Board of Trustees
2 Harbor Road, Port Washington, New York
January 8, 2009
Mayor Frederick E. Nicholson
Trustee Charles Comer
Trustee Douglas Baldwin
Trustee Alice M. Peckelis
Village Attorney Chris Prior
Treasurer Laurence Tuck
Village Clerk Yvonne Whitcomb
Absent: Trustee Ray Keenan
Also present: Lance Wagner, Richard Mosquera, Representatives from the Port Washington Fire Department: Frederick L. Keho, Daniel S. Salerno, Donald Alexander, Robert Kropacek, Michael Tedeschi, John Walters, Martin Masarik, Beverly Reese, Charles Cella, Thomas P. McDonough, Scott Werner, Andrea Russell, Patricia Trapp, Kelly Kennedy
Mayor Nicholson opened the Public Hearing duly advertised in the December 15, 2008 issue of the Port Washington News, to consider the proposed contract with the Port Washington Fire Department for service from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009 at a cost to the village of $107,857.00.
Mayor Nicholson introduced Deputy Mayor Comer, and Trustees Peckelis and Baldwin, Village Attorney Christopher Prior, Village Clerk Yvonne Whitcomb and Village Treasurer Larry Tuck.
At the request of the Mayor, the various representatives of the Port Washington Fire Department introduced themselves. Daniel Salerno, Chairman of the Fire Department, commenced the presentation on the contract. He noted that the 2009 fire contract called for an increase in the Fire Department budget and, therefore, an increase in the aggregate amount of payments to be made by the jurisdictions serviced by the Fire Department, of approximately 7.39% over the 2008 numbers. From 2004 through 2009, the aggregate increase is 12.75%, for an average of 2.1% per year. Mr. Salerno noted that a printed budget guide handout had been provided to the Village. He also noted that information concerning the Fire Department and its operations is on the Fire Department website. Mr. Salerno observed that the assessed valuation of properties within the Village of Baxter Estates, which is the basis upon which the Village’s share of the cost is based, decreased from 2008 to 2009 in the approximate amount of $66,294, or .1%.
Mr. Salerno then introduced Chief John Walter. Chief Walter discussed the number of fire alarms handled by the Fire Department in the Village, noting that there were 96 alarms during 2008, up slightly from 93 alarms during 2007. Chief Walter discussed the recruiting effort by the Fire Department to bring in new volunteer firefighters. He noted that attendance at structural fires averaged 45.33 firefighters per call in 2008, up from the 2007 average of 32 firefighters per call for structural fires. For routine alarms, the response was averaging 33 firefighters in 2008 and 2007, and 32 firefighters in 2006. Chief Walter found both of these trends favorable. He noted that there was minimal real property damage within the Village with respect to the 96 calls during 2008.
Chief Walter then turned to financial issues. He noted that the Fire Department’s certified audit was a new requirement in 2008, and required increased audit fees. In prior years, a review was acceptable. The auditors were favorably impressed with the state of finances in the Fire Department. A few minor items were noted, and the Fire Department complied with them, according to Bob Kropacek, Fire Department Treasurer.
Chief Walter then discussed the insurance audit voluntarily conducted by the Fire Department through an independent third party insurance consultant. That consultant reported that the Fire Department insurance coverage was satisfactory and appropriately priced. Chief Walter noted that the audit demonstrates the Fire Department efforts to minimize costs in all areas, including insurance.
Certain capital projects involving the command center are being paid for through fire Department savings and through grants, also limiting the amount required to be obtained from the jurisdictions protected by the Fire Department under the contract.
Chief Walter noted that the Port Washington Fire Department uses the services of the Nassau County Dispatcher, which are provided at no cost. He noted that many other fire departments in Nassau County hire their own dispatcher and incur the costs associated with having an employee. By using the Nassau County Dispatcher, the Fire Department obtains additional cost savings for taxpayers and the residents who are protected by the Fire Department.
