09/23/13 2:02pm
09/23/2013 2:02 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Fire district headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Fire district headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

The Riverhead Fire District unveiled its budget for next year, proposing a 1.66 percent tax levy increase year-over-year.

The $4.73 million spending plan, which includes $250,000 in reserve fund payments, calls for a $67,000 increase in total in the 2014 budget. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at the district headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

Items proposed to receive an increase include:

• equipment and apparatus maintenance, from $194,000 this year to $207,000 next year

• building and property maintenance, from $197,350 this year to $214,500 next year

• fund transfers (from general to reserve) from $75,000 this year to $171,355 next year

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Several items are proposed to decrease next year in funding, including:

• employee salaries, from $829,685 to $815,857

• administrative, legal and professional services, from $184,400 to $172,800

• bond payments, from $1,218,237 to $1,188,137

The district is also proposed to make $50,000 in payments in lieu of taxes, $5,000 less than last year’s total.

Copies of the proposed budget can be viewed at the town clerk’s office in Riverhead, Southampton, Riverhead or Brookhaven. A message left with the district manager was not immediately returned.

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

 

06/28/13 9:23pm

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Emergency crews responded to a fire at Athens Grill on East Main Street in Riverhead Friday night.

Flames engulfed the Athens Grill restaurant on East Main Street during dinner rush Friday night, destroying the building and temporarily closing a portion of the busy street.

The restaurant was quickly evacuated and nobody was injured, emergency officials said.

Riverhead firefighters responded to the scene around 8:30 p.m. as smoke was billowing out of the building’s roof, officials said.

The fire was under control before 9:30 p.m. and the building’s electric had been cut. Fire officials said the fire may have spread to the neighboring La Mexicana grocery store.

The grease fire sparked in the kitchen at Athens Grill, a police officer at the scene said.

Riverhead Fire Department press officer Bill Sanok said the damage to the interior of the building was mostly cosmetic but the damage to the roof was more substantial.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The back of Athens Grill Saturday morning.

The fire spread and was caught between two layers of the roof, which created a challenge for firefighters.

Two Riverhead ladder teams were placed on the roof of the building to extinguish the fire, officials said. Volunteers from the fire departments in Wading River, Flanders, Eastport, Manorville, Westhampton and Hampton Bays all assisted at the scene. The Jamesport Fire Department served as backup at the Riverhead firehouse.

Both Riverhead fire marshals were at the scene investigating the fire Friday night.

As of 10:30 p.m. East Main Street was still closed at Peconic and East avenues. Roanoke Avenue is closed at Second Street.

Athens owner and chef John Mantzopoulos of Greenport said Friday night was the busiest of a summer season that had so far been slow.

“This is the worst thing that could have happened [for the restaurant]” he said. “At least no life was lost.”

His wife, Christine Mantzopoulos, said “No one got hurt and that is the most important thing.”

Ray Pickersgill, president of downtown Riverhead’s Business Improvement District, said he was in the restaurant at the time of the blaze.

“It smelled like burnt toast,” said Mr. Pickersgill, who said the building sustained too much damage and is likely lost.

Tom Lassandro, who was visiting the restaurant with friends at the time the fire sparked, said he initially thought a cook had burned a meal.

“Then the dining room filled with smoke,” he said.

Speaking outside the restaurant, Athens waitress Debra Walsh said, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said late Friday night that the town will speed up the permit process to rebuild the restaurant as best it can.

“Anything we can do to help we will,” Mr. Walter said.

The fire marks a somber start to a busy weekend on the riverfront with the popular cardboard boat race scheduled for Saturday and a triathlon planned for Sunday.

This is the second downtown restaurant fire in a little more than a week, following a kitchen fire at nearby Cliff’s Rendezvous last Tuesday.

Athens Grill opened in 2004.

psquire@timesreview.com

01/31/13 7:00am
01/31/2013 7:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE  PHOTO | Riverhead authorities investigate the latest dumpster fire in Riverhead Sunday evening.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead authorities investigate the latest dumpster fire in Riverhead Sunday evening.

“Lives are at risk.”

That’s what Riverhead Town fire marshal David Andruszkiewicz said this week when questioned about the string of dumpster fires — clear acts of arson — that occurred in Riverhead and Southampton towns. Riverhead alone had eight fires in four days.

It’s ridiculous that some need reminding of those grave childhood warnings about the danger of misdirecting emergency resources. Most remember the fire officials who would visit schools to warn that “it could be your house that burns down while firefighters are headed to a false alarm.”

Yet it seems neither the threat to life nor the risk of prison time for an arson conviction is a deterrent. So let’s try a different approach.

Give the guys a break.

The Riverhead Fire Department is coming off its busiest year on record, with volunteers responding to 1,159 alarms, for a total of 14,228 hours out in the field. And that’s OK; these selfless men and women know what they’ve signed up for, and it’s in their nature to want to help their friends and neighbors during a fire, accident or some other calamity.

But that’s also 14,228 hours they spent away from their homes, families and workplaces in 2012, affecting their personal lives and maybe their finances. They don’t deserve to have more hours piled on.

For every idiotic early morning dumpster fire set in recent days, some small child somewhere in town might have had to wait by himself for the school bus during an unusually cold morning, because dad wasn’t there to sit with him in the car. Another youngster might have missed practice or karate lessons because she couldn’t get a ride after mom was called out of the house at 6 p.m. to douse garbage. No one in our communities needs a little more quiet time with their families more than our busy volunteer firefighters right now, and whoever’s behind these little blazes — be it some sicko or immature kids — is taking that away from these dedicated volunteers. Not to mention putting lives at risk.

Anyone with information about the fires is encouraged to call the Riverhead Town fire marshal’s office at 727-3200, ext. 601.

