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Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Will Get Some Paid Help

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps will join the growing number of East End emergency providers whose ranks will be bolstered by part-time, on-call paramedics.

Despite the misgivings of Mayor Brian Gilbride, who said he feared a paid program represented the beginning of “the end of volunteerism as we know it,” the village board earmarked $110,000 for the program in next year’s budget.

The program will enable the ambulance corps, which currently has only 27 members, about half of whom are trained as EMTs, to hire on-call professionals who will be on duty at the ambulance headquarters 24 hours a day, seven days a week to bolster both response times and the quality of initial care.

The village board will hold a public hearing at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at the Municipal Building on the proposed $8.58 million budget, which increases spending by just under 1 percent.

According to village Treasurer Eileen Tuohy, the budget will result in “a very minor change to last year’s tax rate of $2.792 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, but that village officials were still waiting for the Southampton Town Assessor’s office to provide it with this year’s total assessed valuation, so the tax rate can be set.

Separately, the board has set a sewer fund budget of $581,143 that will be collected in fees from those businesses and residences that are connected to the village sewer line. That’s $40,000 less than a year ago and that reduction is the result of a $40,000 cut in the line budgeted for sludge removal fees.

All told, from the time the budget was introduced on February 25 until a tentative budget was set on March 25, village officials cut some $360,000 in spending, although the only matter discussed at length at three work sessions was whether or not to phase in the paid first responder program or introduce it all at once.

“I get the ambulance squad’s concerns,” said Mayor Gilbride. “It would be easier to phase it in seven days a week from June through September.”

Mr. Gilbride said he was concerned with the reaction of residents in fire protection districts in North Haven, Noyac, Bay Point, and East Hampton, which are served by the Sag Harbor Fire Department and ambulance corps, if they saw budget hikes of 32 or 33 percent when the towns begin working on their own budgets in September. In addition, he said, phasing the program in, would allow the program to be analyzed for its effectiveness.

“I’m just trying to preempt this,” he said of any outcry, although he did say that village officials had had a productive meeting with their North Haven counterparts to discuss the cost increases and that he wanted to schedule similar meetings with residents of Noyac and Bay Point.

“For a $500,000 assessment, it’s less than 3 cents a day,” said ambulance corps vice president Deborah O’Brien. “I don’t think it’s fair to do it for the tourists and summer people and not do it for the year-round people.”

She added that as ambulance corps members grow older, more of them go south for part of the winter, leaving the corps shorthanded at what used to be the quiet time of the year.

“Every year, calls seem to be increasing,” said Trustee Ed Deyermond. “People don’t come here from Memorial Day to Labor Day anymore. They come full-time. Montauk did try to phase it in, and that backfired.”

Mr. Deyermond added that residents of the fire protection districts need to pay for the services they receive and pointed out that Noyac residents accounted for 43 percent of ambulance calls last year.

Other board members agreed they wanted the money included in the budget, with Trustee Robby Stein pointing out that the stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas is also a busy time for the volunteers.

Although Mr. Gilbride said he still wanted to meet with Noyac residents “so it’s not going to be a shock to anyone,” he agreed to the proposal. “Once people sit down and they start to understand the training, the refresher training and the time people commit to being volunteers, they’ll understand.”

Mr. Deyermond also raised doubts about the wisdom of reducing the amount of money allocated for sludge removal from $80,000 to $40,000, given that the village has already spent more than $50,000 this year and has a number of new developments coming on line this year, including the Watchcase condominiums and Baron’s Cove resort.

Trustee Sandra Schroeder said the village was counting on a pilot program that will use a new type of bacteria to treat a portion of the village’s sewage to reduce the amount of sludge it generates.

Police Chief Thomas Fabiano also asked that $28,000 that was cut from the police budget be restored so a new patrol car could be purchased. “Two have over 85,000 miles and one is over 100,000,” he said. “The mechanic has been telling me I have to start rotating in a new car.”

But Mr. Gilbride said the cut was made to help keep the budget under the tax cap and refused to consider restoring it.

Petition Says Guardrail’s Gotta Go

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 A petition drive is seeking to have new guardrails removed from a stretch of Short Beach and Long Beach roads, her Bay Point. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Sagaponack has its bridge, East Hampton its utility poles, and now Bay Point has its guardrails.

Just as residents of Sagaponack have opposed plans to upgrade the old bridge over Sagg Pond and East Hampton residents are up in arms over PSEG’s replacement of utility poles with much larger ones, so too are some residents who say they want the Suffolk County Department of Public Works to remove new guardrails that were installed just two weeks ago along a stretch of Short Beach and Long Beach roads near Bay Point.