Chief Walter then discussed a partnership in place between the Port Washington Fire Department and the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, where the two departments share the costs of high tech equipment, giving both departments the availability of these valuable tools, while minimizing the cost to both of them.
Chief Walter then discussed the rescue boats used by the Fire Department for water saves. Both of the boats were donated to the Fire Department, and the motors for the boats were purchased with grant money obtained for the Fire Department by State Senator Craig Johnson.
Chief Walter then observed that the ISO rating assigned to the Port Washington Fire Department is the highest possible rating available for a volunteer fire department. That rating reduces the fire insurance premiums for properties that are protected by the Fire Department, representing savings to property owners within the Fire Department jurisdiction, particularly commercial property owners.
Mayor Nicholson noted that, as an insurance and bonding professional, he can confirm that this represents meaningful savings for local businesses.
Chief Walter then noted that the New York State Department of Labor requires that fire departments equip their firefighters with “personal escape ropes”. The Fire Department has obtained a $10,000 grant, which will enable the Fire Department to begin to comply with this mandate. The mandate will cost much more than $10,000, as it presently is in effect. The Fire Department is hopeful that there may be additional grant money made available by the State to enable fire departments to address this mandate.
Chief Walter then noted the New York State requirement that firefighters use reflective vests. Fire Department personnel at the scene of a call, but not engaged in firefighting, must wear these vests. The Department spent $7,000 to satisfy this mandate during 2008.
Construction projects involving headquarters and the South Washington Firehouse are underway. Project soft costs are presently being incurred.
Chief Walter reported that there was no need to increase the budgeted amounts for fuel in light of the recent reduction in fuel costs.
The number of volunteers is 303, up from 290 as recently as a few years ago. Chief Walter attributes the increase to the use by the Fire Department of its “explorer program” for 13 to 17 year olds, who, under the direction of volunteer firefighter Mike Tedeschi, are introduced to a para-military structure and receive training and develop an understanding of both operations and structure. Chief Walter notes that 40 present members of the Port Washington Fire Department graduated from this program, which he finds to be a very effective recruiting tool.
Chief Walter then noted the primary role that the Fire Department has played in the recently organized Port Washington Office of Emergency Management, a joint venture involving various local villages, including the Village of Baxter Estates, the area’s first responder units, including the Port Washington Fire Department, and the Town of North Hempstead.
Chief Walter then invited questions. Trustee Peckelis asked whether, over the next 5 to 10 year period, the Chief expects to have sufficient volunteers to continue operations, or whether he envisions the need to convert to a paid force.
Chief Walter responded that recruiting has been doing well in recent years. He noted that recruits to the Nassau County Fire Academy had increased in 2008 even more so than in the year that followed September 11, 2001, which was an excellent period for recruitment. He referred to the recent trend up from 290 members to 303 members. He did note that one problem the Department faces is a constant turn-over. Many young people residing in the Port Washington community, who become volunteer firefighters, marry and have families. It is difficult for them to purchase homes in the community, and many of them move away. That is a continuing problem for recruitment and retention of volunteers. Chief Walter noted that there are 5 paid employees at the Fire Department. There are 3 maintenance workers, 1 office manager and a part time secretary. He noted that hiring the maintenance workers enabled the Fire Department to eliminate the need for a third party building cleaning service and for snow plow contractors. This represented a cost savings to the Fire Department.
Mayor Nicholson asked whether there might be ways in which the Village can help the Fire Department educate village residents as to protecting themselves and their property.
Chief Walter noted that one problem the Fire Department has arises from its offering primary EMS service, unlike most other departments in Nassau County. The Fire Department ambulances are called upon to drive residents to doctor’s offices. While the Fire Department does not in any way wish to dissuade residents from calling for help, these types of calls are not always necessary, and may adversely impact the ability of the Fire Department to respond to real emergencies. He noted that EMS calls had decreased slightly in 2008, while fire alarm calls had increased slightly in 2008, compared to 2007.
