Town officials say ambulance boundary plan still in the works

03/08/2015 4:48 PM |

Officials in both Riverhead and Brookhaven towns say they support an idea to change the boundaries of the Manorville and Riverhead ambulance companies to better serve residents in Manorville and Calverton. 

The agreement would allow the Manorville Community Ambulance to cover the portion of Manorville that’s in Riverhead Town, while allowing Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance to cover a portion of Calverton that’s in Brookhaven Town.

Though it’s been 2 1/2 years since the idea was first proposed, officials say the issue is currently being vetted by their respective legal departments.

In Aug. 2012, Clare Bennett, who lives in the Riverhead Town portion of Manorville, spoke at a Riverhead Town Board meeting to say that on three occasions in five years, it took Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance officials more than 40 minutes to respond to a call in the Riverhead Town portion of Manorville, which includes areas like Oakwood Drive, where Ms. Bennett lives, Schultz Road, Line Road, River Road and part of Wading River-Manor Road.

“The Manorville ambulance is literally five minutes away,” she said.

Other Manorville residents spoke at subsequent Riverhead Town Board meetings that year in support of the proposal. There are about 61 residents in the Riverhead Town portion of Manorville, officials said.

Ms. Bennett said she was told at the time that part of the program was an error in Riverhead Town’s E911 emergency response system, which directed responders to another Oakwood Drive in Baiting Hollow, about 10 miles away, close to Long Island Sound.

The E911 system automatically displays the address of a caller for dispatchers, without the caller needing to say anything. Historically, having two or more roads with the same name can be troublesome for the system.

In an interview last week, Ms. Bennett expressed frustration at how long it’s taken to make the change.

“Are they saying the town is powerless to do anything?” she asked. “I don’t know what I can do to make a difference. I just want it fixed. I’m not looking for money. Would the town rather wait until somebody dies and then get sued?”

But town officials in both towns say they are working toward resolution.

“We’re very willing to do this,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said. “We understand that people living in the Manorville section of Riverhead Town would be better served by the Manorville ambulance, because it’s closer, and when you have a medical emergency, response times are everything.”

Mr. Romaine said the proposal would also allow some Brookhaven Town residents in Calverton, in areas like South River Road and the Peconic Lake area, to be serviced by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance, which is closer to them than Manorville’s ambulance, which serves that area now.

The proposed switch would not alter the official boundaries of the two ambulance districts, but would instead establish inter-municipal service agreements to allow the respective ambulance corps to serve the areas outside their districts.

Mr. Romaine said Brookhaven Town has nine ambulance districts, one of which is Manorville, and the Town Board acts as the commissioners of those nine districts.

Likewise, the Riverhead Town Board serves as commissioners of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance, which also has its own board of directors. The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance budget is part of the Riverhead Town Budget, and the ambulance district does not extend outside of Riverhead Town.

“We are interested in doing it,” Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said. “It’s just taking a long time in negotiations. Anything I’ve dealt with that was ambulance-related seems to take a little bit longer.”

Councilman John Dunleavy said it was his understanding that the Manorville ambulance agreed to the proposal and Riverhead ambulance’s board of directors has been unresponsive.

“Riverhead ambulance has not given us any answers,” he said. “And nobody wants to do anything without them agreeing to it. We can’t get a definitive answer. They keep saying they’re talking about it. That’s all they tell us. Nobody on the Town Board wants to push these people into making a decision.”

Mr. Walter said he believes the Riverhead ambulance board must agree to the proposal.  Mr. Romaine said that in Brookhaven Town, the decision is solely up to the Town Board.

Dan McCormick, the deputy town attorney working on the issue for Riverhead Town, said he too has been unable to reach the Riverhead ambulance board on the issue.

Keith Lewin, a director on the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance board, said “it’s one of those things that’s in progress,” but referred a reporter to board president Kimberly Pokorny.

Ms. Pokorny said in an email that she is not aware of anything new happening with the proposal.

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