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Rocky Point Fire Department

By Daniel Palumbo

To mark the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Rocky Point Fire Department held a commemorative ceremony at its dedicated 9/11 Memorial Garden on the evening of Sept. 11. 

The fire department invited community members, firefighters from neighboring towns and Rocky Point High School student-musicians for an evening of solemn remembrance of the lives lost 21 years ago. 

Throughout the evening RPFD firefighters, including Chief of Department Fred Hess, took to the podium to thank the attendees for their support. In their speeches, they expressed gratitude and admiration for the many servicemen, servicewomen and civilians who made the ultimate sacrifice on that tragic day in history.

From left, State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio; Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker; Ex-Captain and Honorary Chief Howard Sedell; Ex-Captain and Honorary Chief John Driscoll; and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner

On August 28, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker attended the Rocky Point Fire Department’s 63rd Annual Fire District Inspection and Installation Dinner at Majestic Gardens in Rocky Point.

Legislator Anker joined State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner in honoring the newly installed incoming officers as well as other department members for their many years of dedicated service, including Chief Fred Hess for 30 years; Firefighters James McCabe and Pericles Kontis for 35 years; Ex-Captain Walter Birney, Ex-Chief John Buchner and Ex-Chief Ray Strong for 40 years; Ex-Captain Daniel O’Connel, Ex-Chief Terrance McCarrick and Ex-Captain Dave Brewer for 45 years; Ex-Captain John Driscoll for 50 years; and Ex-Captain Howard Sedell for 55 years.

During the awards ceremony, Ex-Captains John Driscoll and Howard Sedell were honored by the Department and its members as Honorary Chiefs.

“It is always an honor to have an opportunity to recognize and thank our firefighters and first responders at the annual inspection and installation dinner,” said Legislator Anker. “This year, we recognized members for their many decades of dedicated service to the community through the Rocky Point Fire Department. I thank every member of the department for their continued and courageous service to our community that kept our residents safe from emergency situations throughout a challenging and unprecedented year.”

The Rocky Point Fire Department has stations located at 14 Hallock Landing Road in Rocky Point, 90 King Road in Rocky Point, and 47 Route 25A in Shoreham. For more information, please call the department at their non-emergency phone number, 631-744-4102.

Photo from Leg. Anker’s office

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Rocky Point Fire District residents file into the district offices in Shoreham to cast their votes. Photo by Kyle Barr

RPFD is going ahead with a new $1 million bond after a community vote Tuesday, Oct. 13, with a narrow margin of just 18 votes. 

The community in the Rocky Point Fire District, which covers the Rocky Point and Shoreham hamlets, voted 271 to 253 on new funds to finish the Station 2 firehouse construction project on King Road.

Officials have previously said that because of a delayed start, expanding construction costs and the pandemic they do not have the funds to complete the original $7.25 million project. District officials cited the projects late start, as well as increased costs due to the ongoing pandemic for why they needed these new funds. 

“We are all very pleased that a majority of our residents came out and supported the project,” David Brewer, vice chairman of the board of fire commissioners, said in a statement. “We are equally pleased that some of the misinformation and inaccuracies posted on some social media sites didn’t adversely affect the outcome of the vote. From the beginning, the board of fire commissioners has been committed to providing our members and residents with a safe and modern firehouse. Our goal remains unchanged and that is to complete this building despite many financial setbacks and delays, and we thank all of our supporters.”

Social distancing and mask wearing rules were enforced, though the district did not allow people to cast absentee ballots, citing the extra time it would take to count those ballots as well.

In a Zoom call last week relating to this vote, officials said the new bond will cost residents an average of $18 more per year on their fire district taxes, though they could not relate how many years it may take to pay off the new bond.

Officials expect the project to be finished around the end of the year.

More Details on the Station 2 Firehouse Project

The district originally asked the community to support a $8.5 million bond in 2017, where $7.25 million would go to the construction of the new firehouse. Fire District Chairman Anthony Gallino said they originally included about 7% contingency of over $500,000. This new $1 million bond is looking at a 25% contingency of about $250,000. Gallino added that any unused funds of the new bond will be put to paying down the bond.

