Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps"

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.

17-Year-Old Girl Injured in Boating Accident off North Haven

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By Tessa Raebeck

On Sunday, July 27, at around 5:50 p.m., Southampton Town Bay Constables were called to the scene of a boating accident that occurred in the waters off of North Haven.

Upon arrival at the Forrest Road location, the bay constables found 17-year-old Penelope Heller being assisted on shore by members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Southampton Town Police Department. Ms. Heller was airlifted in a medivac to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where she was admitted for treatment of her injuries. According to Sag Harbor Village Police, Ms. Heller sustained a neck injury.

Senior Bay Constable Albert Tuzzolo said Monday afternoon that he was awaiting a return call from the hospital to determine the extent of Ms. Heller’s injuries.

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.

Chief Speaks on Contract

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For Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, the decision to enter the profession of law enforcement came after he thrived as a member of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

“I liked helping people, dealing with people,” said Fabiano, seated in his office at the police department on Division Street.

So, 35 years ago when Sag Harbor Village Police Chief John Harrington offered Fabiano the opportunity to take a part-time job with the department, complete with “an old, bent 38” caliber gun, the Sag Harbor native jumped at the opportunity.

“I love this job, I love Sag Harbor,” said Fabiano. “I would hate to see anything happen to this police department. It has been here since the 1800s.”

Some members of the Sag Harbor Village Board have recently called the future of the village police department into question. The village and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have reached a stalemate in contract negotiations with both sides calling the other unreasonable.

For over a month now, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has pursued proposals from other police agencies like departments in East Hampton and Southampton as well as from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

While village trustees have often sought comparisons in contract negotiations, Fabiano said the atmosphere this time is different and there is definitely a feeling the Sag Harbor Village Police Department is in real peril.

Losing the department would be a detriment to the community, said Fabiano, noting his officers have one of the best response times on the East End and are truly a part of Sag Harbor.

“We are involved members of this community and everyone knows us here,” he said. “My door is open 24-hours a day and everyone knows that.”

“Do we really want to lose control of our own police department,” added Fabiano, noting that communities like Greenport Village, which disbanded its police department and is serviced by Southold Police Department, could see more comprehensive police coverage with their own department.

“So is this a good direction to move in – in my opinion, no,” said Fabiano.

Fabiano said many residents have come out in support of the department.

“They can’t believe this is even being discussed,” he said. “And within those discussions a lot of people have said they also don’t think the PBA should get everything in their proposals, which I agree with too. I am not saying I agree with the village. I don’t agree with either side. I think everyone needs to bring this down a notch and come to the table to make a deal.”

The PBA asked for a 4.5 percent increase in salary, as well as for additional changes in the police contract affecting longevity, over-time, sick and vacation leave. According to PBA President Pat Milazzo, the length of the contract would be negotiated. The last two contracts were for four and six years, he said. The village responded, offering a zero percent, one-percent and two-percent increase, which was declined. Neither party has made a counter offer, although they are scheduled to come back to the table in September.

“Their salaries are a certain rate because every day they do put on a gun, put on a vest and work over the course of 24-hour days doing different shifts, which can be hard on people,” said Fabiano. “Is this a nice area? Absolutely. It’s a beautiful place to work. Can anything happen at any time? Absolutely. You just never know.”

Fabiano said he likely would have not asked for as much in an initial proposal as the PBA did.

“I think everyone bears some responsibility here,” he said. “I think everyone has to be aware of the economy. People also have to be aware of what kind of job this is, and that these people do have homes and families as well.”

“We need to come to the table and trade ideas,” Fabiano continued. “That is how we used to do it. We would trade ideas and not leave the room until it was resolved.”


Updated: Queens Man Drowns at Trout Pond in Noyac

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Heller_Trout Pond Swimming Fatality 6-30-12_7218_LR

Last Friday, as Sag Harbor Fire Department Chief Pete Garypie drove down Noyac Road he noticed about 50 swimmers cooling off in Trout Pond.

“I thought to myself, it is just a matter of time before we are going to get a call,” said Chief Garypie.

The next day, at 5:11 p.m. the Sag Harbor Fire Department, its dive team, the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and the Southampton
Bay Constable were directed to Trout Pond by Southampton Town Police responding to reports of a possible drowning.

According to Chief Garypie, he quickly requested the presence of the East Hampton and North Sea dive teams in an effort to have all hands
on deck for what he hoped would be a rescue, but ultimately was a recovery.

According to Southampton Town Police, Tyreef Benston, 26, of Queens drowned at Trout Pond Saturday evening. Benston’s body was ultimately
located by the Sag Harbor Fire Department Dive Team, said Chief Garypie.

Trout Pond, located on Noyac Road, is a popular swimming spot, although a handful of people have drowned there in the last decade. There are no lifeguards stationed at Trout Pond and the area is heavily signed with warnings to that affect.

When Chief Garypie and the department responded to the scene he said there were about 15 people at Trout Pond, not all of them part of the
group swimming with Benston. Several people at the scene had attempted rescue Benston, said Chief Garypie. According to Chief Garypie it was through information provided by one female that led the dive team to Benston’s body, which was submerged in 11 feet of water. He was discovered around 6:07 p.m. and Chief Garypie said there were conflicting reports about how long Benston had struggled in the water before police were called.

Chief Garypie can recall three people drowning at Trout Pond since 2007 and said the combination of people unaccustomed to fresh water
swimming and the conditions of Trout Pond make it a dangerous place to cool off, particularly for those who are not strong swimmers.

