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Tarrytown Trustees, Fire Officials Still Working Through Issues

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January 20, 2023

By Rick Pezzullo—

Fire officials in Tarrytown made their first public comments Tuesday regarding the Board of Trustees’ recent efforts to obtain financial reports from village fire departments.

A large contingent of firefighters made their presence felt at the Jan. 17 Board of Trustees meeting after it was reported in The Hudson Independent that trustees voiced frustration with unsuccessful attempts since October to get information they were seeking from Fire Department chiefs and the Board of Fire Wardens.

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In an Oct. 7 internal memorandum, Village Administrator Richard Slingerland informed the Board of Fire Wardens and fire chiefs that they would be required to submit “a full reporting of all revenues” by Nov. 10.

“As part of the board’s fiscal responsibilities, they will be performing a more in-depth review of Fire Department funding and expenditures,” Slingerland stated in the memo. “The goal is to get a clear picture of how and where money is currently being raised and spent for the Fire Department, by the department’s companies, where more attention needs to be given, and where we could potentially be more efficient.”

At a Nov. 16 work session, Mayor Karen Brown expressed disappointment when fire officials failed to appear to discuss policies, procedures and financial accounting.

“This reluctance does send out some red flags,” Brown remarked at the time. “We are sort of being stonewalled on getting information.”

At the Jan. 17 meeting, Brown read a lengthy statement, revealing that trustees had met with fire chiefs on Jan. 16. The meeting was set up by the chiefs. She also addressed The Hudson Independent article.

“I am sorry if this article cast any shade on the integrity of our fire department. This is not an issue of trust. The Board of Trustees has every faith in our fire department,” Brown stated. “To any fire department member who felt on the defensive or unappreciated and unseen as a result of what was written in The Hudson Independent, I offer my sincere apologies.”

“There was and still remains a difference of opinion on issues of accountability and fiduciary responsibility,” she continued. “We feel it is our fiduciary responsibility to be aware of the basic financial workings of the fire companies that serve our fire department.”

Brown’s initial remarks were made on the record at a scheduled meeting of the board and reported by The Hudson Independent. Subsequent attempts by The Indy to get a response from fire department officials were unsuccessful. But at the Jan. 17 meeting, Tarrytown Fire Chief Rick Tucci said that most fire officials accepted Brown’s apology.

“The department will continue to work with the village on all subjects that they have. We just ask that communication be improved on both ends so we don’t have these issues anymore,” Tucci said. “We are here to protect the life and property of the Village of Tarrytown and every resident in this village, and we will do that to the best of our abilities. If you have any questions about our fire department, we ask that you come to us, reach out to us and we’ll answer your questions.”

Riverside Hose. Co. Chief Patrick Derivan was less cordial, criticizing the board for its approach. “The picture is painted already to the public about what was said and what your views are on what we are here in Tarrytown,” Derivan asserted. “I just don’t know where all this is coming from. We’re supposed to be a community, working together, working hand-in-hand, and it’s just not working out. Where is there a problem with the money? You’re painting a picture to the public that there’s a problem, with the fire companies and money. It’s wrong. I don’t know how you can walk this back.”

Derivan also took issue with Slingerland for questioning the fire department’s annual Christmas trees sales.

“My holidays were ruined by harassing emails from the village administrator on dates we have to meet, we gotta do this, we gotta do that,” Derivan said. “We put our lives on the line day in and day out to respond to any fire or disaster. It’s a good deal you’re getting for what we’re doing. It’s not fair. Respect and trust is earned.”

Terence Murphy, a past chief of the Tarrytown Fire Department and a 30-year volunteer, echoed Derivan’s sentiments. “The fire department is the backbone of a strong community,” Murphy said. “I think we’re doing our part to make sure we’re responsible to the taxpayers and the board needs to understand this when they have these discussions.”

No future meetings between the village and fire officials were announced, but it appears both sides are open to settling their differences.

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