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Home Government Proposal to Merge Rye Police and Fire To Be Discussed Wednesday at...

Proposal to Merge Rye Police and Fire To Be Discussed Wednesday at City Council

More and more, local governments have been looking at ways to continue to save money by combining departments or sharing services with neighboring geographies. Often these proposals don;t go very far because of ingrained organizations, infighting, safety or service concerns and other general politics.

Rye FD union 2029

(PHOTO: Rye FD Union Local 2029 has said for some time that they are "staffed for failure".)

On Wednesday night, the Rye City council will discuss a proposal to merge the Rye police and fire departments into one Public Safety department. Each department has expressed concern in the past about chronic under-staffing, the fire department has different constituencies in the paid and volunteer force and one department does not want to live under the shadow of another.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Here is the recommendation being proposed at council:

RECOMMENDATION: That the Council hold a Public Hearing on the proposed revision to the Rye City Charter regarding the stablishment of a “Department of Public Safety” and the creation of a new position of “Commissioner of Public Safety” which position shall have charge and supervision of the Police and Fire Departments.

and the details:

At the July 8, 2015 City Council meeting the Mayor appointed a study group to study the issues of the Fire Department and provide feedback to the City Council. The Study Group includes Councilmembers Richard Mecca, Kirstin Bucci, Mayor Sack and the Chiefs of the Fire Department. Meetings have been held with the professional firefighters, volunteer firefighters, and the Board of Wardens. The recommendation from the Study Group is to establish a Department of Public Safety and to create a new position of Commissioner of Public Safety who will oversee the supervision of the Police and Fire Departments.

As for a little color, here are a couple excerpts from a LoHud piece:

"…Fire Chief Michael Billington, a volunteer, said during a May 25 City Council meeting that while he supports the idea, a few in the department are against it…

Police union President Franco Compagnone was critical of the idea, saying there needs to be a police commissioner focused on the Police Department. Since last year, the department's strength has been down to 32, with the retirements of five officers at the end of last year. The city budgets $10 million for police services.

“I’ve been in the department for 16 years, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” Compagnone said of the staffing levels. “This Public Safety Department looks great on paper and works in other places like Alabama or whatever, but I need the focus to be 100 percent on the Police Department.”

Exacerbating the situation, he said, are Westchester County police cuts affecting county-owned parks.

“Westchester County isn’t covering Playland after midnight," Compagnone said. "Who do you think responds to those calls now? The firefighters are our brothers, but I’m not concerned with the Fire Department. I’m concerned about my colleagues getting hurt because we’re short staffed.”

The city's fire union applauded the City Council for its efforts, but said staffing also remains their biggest concern.

"I do see (the City Council's) point of view in changing the structure and leadership in the Fire Department, but paramount to us is additional staffing," said John Castelhano, president of Rye's firefighter union.

The union has been pushing the city to hire more firefighters since 2014, when then-City Manager Frank Culross proposed adding four paid members to the current 17. At the time, Culross said the department was "staffed for failure."

New firefighters were never hired, and the department's budget remains at $5 million a year. Meanwhile, the number of volunteers has dwindled to between nine and 12 who are qualified to enter burning buildings. Councilman Richard Mecca, who became a volunteer firefighter in the 1980s, said there were at least triple that number when he first started."

Read the full piece.



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