Mayor Nicholson noted that through his involvement with the Port Washington Office of Emergency Management, he was aware of the fire department call system which includes a data bank on each house. He asked whether the Fire Department would like for the Village to circulate a data sheet to Village residents. Chief Walter responded that the Fire Department annual mailing to residents includes this form, so there would be no need for the Village to assist in this matter. He noted that the Fire Department is moving towards a website approach to obtaining information, which should also be helpful. The Mayor noted that the Village of Baxter Estates would be happy to be a test case for any web based project, as the Village offers a 230 home sampling. Chairman Salerno presented to the Board of Trustees a copy of the data sheet used by the Fire Department.
Mayor Nicholson then noted that some of the Village Trustees were concerned about safety issues and hazardous behavior by Fire Department vehicle operators in leaving scenes of calls. Trustee Doug Baldwin then asked to make a statement on this topic. Trustee Baldwin noted that he is a 15 year resident of the Village. He has had the need to call upon the Fire Department twice during that period of time, and expressed his appreciation for the wonderful work that the Fire Department did when responding to his needs. He expressed a concern, however, with respect to post-incident drivers of equipment. He referred to two recent incidents in which he was involved. Heavy equipment was moved without any apparent traffic controls. Trustee Baldwin noted that he avoided a head-on collision through swift response by him. He then noted a subsequent incident, on Port Washington Boulevard, where a fire truck made a U-turn after a response had been concluded. Trustee Baldwin spoke to Fire Department officials at both scenes. He was made aware that there are Fire Department policies and procedures in place that should avoid such behavior. He noted that the reflective vests were a good safety measure.
Chief Walter responded. He noted that the Fire Department is aware of the issues. He noted that the Port Washington police should be directing traffic at the scene of a fire response. He noted that he is going to request their assistance going forward. He noted that the Fire Department safety officer for the Department is a former New York City fire safety officer. He is responsible for internal investigation of all incident reports, to see where responders may have made errors, and which responders are responsible.
Specifically with respect to backing up vehicles, the Fire Department is analyzing whether improvements can be made in the procedures for backing up vehicles.
Chief Walter noted that the Fire Department needs to know about all such incidents, and urged Trustee Baldwin and all those present to call him if any incidents warrant his attention. He noted that the department does suspend drivers who warrant such discipline.
Trustee Baldwin then asked whether there was, in fact, a policy that mandates traffic control, other than direction by the drivers of vehicles. Chief Walter noted that there is a policy for operating vehicles, which includes speed limits, avoiding the use of narrow roadways, and complete stops entering certain well-traveled roads, such as Port Washington Boulevard and Main Street.
Trustee Baldwin noted that he feels that he must continue to be cautious whenever near fire department activity. Chief Walter observed that operators of other vehicles must, under law, yield to Fire Department vehicles when they are in operation.
Trustee Comer then asked for a breakdown of the 96 calls in the Village during 2008, as well as a general breakdown of the approximately 2,300 calls responded to by the Fire Department generally during 2008. Chief Walter noted that approximately 60% of responses are EMS responses, while the balance are fire responses.
Chief Walter then discussed fire alarms triggering responses due to mistakes or malfunctions. The Fire Department reports such alarms to the County Fire Marshal. Approximately 30 or 40 mistakes or malfunctions are reported by the Port Washington Fire Department to the Nassau County Fire Marshal each year. He noted that that is not very many. If the same house is involved several times in such malfunctions or mistakes, they may receive a summons from the Fire Marshal.
For the chronic ones, the call dispatcher is alerted. When an alarm is triggered at a site of chronic mistakes or malfunctions, the dispatcher directs only a chief to make the initial visit. The chief then determines whether the call is real.
Trustee Comer then asked for guidance as to the percentage of budget allocated to the Village of Baxter Estates. Chief Walter provided a pie-chart breakdown contained in the hand-out materials.
Trustee Baldwin then inquired as to the 2.1% annual increases from 2004 through 2009. He asked how that could be the case in light of the greater than 7% increase from 2008 to 2009.
