McKownville’s Proposed New Firehouse

Built in 1967, the current McKownville Fire Department Station 1 has served the community well for many years. However, after 50+ years, the building has deteriorated and space limitations are compromising the safety of our volunteer members.

A new facility is a crucial priority to better meet the community’s current and future needs for fire protection and emergency response.

Tonight, Tuesday evening April 23 from 6pm-9pm, the McKownville Fire District will hold its public referendum election vote for the proposed new firehouse at 1250 Western Avenue.


The Altamont Enterprise published an excellent summary of our first public information session and the new firehouse. They even did a deep dive into the history of the fire service in McKownville.

We want to thank community members attending both our public information meetings for the proposed new firehouse – we have included all questions received during the public information meetings below in the Frequently Asked Questions section.

If you have any questions about the new building project, please contact the Building Committee via email: or call the firehouse at (518) 489-4340.

The anticipated cost of the proposed new firehouse and site work is $9,600,000.

The project would result in an average annual fire tax increase of $1.48 per thousand of assessed value. You can look up your house’s assessed value here.

McKownville Fire District Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Q: What is the McKownville Fire District?

A: The Fire District is a municipal entity authorized by the laws of New York State to exist as the business entity that manages finances and equipment used by the Fire Department. The District owns, administers, and maintains the land, building and equipment used for emergency response in the District’s defined area.

The Fire District is empowered to levy fire taxes directly to the people who live within the District boundaries, similar to how a school district levies taxes. 

The District is lead by five elected volunteer Fire Commissioners and utilizes a secretary and a treasurer to help conduct its business.

Q: What is the McKownville Fire Department?

A: The McKownville Fire Department provides fire protection and rescue operations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Members of the McKownville Fire Department are 100% volunteer. They are your friends, neighbors, and relatives who have made a commitment to answer the call to respond to emergencies in your community. 

They train and meet at least weekly to maintain mandated standards and to be best prepared when the call comes to serve. The Department responded to over 250 calls in 2022, and over 280 calls in 2023.

Q: Why does McKownville need a new firehouse?

A: Our current Firehouse at 1250 Western Avenue was built in 1967 and quite simply, is beyond its useful service life. Ongoing building maintenance and repairs are a significant burden on our budget. It’s almost a full-time job managing the weekly facility repairs required due to aging infrastructure.

Additionally, the current building doesn’t meet modern safety and accessibility standards, and compromises our ability to offer a safe, comfortable and effective environment for our volunteer members responding to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year.

Q: What about renovating the current building?

A: We have a square footage problem. Modern fire trucks are larger, and the footprint needed to adhere to modern fire service safety and decontamination protocols necessitate a larger space to physically separate potentially contaminated gear and equipment, business operations, and public meeting room spaces. It’s cost prohibitive to maintain the current building. The new firehouse will solve this issue through clever interior layout and design suggested by our architects, H2M, as well as adding a second floor.

Q: But it appears the City of Albany has old firehouses that have been in service for well over 60 years?

A: Many firehouses in the City of Albany have undergone significant, substantial, and costly interior upgrades not necessarily visible from the exterior. McKownville attempted similar renovation projects utilizing two separate engineers within the past 15 years. Each engineering firm independently determined project cost of such renovations would approach or possibly even exceed that of a knock-down and rebuild.

A new firehouse would better position the McKownville Fire District to offer fire protection services for the next 50+ years.

Q: What if there is a cost overrun during construction?

A: The Fire District has hired a leading architectural and engineering firm, H2M, and to date, they have not worked on an over-budget construction project.

We have  budgeted contingencies, taking into account unknowns relating to construction materials and labor. As the economy and materials supply chain continue to recover post-pandemic, costs related to construction continue to stabilize. We expect this trend to continue through the duration of our construction project.

We will also be taking the extra step of hiring a Clerk of the Works to help manage the project, further protecting the the tax payers of McKownville from cost overruns and construction delays.

Q: Will the new firehouse bond raise the tax rate for all my taxes?

A: No.

Only your fire tax will increase. The rate of increase is measured in cost per thousand dollars of your property’s assessed value. 

You can look up your house’s assessed value here.

Q: What about other sources of funding like grants or other local, state or federal aid?

A: We have met with elected officials who have been made aware of the needs and challenges unique to the McKownville Fire District. We are extremely optimistic that through a combination of federal and state grants, along with special appropriations from elected officials, that some of the new building costs will not fall on the residents of McKownville.

Q: What’s the new firehouse project timeline?

