Firemen: Don’t cut fire marshal job

TIM GANNON PHOTO Riverhead fire chief Nick Luparella and other firefighters urged the town to avoid cutting a fire marshal position Tuesday night.

Members of the Riverhead and neighboring fire departments turned out in force Tuesday night to urge the Riverhead Town Board not to eliminate a fire marshal position, as proposed in Supervisor Sean Walter’s tentative 2011 town budget.

Several of the six other full-time employees whose positions are slated to be cut also spoke in an attempt to save their jobs.

As with previous meetings, town Civil Service Employees Association members also showed, wearing red shirts and protesting any layoffs.

The firefighters showed up in uniform at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting and even parked several fire trucks outside Town Hall with their light flashing to protest the proposed elimination of town fire marshal Craig Zitek’s position. Riverhead Fire Chief Nick Luparella and others pointed out that by checking that sprinklers work, pathways are clear and buildings meet codes, fire marshals often ensure that firefighters don’t get trapped in burning buildings.

“Public safety is not the area to be cutting,” Mr. Luparella told the Town Board.

Animal Control Officer Sean McCabe, site plan reviewer Theresa Masin, Juvenile Aid Bureau secretary Cheryl Behr, Community Development department program technician Liz Plouff and Mr. Zitek also made their cases as to why they believed their jobs should not be cut, as the supervisor has proposed.

Mr. McCabe noted taht he is one of only two Animal Control Officers in the town. As for Ms. Masin, she said town officials had pledged to streamline the review process when they took office, and that eliminating a planning position will do the opposite. She said applications she has reviewed that have been approved also generated about $150,000 in fees for the town. Ms. Plouff said she has been responsible for obtaining and managing grant money for the town, while Ms. Behr said her position also is vital to maintaining grants obtained by the JAB.

Councilman John Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio both publicly stated support for restoring the fire marshal position.

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This post was originally published Oct. 20, 2010