Part of year-end routine 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Philipstown Town Board Monday night (Dec. 30) dispatched a dozen-item agenda in little time, handling end-of-the-year tasks that included ratifying contracts with local emergency responders for community coverage in 2014.

At a sparsely attended session that only lasted about 15 minutes, the board authorized Supervisor Richard Shea to sign the contracts with Cold Spring Fire Company No. 1 (CSFC), the Continental Village Fire Department (CVFD), the Garrison Volunteer Fire Department (GVFC), the Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corps (PVAC), and the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance and First Aid Squad (GVAC), as well as with the Putnam County Humane Society for dog shelter services. The fire departments provide fire protection in designated parts of Philipstown, including, in the case of the Cold Spring Fire Company, areas near but outside village borders.

Costs of the emergency services were included in the town’s 2014 budget, adopted in November and effective on Jan. 1. The fire protection amounts listed in the contracts — $47,754 for the CSFC, $538,970 for the GVFC, and $180,000 for the CVFD – do not include money for service awards, a form of pension given firefighters after years of service, and likewise exclude limited contractual financial obligations (all of which are included in the total, by-department figures listed in the 2014 budget).

The humane society contract pays the organization $10,500 for its dog shelter services.

The payment to the Garrison ambulance corps is rising by 45 percent from fiscal 2013 (to $170,000 from $117,434) because of reliance on paid personnel to ensure full-time coverage.

“Obviously there’s quite a change as they’re going to at least one full-time paid [staffer] so they can get an ambulance out the door 24/7,” Shea explained.

“Immediately” out the door, Councilor John Van Tassel noted.

With the GVAC, “we still have the large support of all the volunteers, so I think it’s going to be a winning combination,” Shea added. “I know, and anybody knows, if you need an ambulance you don’t care if it’s a volunteer or paid [staff person], as long as the ambulance comes.”

Shea spoke from direct personal experience. A couple of days before the meeting, as he chopped wood a heavy piece flipped and hit his head. He sustained a broken eye socket and cheek bone as well as a concussion and was taken by the PVAC to Westchester Medical Center for treatment.

The GVAC contract prompted a few questions from Councilor Dave Merandy, given the department’s prior clashes with the Town Board over monetary issues, including timely reporting of financial activities.

For 2014, the contract specifies that the town will pay the GVFC in two installments, with the first $323,382 due by March 1, and the remaining $215,588 provided after the town receives the fire company’s formal audited 2013 financial statement.

Merandy suggested that splitting the payments and tying one to the arrival of the audited report serves as motivation.

“Yeah, so we can get the statement earlier,” Shea concurred. “We should get it in a timely way this year. There certainly is an incentive. And it works two ways also because we should be able to make a first payment a little bit earlier, too.”

He pointed to improving relations between the board and fire company. “We’ve had a lot of interaction, a lot of really positive experiences,” he said. “I think we covered a lot of ground before this contract.”

The meeting marked the last occasion for at least four years on which the audience included inveterate attendee Michael Leonard. Elected to the Town Board in November, he awaited his Jan. 1 oath of office and pending move from the back of the room to the dais at the front. Before adjourning, Shea and other board members praised Leonard’s service on three sub-boards. Leonard in turn praised his ex-colleagues on the Planning, Conservation, and Assessment Review boards.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government