A: Construction is expected to take 18 months.

Q: What have you done to keep project costs down?

A: Early construction budget estimates were over $11M. By shrinking the overall size of the structure, and some design changes suggested by our architects, H2M, we were able to bring the all-in project cost down to $9.3M, an over 15% cost reduction. The construction budget is set for $8M.

Q: Construction cost is $8M, but the all-in cost is $9.3M. Why the difference?

A: There are additional costs associated with this project beyond new building construction. 

The McKownville Fire Department will maintain consistent operation as a full-service fire protection agency during new building construction. This will necessitate a temporary structure to house the fire engines and members turnout gear during the duration of the construction. We will also need to tear down the existing 60+ year-old firehouse, with some remediation work, as well as prepare the site for new construction.

Q: Where will the fire engines and gear be housed during construction?

A: Our fire engines will be housed in a temporary structure across the street from the current firehouse on Western Avenue. The Fire District has a lease from the Town of Guilderland on the vacant parcel of land at 1257 Western Avenue. This property was the location where materials were stored during the stormwater project of 2018-2022. This property will only be used for storage of our fire apparatus and turnout gear for emergency responses. Training and meetings will occur at other sites.

Our Station 2 on Arcadia Avenue will be utilized for additional storage and business operations. Unfortunately, due to the increased size and weight of modern fire engines, Station 2 cannot fit our fire engines or rescue apparatus.

Q: What steps are you taking to make the new firehouse aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood?

A: As you can see in the rendering below, the design of the new firehouse is aesthetically pleasing, using timeless exterior building materials and design we expect will age well. Native plantings will be used to help cultivate pine bush native species. Parking lot and path lighting will be contained to the property.

A new and expanded community room will be available to neighborhood organization meetings like the McKownville Improvement Association, and to facilitate other activities like in-person voting. This space will be physically separated from firehouse operations, allowing simultaneous use of both without disruption. Please note that the new fire station will continue to not be available for rental.

Q: What community benefits does the firehouse offer beyond fighting fires?

A: While our members undergo rigorous state-mandated training for fighting structure fires, this is not our most frequent response call.

As McKownville continues to suffer from poor stormwater drainage, this unfortunately can lead to wet basements. The volunteer members of the McKownville Fire Department are often called to assist with basement pump-outs after heavy rain events, including over 10 pump-out requests in one afternoon and evening following a particularly bad storm during the summer of 2023.  During these severe weather events, we also get called to assist with traffic control, and respond to reports of trees on power lines, trees on houses, and rescue calls related to impassable roads.

The new firehouse is also designed to be better equipped to provide temporary short-term (a few hours) shelter during major weather events, potentially providing food, warmth, shelter, and cellphone charging to McKownville residents.

Q: What is the population of McKownville?

A: There are 900 residences within the McKownville Fire District. The population of the District increased greatly during the SUNY UAlbany school year, as the Indigenous Quad dormitory is within the District.  40% of our in-district calls are to SUNY UAlbany’s campus.

The population of of the District also increased during the daytime hours due to the businesses offices that are within Stuyvesant Plaza, Tower Place, and Executive Park.

Q: Is there a minimum number of votes required to pass the bond resolution?

A: The vote is a simple majority of the voters who turn out, similar to any other election.

Q: Is there a chance of project costs increasing between now and when construction begins?

A: There are quite a bit of contingencies built into the budget. In doing our due diligence, we have spoken with outside architects, who have indicted that our estimates are high, and a worst-case scenario.

The design is still conceptual and isn’t yet finalized – as the project proceeds, we will have a better sense of final costs.  The bond amount is considered a top-end limit; a number that we will not exceed.

We have also built into the construction budget something known as escalation – this is different from inflation.

Based on when we expect construction to start, which is 2025, our architects have built escalation into the estimate.

Two recent local firehouse projects our architects have worked on, Stanford Heights and Scotia, both came in under budget.  However, the market is, and expected to continue to be highly unpredictable.

Q: Does the 14 month construction timeframe take into consideration demolition at current firehouse?

A: No, it does not. Demolition of the current firehouse will take an addition 1-2 months.

Q: Is demolition part of the total budget?

A: Yes it is. It is not part of the bond, but it is part of the budget.

Q: Any concerns of the temporary building?

A: We have an agreement with the Town of Guilderland to utilize the property across the street from firehouse at 1257 Western Avenue.  This property was used previously as staging of equipment for the stormwater mitigation project.

Our plan is to erect a temporary structure to house the fire engines across the street at the 1257 Western Avenue property for the duration of the project.

