“Incumbent Says Playing Politics with Emergency Services Puts Residents at Risk”
Katonah, New York – September 19, 2011 – County Legislator Peter Harckham (D, I, WF) today slammed Peter Michaelis’s support for County Executive Rob Astorino’s failed merger attempt last year of the Department of Emergency Services and the Department of Public Safety. Harckham also blasted Michaelis’ support for the County Executive’s proposed 2011 budget that would have cut the Department of Emergency Services staff by 20%. Michaelis voiced his support for the merger plan at his campaign announcement.
Harckham, who is Board of Legislators Majority Leader and a four-year member of the Board’s Committee on Public Safety & Security stated, “Last year, after thorough review, the Board unanimously and bipartisanly rejected this merger because it would not have saved the taxpayers meaningful dollars and would have created enormous command and control issues that could place county residents at risk in emergency situations. While the county police are very good at what they do, they have no business coordinating the training, communication and command and control of Westchester’s fire departments and ambulance corps.” He added, “One thing both the volunteer and paid fire departments agree on is their opposition to merging these two departments.”
The plan would have eliminated the Department of Emergency Services and placed all of the Department’s responsibilities under the command of the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety (the Westchester County Police). The plan would have added a layer of costly Deputy Commissioners and replaced a number of highly trained volunteer assignments, such as the Hazardous Materials Squad and the Technical Rescue Squad, with paid officers.
Harckham also pointed to Michaelis’s support for County Executive Robert Astorino’s proposed 2011 budget that would have cut the Department of Emergency Services personnel, including the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), by 20%. Said Harckham, “During the budget hearings we heard loudly and clearly that those cuts were a direct threat to public safety. We put those positions back in the budget and still cut taxes by more than twice what the County Executive had proposed.” He added, “Anyone who was intimately involved in the hurricane and its aftermath, as I was, knows that it was the OEM and the Department of Emergency Services that kept northern Westchester going. It is unimaginable to think of going through that storm with 20% fewer people in the Department of Emergency Services.”
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