PORT CHESTER, NY – It seems Mount Vernon isn’t the only municipality in Westchester County dealing with the need for more firefighters and current budget cuts. The Port Chester firefighters who became unemployed when the village eliminated their positions due to budget cuts have filed a petition to try and force a public vote on the issue.
Village Mayor Dennis Pilla said the trustees’ decision is not subject to a referendum, something the firefighter’s attorney disagrees with, according to lohud.com.
Since the paid department was eliminated, Corenthal said the board’s action is subject to a referendum, which requires the firefighters to get signatures from 20 percent of registered voters as of the previous general election.
There were 11,491 eligible voters in the village in the previous general election, Richard Corenthal, the attorney representing the eight career firefighters said, so the firefighters needed at least 2,299 signatures. They got nearly double the amount.
Eight career firefighters who lost their jobs in May handed the village clerk a 485-page petition with 4,354 signatures on Wednesday, nearly double the amount required by New York State law for a referendum. The laid-off firefighters turned in their gear Tuesday. The village voted May 2 to go to an all-volunteer fire department.
The village responded Friday with a 37-word letter saying the petition “has no relevance” to the village board’s May 2 decision to shift to an all-volunteer fire department as a cost-cutting move that village officials say will save an estimated $800,000. Officials say there are 150 interior-trained volunteers and 150 exterior-trained volunteers. Corenthal said the next step will be a lawsuit against the village.
Rye Brook concerned abut the elimination of paid firefighters that covered their firehouse during the night.
Rye Brook sued to continue having a paid firefighter, as specified by an agreement with Port Chester, man its firehouse during the overnight.The mayor of Port Chester said the elimination of paid firefighters will not affect Port Chester’s ability to provide fire protection services. The Village of Rye Brook has filed a lawsuit against the Village of Port Chester because of a breach of services.
Mayor Dennis Pilla made a statement in response to the filing of a lawsuit by the Village of Rye Brook. An email from Rye Brook Mayor Paul S. Rosenberg said the suit concerns Port Chester’s decision to eliminate the village’s paid firefighter positions.
“We are saddened that we need to take this extraordinary step, but our board of trustees felt it was necessary to ensure that the Village of Rye Brook receives the fire services it is paying for and agreed to,” Rosenberg said.
As a result of the elimination of those positions, the Rye Brook Fire Department is staffing the firehouse between 7 p.m. and 7 p.m., something Rosenberg said is not sustainable.
He said he hopes that Port Chester will honor its contract and reinstate the paid overnight firefighters.
“Upon that occurring, Rye Brook is prepared to sit down with Port Chester at any time to resolve all others issues,” Rosenberg said.
“Although the Village of Rye Brook may believe a dispute has arisen in relation to our fire protection services agreement, it is choosing the wrong method of resolution, and we believe this lawsuit was served prematurely,” he said.
Pilla said a lawsuit creates unnecessary legal expenses for both villages, adding that Port Chester will defend itself in court.
He said Port Chester “has and will continue to provide fire protection service to the Village of Rye Brook and respond to all fire alarms and service call as outlined in our agreement.”
Both Port Chester Village Manager Christopher Steers and Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg did not return Black Westchester’s calls requesting a comment. BW will bring you more on this story as it develops.