Chairman Salerno addressed the causes of the 2009 increase, referring to a significant increase in LOSAP funding, in light of requirements by the new actuary retained by the Fire Department. The new actuary observed that the LOSAP account had been under-funded for many years, and so a significant deposit had to be made in 2009. Mayor Nicholson observed that the entire budget is approximately $3,500,000. On that basis, he noted that the payment for 2009 represents approximately 9% of the budget. Without the LOSAP increase, the budget increase would be 4% for 2009.
Chairman Salerno then referred to the increased utility costs experienced by the Fire Department and the need to budget for same, capital improvements at headquarters, and increased maintenance costs. Chief Walter referred to the certified audit requirement, new in 2008.
Mayor Nicholson asked whether there were equipment purchases included in the budget. Chief Walter noted that there were not many new equipment purchases contemplated for 2009.
Chief Walter then responded to the inquiry by Trustee Baldwin, noting that, approximately five years ago, there was a 6% reduction in the fire contract amount. Chief Walter noted that the shift by the Village in 2008, from its own assessing unit, to using the County Assessor, simplifies the process for all, and probably is helpful to the Village, as it is now compared to other jurisdictions on the same basis of assessment.
The Mayor then asked whether there were any other questions. Hearing none, the Mayor thanked the representatives of the Fire Department for a great presentation, and noted that he was heartened by the increased attendance of volunteer firefighters in responding to calls. Mayor Nicholson announced that the Public Hearing on the 2009 Fire Department contract was closed, and noted that the time was 8:19 p.m.
On motion of Trustee Comer, seconded by Trustee Baldwin, it was unanimously RESOLVED that the Village accept and, through the Mayor’s signature, sign the contract from the Port Washington Fire Department for the year 2009 in the amount of $107,857.00.
A. Mosquera-19 Shore Road
Richard Mosquera asked permission from the Board to plant one of the trees the Board instructed he replace in a different location in the front yard of his property at 19 Shore Road. He showed the Board plans indicating the proposed new location of the tree.
The Board will inspect the site and render a decision at the Board meeting to be held on February 5, 2009.
1. Village Clerk
A. Minutes: December 4, 2008
A. Abstract of Vouchers
On motion of Trustee Comer, seconded by Trustee Baldwin, it was unanimously RESOLVED that the Audited Vouchers dated January 8, 2009 for the General Fund, totaling $79,694.99, be and hereby are approved by Treasurer Tuck.
B. Independent Auditors Statement
The Board postponed review of the Independent Auditors Statement until the February Board meeting. The independent auditors will be asked to be present at that meeting to discuss their findings and answer questions on their report.
C. Purchasing Policies
On motion of Trustee Comer, seconded by Trustee Baldwin, it was unanimously RESOLVED that the Village procurement policy be amended to reflect the requirement that Village personnel with purchasing authority be identified, and that the form of the procurement policy as amended and satisfactory to Village Council be attached to these minutes.
A Town of North Hempstead Inter-municipal Agreement-Feral Cats
The Board expressed an interest in participating in an Inter-municipal
Agreement and requested the Clerk to contact the Town of North Hempstead for further information.
B. Election Workshop
On motion of Trustee Comer, seconded by Trustee Baldwin, it was unanimously RESOLVED to approve a total expenditure $140.00 for the election workshop and luncheon to be held on January 14, 2009, to be attended by the Village Clerk and Election Inspector Angela Smith.
C. Election Day Date Change
On motion of Trustee Comer, seconded by Trustee Baldwin, it was unanimously RESOLVED that the date of the Village Election be changed from March 17, 2009 to March 18, 2009.
D. Building Department Report
Building Department Report the Board reviewed the Building Department Report for the month of December 2008.
There being no further business before the Board, on motion of Trustee Comer, seconded by Trustee Baldwin, it was unanimously RESOLVED that the meeting be and hereby is adjourned at 10:50pm.