We also will be utilizing our Station 2 on Arcadia Avenue for business operations. The weight and size of modern fire vehicles prevents us from storing modern fire engines at Station 2.

Fire protection and the other emergency services we provide like rescues, basement pumpouts, and vehicle extrications will continue without any disruption in service.

We attempted to identify alternative locations for the new firehouse, but no viable options were available.

Q: What’s the breakpoint where budget expands beyond budget?

A: The bond is a hard limit, and is a cap on spending. We cannot exceed the the terms of the bond, it is the ceiling. The only way to go beyond the bond limit is to have another bond referendum vote.

Q: What is a bond referendum?

A: A bond referendum is a vote by the residents of a fire district to borrow money for a capital project. In this case, our bond referendum is to borrow money to build a new firehouse.

For the purposes of our new firehouse, think of a bond like a home mortgage.

Q: Governor Hochul announced grants for fire service in New York state, will that reduce the bond amount to the residents of McKownville?

A: We are finalizing our application for new grants recently announced by New York State to volunteer fire departments and districts for the construction of new firehouses. If we are successful in our grant application, any money received will be applied to our bond over the first three years, effectively reducing our fire tax to residents over the payout period for the grant.

We also have had meetings with local, county and state elected officials seeking money in support of the new firehouse project.

The board of fire commissioners for the McKownville Fire District have been very active in seeking ways of reducing the tax burden on residents through grants and other sources of funding.

Q: Are we having any issues with attracting volunteer members?  What numbers or statistics do we have that demonstrates new firehouses attract new volunteers members?

A: Our membership numbers have remained steady over the past 20 years. The new firehouse project is crucial in providing these members with a safe environment during weekly drills and after fire calls through proper mitigation of carcinogens which occur as a result of structural firefighting.

We have established a pipeline for new members via the Division of Home Security and Emergency Services curriculum at UAlbany which helps bolster our active roster during the school year – these member often go on to career fire service work in New York City and with the State of New York after graduation.

We can always use more help and are always welcoming of new members – if you are interested in finding out more, please visit our recruitment page at

Q: Will the new firehouse have community space, and will it be available for rent like other fire departments?

A: The new firehouse has plans for a “community room” on the first floor, with an anticipated use for voting, McKownville Improvement Association meetings, and other similar functions which benefits the community.

As with the current firehouse, our continued policy will be to not be renting the space or making it available for private or individual use.

For reference, the community room in the new proposed firehouse will be roughly the same size as the multi-use room that’s used for voting in the current firehouse.

Q: Will the number of parking spaces be the same at the new firehouse?

A: Parking will be similar to as it is now, but we will lose several spots, however several vehicles that park in the back lot, a utility pickup, and the two Chief’s vehicles, will be parked inside and next to the front apron, respectively.  We will continue to be constrained by the size of the lot.

Q: The cost to taxpayers for a paid fire service in McKownville is extremely expensive. What assurances can you offer that after building a new firehouse, that the District won’t transition to a paid service or combination service?

A: There are no assurances – However, we have a proven track record for recruitment, and have built strong relationships with SUNY UAlbany, who we use as a pipeline for volunteer fire service.

Q: Where would we vote during the 14 month window?

A: We will be working with the Board of Elections to determine an alternate site.

Q: Is someone in residence at the firehouse 24 hours a day?

A: No, we are 100% volunteer. When the siren goes off, that’s when we come to the firehouse.

Q: If everything goes according to plan, when does the tax increase go into effect?

A: Presuming a positive referendum vote, 2025 at the earliest, or possibly 2026, depending on exactly when the new firehouse construction bid contracts are signed.

Q: What are you doing to inform residents of McKownville of the bond vote for the proposed new firehouse?

A: We have made every effort to be as forthcoming and transparent as possible, and to inform every resident of McKownville of the proposed new firehouse project through multiple mediums.

Beyond our two in-person public information sessions where every question was answered, we set up this webpage outlining the specifics of the project, and included every question asked in our public information meetings.

A mailer was sent to every household in McKownville informing residents about the new firehouse project, and when and where to vote.

Our sign has been updated to advise residents of the public information meetings, this website address, and finally when the bond vote would be occurring.

We have also been working with the McKownville Improvement Association to not only advice it’s membership of the new firehouse project, but also learn how the fire district can better engage and notify the community about the new firehouse project and associated costs to taxpayers.

And of course frequent website and social media updates have been made, and will continue to be posted to make our neighbors aware of the project status.