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Sag Harbor Village Board: Ambulance Corps Looks Towards Paid Help

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By Kathryn G. Menu

For Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Ed Downes each passing year is a record breaker, as emergency service calls increase and volunteers scramble to ensure the community has an ambulance corps it not only can count on, but one it can be proud of.

And they are certainly not alone.

Since last spring, the East End Ambulance Coalition — a group of representatives from volunteer ambulance companies from Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Amagansett, East Hampton, Springs and Montauk — have been working together towards a paid first responder program, which they hope will launch in the summer of 2014.

Starting this past June, the Montauk Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners approved a pilot program for this past summer, providing for one paid EMT 24 hours a day, seven days a week through mid-September.

Many departments on Long Island, including Southampton, have moved towards having at least partially paid paramedics and first responders who work with local volunteers, improving response times as a result.

During a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting last Wednesday, trustee Ed Deyermond noted with the increase in call volumes, considering a paid emergency medical technician (EMT) is something that should be considered within Sag Harbor’s fire district.

According to Downes, the company will likely seek to work cooperatively with the East End Ambulance Coalition, which was set to meet again Friday, towards a regional paid first responder program before seeking to fund a program for Sag Harbor alone.

Downes said if implemented, the coalition would have a team of three to as many as five paid responders on duty, available to respond along with one of the coalition companies to any emergency service situation from Bridgehampton to Montauk.

“The biggest problem is funding,” said Downes of the coalition’s efforts. Working with both East Hampton and Southampton towns for funding is being considered, he added, with the coalition waiting for newly elected town boards to take office before making any formal proposals.

No matter what program is implemented, Downes said all the fire districts will still rely heavily on volunteers. Working together, for example through the implementation of a daytime duty crew — a program established by coalition companies this July — is critical, he added. Downes said he expects the daytime duty crew is something the coalition will continue next summer.

A duty crew made up a volunteers from one of the coalition companies was on call Monday through Saturday to respond to any ambulance call, along with the home company the call originated from. The program gave the all-volunteer ambulance companies a back-up team to rely on.

For Downes, and the 29 members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, while having paid first responders on-call in a regional capacity would be a welcome help as calls continue to increase, the volunteer force will always be essential.

“Everyone gives what they can and all that they can,” he said.

In other emergency service news, last Wednesday Deyermond once again brought up the need for a helipad for medevac purposes in Sag Harbor. Last month, Deyermond suggested it could be something constructed near Havens Beach. Last Wednesday, he noted it would have to support a 24 ton military helicopter.

“Maybe we can get a ballpark figure and see if this is going to fly,” said Deyermond.

The village board also passed a resolution made by Deyermond to purchase 16 new air packs for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department at a cost not to exceed more than $70,000 out of the excess budget available through the fire department, and the remainder to be funded through the village’s contingency fund.

Deyermond said the village was also looking at the cost of purchasing two new dry suits for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team.

Last month, the fire department reported that 17 of its 60 air packs had to be replaced with newer models as they were now rated as “substandard.” Two of the dive team’s three dry suits, critical for water rescues, have been in and out of repairs.

In other village news, the board introduced two new local laws last Wednesday that will be up for public hearing at its January 14 meeting.

First is a local law amending the zoning code to require a certificate of appropriateness from the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation & Architectural Review Board (ARB) for any exterior “alteration, restoration, construction, reconstruction, demolition or material change in the appearance of such a property that is visible from an adjacent street or adjacent property.” A certificate of appropriateness would not be required for interior renovations alone.

The board will also hold a public hearing for a change to the building code, requiring sediment control during the course of a building project to protect natural vegetation and topography by requiring a project-limiting fence, mesh, straw bales, or similar devices during construction and any clearing or grading of land.

“First of all, this is usually done as a matter of course in most projects anyway but this will give the building inspector the right to enforce it,” said village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

The board was also unanimous in renewing its agreement with the Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club, which will be able to continue its program at Cove Park, a small public park near Redwood Causeway.

The not-for-profit Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club has been rowing off Cove Park since its founding in 2008. In addition to competitive rowing for middle and high school students, the organization also has adult programming and camp offerings in the summer. For more information, visit rowsagharbor.org.

The board did table a request by Martin Monteith to run a sailboat charter from outside the breakwater for the 2014 summer season. Monteith was asking the board for permission to load and unload passengers from the village docks.

Thiele cautioned the board that if it was going to allow the use of its dock space it would have to charge a fee.

The board asked Harbor Master Bob Bori to weigh in on the matter before making a decision.

The board also denied a request by Susan Mead of the not for profit Serve Sag Harbor to host a fundraising event on Long Wharf June 28 and June 29.

“I am happy to entertain it at a different venue or on a different day, but it’s just that this is Long Wharf we are talking about,” said board member Robby Stein.

Preliminary Budget Eyed

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By Marissa Maier

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and the village department heads rolled up their sleeves last Friday, March 20, and pored over a tentative draft of the village budget for 2009 to 2010 totaling $7.4 million. The meeting was the first in a series the village will hold before finalizing the budget and hosting a public hearing.

Anticipating a budgetary shortfall in fall 2008, Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris asked each department to tighten their belts, avoid expensive and large purchases and “do more with less.”

Village treasurer Eileen Tuohy attributed the $215,000 shortfall to a decrease in non-real property tax revenue. Non-real property tax funds are collected from building permit receipts, dock slip receipts, state aid, and interest from the village savings account, among other sources. With interest rates at their lowest level in years, coupled with a decrease in dock receipts and rising contractual obligations, the village has been forced to economize.

Tuohy hopes continued austerity spending will help the village “break even” in the coming fiscal year. As the trustees analyzed the draft budget line-by-line, Ferraris said, “This is a pretty bare bones budget. We made cuts everywhere we could.”

Some village departments, like the police department and the highway department, are slashing spending through attrition. While Ed Downes, president of the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps, is holding off on his long term goal of purchasing a third ambulance vehicle, he still must purchase new medical supplies every year.

In the building department, building inspector Tim Platt was able to decrease the overall budget for code enforcement, but said new costs will be incurred because New York State will no longer pay for new code books or training for code personnel. Trustee Tiffany Scarlato said monies paid by the building department for application consultant fees will now be paid out of the planning board and zoning board of appeals budget. In discussing additional costs, Ferraris added that a majority of the police department personnel are at the highest salary step.

Although he commended the departments for their work in paring down the budget, Ferraris said, “If there are items you really need tell us.”

For the fiscal year 2009 to 2010 the projected general fund budget is $7,444,557.68 and the projected tax rate is .002638 percent, although these figures and rates are subject to change. Under the current tax rate of .002605 percent, the owner of a home assessed at $1 million pays approximately $2,605 for village property taxes. If the budget were adopted as it currently stands today, the same homeowner would pay $2,638 in taxes.

“These numbers are subject to change. This is just a preliminary draft and more changes will be made [and presented] this Friday [March 27],” said Tuohy. “[The board] is working very hard to keep [the tax rate] at a very minimal increase.”

Tuohy added that the village fire department still has to present its budget to the board. The next meeting on the tentative budget will be held on Friday, March 27, at 4 p.m. in Sag Harbor Village Hall.

Sagaponack Village Budget

On Monday at Sagaponack Village Hall, the village board of trustees held a work session on their tentative budget, which mayor Don Louchheim presented last week during a regular monthly meeting.

The budget, proposed at $548,809, is just over $4,000 less than last year’s budget, which was $552,873.

A homeowner with a property assessed at $1 million can expect to pay $82.80 in taxes, down from $83.40 last year.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 13, at 4 p.m.