Town Board Sets Public Hearing on Garrison Fire Truck Purchase

Hears presentations on marine patrols, drug abuse, senior aging

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Philipstown’s Town Board Thursday (May 1) scheduled a public hearing May 21 on Garrison Volunteer Fire Company plans to purchase a $309,500 pump-tanker truck, although Town Supervisor Richard Shea threatened to change course if the fire company did not promptly submit an overdue financial report.

Daisy Scouts Jillian August, left, and Morgan Murphy lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the Town Board meeting.

Daisy Scouts Jillian August, left, and Morgan Murphy lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the Town Board meeting.

At its formal monthly meeting, the board voted 5-0 to proceed with the hearing, after a sometimes testy interchange between Shea and Joseph Regele, a Garrison resident long critical of the GVFC’s handling of its finances. Regele maintained that it was premature to set a hearing date before the board gets the required fiscal data — an audited yearly financial statement.

In other business on a chock-full agenda, the board heard presentations on the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department’s marine unit, drug abuse, and “aging in place.”

GVFC pump tanker

The Garrison fire department wants to purchase a 3,000-gallon pump tanker to replace an aging but perhaps fixable model. “That’s a lot of money,” Regele said, referring to the vehicle’s price tag. “This was a piece of equipment we were promised was not going to be necessary,” given the possibility of fixing the existing one. He also objected to the fire company’s failure to produce its required financial report. “They should get their house in order” and submit it before the Town Board holds a public hearing on a new tanker, Regele said.

“I think it would be terribly unfair” to residents to proceed without that information being available in advance, he said. “I would like to go to a public hearing with information.” He also complained that “we’re talking toys for kids versus toys for boys” in a firehouse, objecting that town recreation facilities for youngsters get shortchanged in spending priorities.

Shea agreed on the merits of getting the audited financial statement but criticized Regele’s manner. “You’ve got to go to [using] a public flogging every time,” instead of a less-condemnatory approach when raising questions, the supervisor said. “I’m keenly aware we do not have the audited financial statement.”

He and Councilor John Van Tassel both noted that the town government had withheld the second installment of this year’s money for the GVFC since the fire company has not provided the financial data. “We’re not happy about not having it. Is it a problem? Absolutely. They won’t get the second payment” until they provide it, Shea said.

Van Tassel said a consultant estimated costs of repairing the current tanker at $200,000 — two-thirds of the price of a new one.

“This piece of equipment will need to be replaced in the near future” and financing rates are currently favorable, Shea added. “I’m convinced they need this piece of equipment,” he said. “And we do need an audited statement.” Unless it is forthcoming soon, he continued, the Town Board will cancel the May 21 hearing.

River law enforcement and rescues

On another first-responder-related matter, Sgt. Mike Szabo, of the sheriff’s marine unit told the board about county capabilities in responding to urgent situations, such as boating mishaps or on-water problems, Szabo told the board. “We would definitely go to those. If there’s an accident, we’re going to make things happen” to deal with it, he said. “We always have something in the water, all the time.”

Sgt. Mike Szabo of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department explains the role of the marine unit. 

Sgt. Mike Szabo of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department explains the role of the marine unit.

One department boat, stored in Nelsonville, can navigate shallow river areas and is good for shoreline searches, Szabo said. “We keep it over here. That way, we can get it into the water in minutes,” he said. He also noted that the department uses the Cold Spring Boat Club and expressed uncertainty about where it might put a boat if the club moves its docks in a planned cleanup of toxic residues at the club site.

Szabo explained that marine unit members hone their skills in three different programs, for about 120 hours of training total. He said he knows of no rules on similar training by fire departments but that if firefighters wanted training assistance from the Sheriff’s Department, “we’d help out with whatever they needed.”

The Garrison fire company has expressed interest in acquiring its own boat for water rescues.

Fighting drug abuse

Susan and Steve Salomone returned to Philipstown to tell the board of their efforts in fighting drug abuse, including misuse of opiates, which claimed the life of their son in 2012. A week earlier, the couple participated in a forum sponsored by the Haldane PTA at the school in Cold Spring.

“People need to talk about this to keep a buzz going,” Susan Salomone said during their Town Board presentation. She advised that parents who suspect their children are addicted to drugs not let them hit bottom before decisively intervening. Hitting “bottom for these opiate users is very often death,” she warned.

Her husband said that when their son died, they learned how many families suffered from the drug abuse of a child but “almost everybody was afraid to discuss this.” Now, “most of us are starting to be aware of how serious the problem is.” To help parents and communities, he and his wife founded Drug Crisis in our Backyard, based in Putnam County. Steve Salomone also cited the importance of drug enforcement but said that even “more importantly, we have to affect the demand-side of the equation.”

Audience member Gina Van Nosdall asked the Town Board to spearhead local efforts to take the anti-drug campaign to the next level. Van Nosdall suggested that parents sign pledges to alert other parents if they see a child seemingly engaged in drug abuse and to ask other parents to notify them if their own child behaves in questionable ways. She also asked the Town Board to devote a section of the town government website to provide substantive information to the community and promote interaction on the issue.

“It sounds like a wonderful [project]” though “a time-consuming” one, Van Tassel replied. “But we’ll work on it.”

Aging in place

Lynda Ann Ewen enthusiastically discusses the concept of aging in place and related topics.

Lynda Ann Ewen enthusiastically discusses the concept of aging in place and related topics.

Two representatives of the Senior Citizens of Philipstown, Lynda Ann Ewen and Gail Simon, acquainted the board with the concept of “aging in place,” a way to support elderly residents so they can continue to live in their own homes instead of moving to assisted-living centers. Simon said the idea is to have a system of village-like resources available. “I’m here to start the discussion and get the word out,” she informed the Town Board.

Ewen said Philipstown, which she regards as having considerable potential for aging at home, “can be a place where seniors feel welcome.” She also brought up the pending Butterfield redevelopment, stating that as a group the Philipstown Seniors “are independent of any government or political” organization” and that “as a club we have not taken a position at this time” on Butterfield plans.

Photos by L.S. Armstrong

2 thoughts on “Town Board Sets Public Hearing on Garrison Fire Truck Purchase

  1. Joseph Regele should be praised, not chastised, for his efforts on behalf of the Garrison taxpayers, especially when it comes to something as sacrosanct as funding for fire department equipment which most politicians are loathe to challenge for obvious reasons. Out-of-control spending by our local departments is the exception, not the rule, and almost any expenditure can be justified as necessary for “public safety,” no matter how outrageous.

    In Putnam Valley our fire department continues to spend many hundreds of thousands of dollars on plans for a new Taj Mahal fire station that it’s been dying to build ever since they saw Mahopac’s. Kudos to Mr. Regele for his principled stance, and I hope he never gives up the fight for taxpayer justice.

  2. I’ll second that. Public safety is important. A lot more focus should be placed on our dangerous roads. Routes 9, 9D, 403 and 301 are death traps. Fix the roads and you wouldn’t need all the rescue equipment to save the injured. That’s where the carnage is really taking place. Just count the crosses along the highways. A new pump tanker may save somebody’s fancy home but it won’t save as many lives as a properly paved and maintained state highway. True, they may be out of our jurisdiction but where is the outcry? We need to get our priorities straight.