“People do not realize fresh water is not as easy to swim in as salt water,” said Chief Garypie. “It is an unprotected pond and the depth
goes from very shallow to very deep rapidly off the side. It is also has a soft, muddy, weedy bottom and it is very hard to get good
footing even when you can reach the bottom.”

“In my opinion, no one should be swimming there, experienced or not,” continued Chief Garypie.

Photography by Michael Heller

East End Thoughts: For Whom the Siren Screens, It May be For You


By Richard Gambino

This is a story about heroes. Not Hollywood or TV actors being paid millions to play heroes, but real men and women who are on call twenty-four/seven to save the lives of … well, our lives. And they’re among the most highly trained and professional people I’ve ever met. More, they’re volunteers –  neighbors of ours. One might live on your street or road, or certainly not far from it. Fact is, their average time from the moment a 911 call is placed to the moment they are en route with a fully manned ambulance is under nine minutes!

I’m talking, of course, about the thirty-four members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps — which in 2007 Suffolk County named the best EMS (Emergency Medical Service) in the county. I recently met with five members of the corps’ board of directors, and was amazed at what more I learned. To qualify as an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic, each new member of the corps takes a training course of 175 hours of classroom, field, and clinical training in a hospital; and an EMT-Critical Care certification requires an additional 350 hours of such training — a total of 525 hours. That’s equivalent to over thirteen forty-hour work weeks. What’s more, every three years each qualified member must update his or her knowledge and skills with an additional 75 to 150 hours of training. And the corps in 2008 answered 620 emergency calls. All the while each of its members holding down a job or career, and being a husband or wife, mother or father. Just to save us when we’ve been in an accident in a car or boat, or suffering from a heart attack or stroke, or diabetic shock, or can’t breathe, or fall at home, on ice, or hurt oneself with a power tool, or are just too sick to get to a hospital on our own, or, to use Shakespeare’s words, suffer any other of “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” 

Each of the corps’ two ambulances is loaded with life-saving equipment. For example, each has, for heart problems, an EKG (electrocardiogram) machine and an AED (automatic external defribulator); oxygen and airway equipment; trauma equipment like spinal collars, backboards and splints; and emergency medications like dextrose (for diabetics), albuterol (for breathing problems); and a lot of other gear. I was shown the inside of one of the vehicles, and it looks like a mini-emergency room in a hospital. 

In talking with five members of the board of directors of the corps, I found them to be cordial and good humored. The kind of people you’d like to have come to your house on a summer evening to share a cook-out. But when we talked of the corps, being used to action together, they talked as a team — calmly and with authority. When I asked what they would like us, the general public, to do to help them when they are answering an emergency, they made only two requests. One, if we are driving and we see a flashing green light on an EMS person’s personal car (they are not permitted to use sirens, or to honk horns, on their private cars), PLEASE PULL OVER AND LET HIM OR HER PASS. The person they are rushing to help may be someone you love. And, two, when they arrive at an emergency location, PLEASE ANSWER ALL THEIR QUESTIONS FULLY AND TRUTHFULLY. Questions, e.g., about drugs taken. One, I assure you, they’ve seen it all before, and two, they are not police — their only interest is in keeping you alive.

The corps covers a substantial geographical area: Sag Harbor, North Haven, Bay Point, Noyac to Deerfield Road, and Route 114 to Swamp Road, day and night. They are ready while most of us are working, relaxing sleeping, and otherwise going about our daily lives. But I, for one, sleep much easier knowing that the corps has thirty-four people prepared to go as soon as they get a 911 call.

I’ll never forget the help I got from an EMS team when I suffered hypothermia (a potentially fatal syndrome when your body temperature drops and you feel as if your internal organs are encased in ice) about nineteen years ago. I had been scuba diving on a cold day late in November. After I was stabilized at a hospital, a Chinese-immigrant doctor looked at me, and said, “You diving!” I nodded. “You diving — November!” I nodded again, and he burst out laughing — and found my story hilarious enough to go on with a long belly-laugh. Being now wrapped like a mummy in thermal blankets, and feeling much better, I joined him in yuckin’-it-up at my stupidity. Then suddenly he stopped laughing and became completely serious. He looked very sternly into my eyes, and said, “EMS people — they save you life!”

And I recall five years ago when my daughter was driving on a sunny, clear morning on Route 27 in Water Mill. A man driving a van passed out, crossed the highway’s center line and hit her car head on — each car doing 45 miles per hour, it was a 90 mile per hour crash. (Later, the man was diagnosed as having brain cancer.) My daughter was very seriously injured. Her life was saved by an EMS team, led by a woman my daughter knew from being together in a local book club.

As with all else in life, the corps’ functioning costs money. The two ambulances alone cost $350,000 to purchase, paid for solely by donations received during the annual fund drive. They are also expensive to maintain and run, as are the buildings that house them.  But how’s this for a nightmare: You or a member of your family is hurt or ill. You dial 911, and no medically trained people come to help. So if for no other reason but smart self-interest, please, please send a tax-deductible contribution to:


       The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps

       PO Box 2725

       Sag Harbor, NY 11963.



RICHARD GAMBINO is very grateful to those members of the Board who met with him: Ed Downes (President), Stacy McGowin (Vice-President), Astrid Edwards (Secretary), Charlie Bateman (Director) and Karin Schroeder (Director).