FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 15, 2012
Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)
Westchester Board of Legislators Authorizes Immediate Repairs to DES Roof
Department of Public Works Funds Ready to Be Spent on Project
White Plains, NY – The Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) approved legislation at its regular meeting this week to authorize repairs the roof of the Department of Emergency Services (DES) Main Facility. The repairs will paid for with $1.5 million that the BOL transferred to the County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) non-recurring repairs account from the fund balance.
According to the current projection, the DPWT Public Works budget savings in 2012 will exceed $2.6M (2013 Budget Book, page C-570), not including the monies the BOL transferred to the department.
“It’s important for the fire chiefs around Westchester to know that proposed utilization of operating budget monies to fix the roof at the DES building will come from the Department of Public Works and Transportation budget and not from the Emergency Services’ budget,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “We’re now fast-tracking this repair project because our first-responders do not deserve to work under the present conditions, which are absolutely dangerous and miserable during rainfalls and snow melts.”
The DES roof has been leaking in multiple locations. During heavy rains and with melting snow, water runs in steady streams to the floor and apparatus, endangering supplies and valuable equipment.
After a recent rainfall, Jenkins said he visited the facility and took pictures of the tarps and tubing being employed by the DES staffers in an attempt to minimize the flooding in the building. “The situation there is pathetic,” he said, “and the Administration should apologize to every fire chief in the county for letting the situation in this building deteriorate to its present condition.”
Electrical lighting has failed and building telephone circuitry and fire alarm systems have been compromised as a result of water infiltration.
The DES roof repair vote on Monday night was 9-8, with the entire Republican caucus voting against the legislation. When one Republican member mentioned that the Astorino Administration had initially presented a bond act to start the repairs in November 2011, Jenkins corrected him and noted that the BOL first authorized funding for the repairs in 2006.
The Astorino Administration’s resistance to including solar panels in the bond language, even though approved legislation calls for new and repaired roofing for all County buildings and facilities to have the solar components, has stalled the repairs. In September 2012, County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s chief of staff, George Oros, promised legislators that a new bond act with the solar component was forthcoming, but the bond legislation he sent to the BOL recently once again avoided including the solar component.
Legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains), a former BOL committee chair charged with Public Works oversight, excoriated his Republican colleagues for not supporting the roof repair legislation. “This is too important a project to get mired in a debate about process,” he said. “Right now, at this hour, the resources in our spending plan to do this relatively small job are available. I’ve heard Republicans and Democrats say tonight, ‘Let’s get the roof fixed.’ As a matter of safety for the personnel from around the county who work in this building, let’s fix the roof before the building is damaged further.”
“If the Administration wanted to fix the DES roof, it would have been fixed a year ago,” said BOL Majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah). “That’s why we’re authorizing the repairs out of the operating fund now instead of waiting for the Administration to send down the right bond act. They had plenty of chances to do so already.”
Harckham reiterated that how the roof repair is funded, through either capital or operating budget funding, will have no direct impact to Emergency Services’ budget related resources. In County Executive Astorino’s proposed 2013 Budget, DES has requested 20 fewer positions in 2013 (page C-170), so any staff reductions are entirely unrelated to the BOL’s proposed usage of 2012 non-recurring funds to fix the DES roof.
Additional news and photos available at http://www.westchesterlegislators.com/newsroom
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