08/30/12 1:00pm
08/30/2012 1:00 PM

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Fire district headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

The Riverhead Fire District has inadequate procedures for hiring professional services and paid more than $780,000 to three professionals without a written agreement stating the rate of compensation, a recent New York State Comptroller advisory audit of the district found.

The state also found the district did not have enough control over remote access of the district’s data.

The audit, which examined the district for the period of Jan. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011, states the district didn’t solicit “competitive proposals” for any of the professional services that were examined. Three of those professionals were hired without a resolution or written agreement stating their rate of pay; the professionals were eventually paid $787,697, according to the audit.

Four of the remaining six professional service contracts that totaled $301,860 were paid out using agreements that included “open-ended terms.”

The lack of competitive bids for work, as well as unclear rates of pay, meant officials could not guarantee the services were “procured in the most prudent and economical manner,” according to the audit.

The Fire District is funded primarily through property taxes.

The state audit recommended the fire district use “competitive methods” to hire professional services and have written agreements for all professionals hired that includes the cost of the services.

In a written response to the state from the district’s chairman, Dennis Hamill, he said that the district is not required to put out competitive bids under General Municipal Law, and said the board “routinely” monitors the costs of the services, using rate schedules.

Many of the professional services must be completed in a short period of time, Mr. Hamill added.

“The nature of these services are such that they do not readily lend themselves to competitive procurement procedures,” Mr. Hamill wrote. “The Board is confident that professional services were obtained to provide the knowledge and skill needed in each instance at a fair price.”

In a response to the district’s letter, the state said that rate schedules “do not constitute or replace” written agreements.

The audit also stated the Board of Commissioners does not have a policy to “monitor or control remote access,” which allows certain service provider and managers to access the district’s computer system through the Internet.

According to the study, the holes in monitoring and controlling remote access could allow data to be manipulated and “could lead to the loss of important [financial] data and cause serious interruption to the District’s operations.”

The audit suggests the board should create a “comprehensive computer use policy” to protect their data from tampering, and better define who can access the district’s system.

Mr. Hamill wrote that the district has established a procedure to “closely monitor and limit” remote access, and will obtain access logs of who uses the system.

The district is not bound to follow the audit’s recommendations, comptroller’s office spokesman Brian Butry said, adding that the audit serves to bring potential issues to light.

It is up to each audited party to respond to the findings, he said.

“These are just recommendations,” Mr. Butry said “These audits are advisory in nature.”

psquire@timesreview.com

04/18/11 11:16am
04/18/2011 11:16 AM

A wooden garage on a vacant property on Raynor Avenue in Riverhead was destroyed in a fire Monday morning, Riverhead Fire Department Chief Nick Luparella said.

Volunteers with the Riverhead Fire Department were on the scene about 9:30 a.m. and extinguished the blaze in about 30 minutes. The fire had spread to the surrounding grass and shrubbery before it was put out.

It is not clear what caused the fire or if anyone was on the property. Heavy black smoke could be seen from several blocks away.

No firefighter injuries were reported during the blaze.

A house on the property was also destroyed in a fire about three years ago, Mr. Luparella said.

BARBRAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Fire Department volunteers put out a fire on Raynor Avenue in Riverhead Monday morning.

10/31/10 8:12pm
10/31/2010 8:12 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO Voters in the Riverhead Fire District authorized the district to sell the former Riverhead Building Supply properties on Ostrander and Union Avenues for $1.3 million Tuesday.

Voters in the Riverhead Fire District authorized the district to sell the former Riverhead Building Supply properties on Ostrander and Union avenues for $1.3 million.

There were 35 votes in favor, four opposed and one vote that was challenged, according to fire district secretary Bob Zaweski.

Meanwhile, another land exchange involving the Riverhead Fire District took a step forward at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, when the board voted to let Supervisor Sean Walter execute all documents required to transfer town-owned land off Route 58 to the fire district in exchange for the former fire headquarters on Second Street.

The fire district has a contract to sell the Ostrander Avenue property — which was donated to the fire district in 2000 by Riverhead Building Supply — for $1.3 million to Atlantis Marine World, which is hoping to use it for parking, according to Dennis Hamill, chairman of the Riverhead Board of Fire Commissioners. The property encompasses seven tax map parcels and is about four acres total, he said.

By law, voter approval is needed to sell fire district property, Mr. Hamill said. With the approval in hand, that deal can now move forward, he said.

In addition to the $1.3 million, the district will begin to collect tax payments on the property as it once again becomes privately owned, Mr. Hamill noted. “It’s a win-win situation,” he added.

“The generosity of the Goodale family should be acknowledged,” Mr. Hamill said, referring to the owners of Riverhead Building Supply.

Initially, the fire district intended to build a new fire headquarters on the property, but later determined that traffic in that area was not suitable for a firehouse. The district instead got voter approval in 2007 to build a new $14.7 million fire headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

A fire in August 2009 destroyed one of the Ostrander Avenue buildings and the fire district subsequently demolished all of the structures on the seven parcels and put the land up for sale.

Atlantis has been using one of the Ostrander Avenue lots for parking for several years under an agreement with the fire district.

The other deal involves land the town owns that has been leased to the fire district for years. It is used as a firematic training site, as well as for annual motorized drill competitions. The district has sought to acquire the land for years. It has access of Route 58 and also abuts town land at Stotzky Park.

The land was technically owned by the town-run Riverhead Water District, and the Town Board on Tuesday passed a resolution transferring ownership to the town.

The Second Street firehouse was replaced by the new Roanoke Avenue headquarters and the district has been trying to sell it. Town Board members have said they would like to use the facility for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, even though ambulance officials have repeatedly said they don’t want it because it’s not in a good location for an ambulance barn.

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 19, 2010