“When I heard they were putting up the guardrail, I was mortified,” said James Perry of Sag Harbor, who has collected more than 200 signatures on a petition drive on Change.org seeking to have them removed.  “Almost unanimously everyone came back to me and said, ‘I can’t believe this. It’s horrendous.’”

“You couldn’t have a road that is more appropriate for recreational use,” he said of the stretch that is also known as Country Route 60. “It’s close to the village, very scenic, and it’s a flat road, which makes it good for rollerblading, running, cycling or whatever.”

“It’s particularly beautiful, one of the most beautiful spots on Long Island,”  said the artist April Gornik, a resident of North Haven, who has been assisting Mr. Perry in his effort. “I hadn’t been on Long Beach for awhile when this happened or I would have gone ballistic.”

Mr. Perry and Ms. Gornik said they have taken their concerns to County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride and North Haven Mayor Jeff Sander.

But Bill Colavito, the director of highway design for the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, said people should not be holding their breath for the guardrail’s removal.

“I’m not going to dismiss anyone who is upset, and I apologize to them if they don’t like the project, but I have to look out for the greater good of everybody using that road,” he said. “There’s no chance that guiderail is coming down.”

Mr. Perry said he objected to the guardrails because they both spoil the view and unintentionally make the road less safe for pedestrians and cyclists by encouraging motorists to drive faster and creating a barrier that could cause serious injury to a bicyclist or pedestrian if they were struck by a car and pushed against the guardrail.

“I’ve heard of separating pedestrians from traffic with a guardrail,” he said, “but the idea of trapping them on the same side is novel to me.”

William Hillman, the chief engineer for the county’s Department of Public Works, in an email to County Legislator Schneiderman said the county “does not share the same view, that the guardrail decreases safety to non-motorized users.”

Mr. Colavito said the county has been planning to install the guardrail since 2010. In planning such projects, he added, the county relies on the handbook of the American Association for State Highway Officials, which provides strict guidelines relating to average speed, curves and other factors like the location of hazards, such as water, when deciding where guardrails should go.

“When you factor all these things in, it’s a no-brainer,” he said.

But Ms. Gornik said the work “smacks of a make-work project” she could only find one record of a serious accident occurring on the road and that occurred last summer when a landscaping truck was driven off the road and onto rocks when the driver of an oncoming car veered into his lane. “There was no public hearing, no notice to the residents, ” she added.

“Nobody likes to see this sort of thing, but it is a county road there, and they have to do what they have to do to protect the public,” said Legislator Schneiderman, “and they undertook a whole series of tests to justify this project.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he doubted the county would be persuaded to remove the guardrails even though Ms. Gornik said opponents have offered to pay the cost of having them removed.

“I’m not getting overwhelmed with objections,” he said. “It’s not a riot like there was with the utility poles in East Hampton.”

Mr. Perry conceded that guardrail opponents were perhaps not that well organized—yet. “We have very strong community support,” he said, “but so far we are lacking a way for channeling that feeling into action.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve done something where people are upset. It’s nice to deal with people who care about their community,” said Mr. Colavito.  “Over time—give it a couple of weeks—they’ll start looking past it.”

Fire Hits Home in Bay Point

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By Claire Walla

When reports of a house fire on Bay Point in Sag Harbor hit the radio waves on Monday, May 21, firefighters from Sag Harbor, East Hampton and North Sea were quickly on the scene. And according to Sag Harbor Fire Chief Pete Garypie, they distinguished the blaze in a matter of minutes.

However, by the time the fire was reported, some significant damage had already been done.

“The bedroom — where the fire was mostly contained — was gutted,” Garypie explained. “And the rest of the house was severely smoke damaged.”

Garypie said crews arrived at 21 Harbor Drive at 10:33 a.m. to find smoke billowing out of the single-story, waterfront home at the eastern edge of the Bay Point peninsula. He added that the fire was already visible at the back of the house when crews first arrived.

One team of volunteer firefighters quickly entered through the front door of the home with a hose to extinguish the flames. Firefighters ultimately made their way to the rear of the building where a bedroom in the western corner of the home was ablaze.

“There was high heat and lots of smoke,” Garypie said of the conditions firefighters faced. “The guys did a great job.”

He also noted that one of the windows in the back of the property had “let go.” It sent wind inside, which Garypie said possibly stoked the flames.

At this time, however, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

One fireman was treated on the scene for smoke inhalation, which means he was given oxygen and water and told to rest for at least 45 minutes. Garypie said he is now doing fine. Other than that, the fire chief added, there are no reported injuri