Manorville woman, neighbors pushing for ambulance district switch

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance vehicle parked in Riverhead earlier this summer.

Residents of Oakwood Drive in Manorville live in the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance district, but they’re much closer to the Manorville Community Ambulance.

That’s why some residents from that area are hoping to find a way to let Manorville ambulance respond to calls in that neighborhood.

Clare Bennett of Oakwood Drive asked the Riverhead Town Board on Tuesday to try to allow calls in her neighborhood to be handled by Manorville.

“I’m basically a healthy person but I have needed an ambulance three times in the last five years,” Ms. Bennett said.

The first two times, she said, the Riverhead ambulance took 40 minutes to get to her home, and the third time, when she had a heart issue, her husband got there from Hampton Bays before the ambulance arrived.

On another instance, “When my eight year old nephew needed an emergency appendectomy, he knew something was wrong, but he did not want to call an ambulance,” she said.

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

Ms. Bennett said she spoke with the Riverhead Police Department on the issue and was told that on the first two calls, the Riverhead ambulance got lost looking for her house due to a mistake on the e911 system, which showed her address as being on Oakwood Drive in Calverton.

There is an Oakwood Drive in Calverton, close to Long Island Sound, and its almost 10 miles from Oakwood Drive in Manorville.

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.

Kim Pokorny, the president of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance board of directors, said this is the first she’s heard of any problems getting to Manorville.

“The only thing I can think of is if the 911 call gets picked up Suffolk County Police E911, there could be a delay, because surely it doesn’t take 40 minutes for us to get there,” Ms. Pokorny said.

The problem with the E911 giving the Calverton address also could be a factor, she said.

Because the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance is funded by a tax base that’s entirely in Riverhead Town, and the Manorville Community Ambulance is funded by a tax base that’s entirely in Brookhaven Town, the only way Manorville ambulance could be allowed to respond to a Riverhead Town address would be for Riverhead to contract for services with Manorville in this neighborhood, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“We don’t have a problem doing that,” Mr. Walter told Ms. Bennett. “I think this board will do that.”

Councilman John Dunleavy said he is already working on that issue.

Mr. Walter said he will call Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesco to begin negotiations on the plan.

The supervisor said he’s unsure how to fix the problem with E911, however.

Ms. Bennett said there are 12 residents on Oakwood Drive in Manorville and 61 families in the immediate area with Manorville addresses in Riverhead Town.

She said her neighbors are ready to begin a petition drive.

According to Yahoo maps, the Riverhead ambulance headquarters on Osborn Avenue is 10.2 miles from Oakwood Drive in Manorville, while the Manorville ambulance headquarters on South Street is 3.75 miles from Oakwood Drive.

Ms. Bennett said she didn’t want to slight ambulance volunteers with her request.

“We’re very grateful to the men and women who do this,” she told the Town Board.

The Oakwood Drive neighborhood is the area that was hardest hit by the wildfire that spread through the Manorville and Calverton areas earlier this year. The area is just north of the Peconic River, which is the border between the two towns.

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