More than three years after concerned residents asked officials to change to the districts of the Manorville and Riverhead ambulance companies, they are still waiting for a solution.
The Riverhead Town Board most recently discussed the issue during a work session Thursday, and they plan to bring the chiefs of the Riverhead and Manorville ambulance departments in for a public discussion to hear their thoughts. If a change goes through, Manorville ambulances would service parts of Riverhead town to which they are closer and vice versa.
But despite that development, some of those behind the push still aren’t happy at how long they have been working without any results.
“Short of somebody dying, I don’t understand in this time and age why things can’t be done,” said Manorville resident Clare Bennett. “Time passes, dust settles and here we are again: absolutely nowhere.”
The central issue involves two specific areas: the portion of Manorville that is in Riverhead Town (where Ms. Bennett and about 60 other people live) and the portion of Calverton that is in Brookhaven Town.
Officials have been considering a sort of swap in which Manorville Community Ambulance workers would service the Riverhead portion of Manorville and Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps would service the Brookhaven portion of Calverton since driving distances — and thus response times — would be lesser.
“This is a life-and-death situation,” Ms. Bennett said.
Ms. Bennett said she had three experiences in which an ambulance took around 40 minutes to get to her house on Oakwood Drive. According to Google Maps, Oakwood Drive is between 9.6 and 11.2 miles, depending on route from the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance station on Osborne Avenue. It’s only 3.8 miles from the Manorville station.
For the past three years, Ms. Bennett has attended several town board meetings and has written letters to “to everybody and anybody in the government” to advocate for that change. She described the lack of change in that time as “freaking ridiculous.”
Officials have said several times that they support the effort, but little has happened in the years since it was first brought up.
In September 2012, Councilman John Dunleavy was working to set up a meeting with the two ambulance departments and Brookhaven Town. A year later, Supervisor Sean Walter promised a similar meeting. This March, they said a plan is still a goal.
Then, at Thursday’s work session, Mr. Dunleavy once again called for a meeting with the ambulance chiefs.
“It’s a public safety issue,” he said at the work session. “I want to resolve this. Four years ago, we told these people we would help them.”
Mr. Walter had supported the proposal initially, though he said the only way it could work would be for Riverhead to contract with Manorville in those neighborhoods. In August 2012, he told Ms. Bennett, “We don’t have a problem doing that.”
However, at Thursday’s work session, he said while he supports bringing the chiefs in for a meeting, he believes the town board should “leave it alone.” His main concern is that Riverhead ambulances will take over more work compared to Manorville.
“If we do this, the residents are going to be in worse shape than they are now,” he said. “If the two districts can’t figure out the simple thing of a boundary line change over a four-year period, if we try to change this, there will be chaos.”
Ms. Bennett said she was frustrated to hear the supervisor’s latest stance.
“Let Mr. Walter come over here and fall out of a tree or have one of his kids get hurt in the street and he can stand here and count the minutes — almost an hour — until an ambulance shows up,” she said.
Photo caption: From left to right: Town Attorney Dan McCormick, Town Clerk Diana Wilhelm, Councilman Jim Wooten, Councilman John Dunleavy and Supervisor Sean Walter discuss ambulance districts at Thursday’s work session.