. said if the fire district won't postpone it, citizens should vote "no" on Tuesday.

"Not that any of us are opposed to these things, but they're a public institution that is publicly funded and they should, as the state law requires, maximize public participation," said Leonard Davenport, a longtime member of the C.A.C. "It seems to us that essentially they haven't been doing that, and from our point of view, there is really no harm in delaying the vote on the fire engine. They should answer some questions about it, and then they've done their public duty and people will be a lot happier with the fire district."

Mr. O'Brien said the fire district had gone through the proper channels, posting legal notices in local newspapers, sending the information to the town of Southampton, and posting it at the firehouse itself. He said the district meets twice monthly at regular intervals, and that no one from either the public or the press attended its most recent meeting. He said the district "has nothing to hide."

"You save one life. You can't put a price on it," he said. "It's for the protection of the Fire Department and the protection of the people."