“We realized that [the original contingency] was not enough to cover obstacles, so we put a little more in there for this building,” Gallino said. 

On Saturday, Oct. 10, district officials made a full breakdown of the project budget available. Documents show the district lacked $752,310 to complete the firehouse. That number is out of a remaining $1.5 million on a firehouse that is 75% complete. The district still has $500,000 in contingency bond funds and $293,814 left in money taken from the general fund.

There were issues on the project from the start, officials said during the call. The project manager they originally hired put out bids which were routinely around $1 million over budget. In August 2018, the district terminated its contract with its original construction manager. In February 2019, they hired a new project manager, Devin Kulka, the CEO of Hauppauge-based Kulka Group, and were able to get started with asbestos abatement in May 2019 and demolition followed in June. Materials and labor costs, especially with New York’s prevailing wage, also increased from when the bond vote was passed. The pandemic made things even more complicated. 

Documents show there were items that came in way over what they were originally budgeted for several years ago, resulting in the $752,310 shortfall. HVAC, for example, was slated for $600,000, but is now awarded at $925,000. While a few items came slightly under budget, those overages make up the total of the project’s $1.5 million excess.

Kulka said during the Zoom call there was one contractor company that went under during construction due to COVID-19. He confirmed a surety company would be cutting a check for the cost between the work the contractor already did and what it wasn’t able to complete.

Gallino said materials costs increased by 10%. Some community members questioned what the cost could be on what has already been constructed, which now resembles a cinder block exterior, but officials said the price of prevailing wages kept costs high.

Currently the station 2 company is housed in the old Thurber Lumber property on King Road, which is owned by local developer Mark Baisch. The developer allowed the company into the property free of charge but plans to turn that property into a slate of 55-and-older rental pieces and would need the fire company to be out by the end of the year.

This article was updated Oct. 15 to include extra information and a quote from the fire district.

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Rocky Point residents took to the polls in 2017 to vote on propositions to demo the old and rebuild a new North Beach Company 2 firehouse, and purchase a new fire truck. A new bond is asking an extra $1 million to go all the way. File photo by Kevin Redding

*This article was updated to include a link to the firehouse projects budget breakdown.

As the Rocky Point Fire District settles in for a $1 million community bond vote Tuesday, some residents still have questions about the process and what their tax dollars will go if they vote “yes.”

The district has scheduled a vote for Tuesday, Oct. 13, for a $1 million bond to help complete the station 2 firehouse construction. Officials have previously said that because of a delayed start, expanding construction costs and the pandemic they do not have the funds to complete the original $7.25 million project. 

The new firehouse along King Road in Rocky Point has been in construction since May of last year, but fire district officials said they need more funds in order to fully complete the project. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a Zoom conference call hosted by district officials Wednesday, Oct. 7, fire district commissioners, the project and manager and attorneys for the district answered the community’s questions.

Several asked if there would be absentee ballots for those unable to vote in-person out of concern for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but Fire District Chairman Anthony Gallino said having to count absentee ballots would result in a “delay in the process,” when construction needs to be completed by the end of the year. Officials claimed that New York State law under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive orders are unclear regarding special district votes. 

Fire District Attorney William Glass did not return a call for clarification before press time. Officials also said that if they waited for election day Nov. 3, the district would not receive funds until February next year.

The district originally asked the community to support a $8.5 million bond in 2017, where $7.25 million would go to the construction of the new firehouse. Gallino said they originally included about 7% contingency of over $500,000. This new $1 million bond is looking at a 25% contingency of about $250,000. Gallino added that any unused funds of the new bond will be put to paying down the bond.

“We realized that [original contingency] was not enough to cover obstacles so we put a little more in there for this building,” Gallino said. 

On Saturday, Oct, 10, district officials made a full breakdown of the project budget available. Documents show the district lacks $752,310 to complete the firehouse. That number is out of a remaining $1.5 million on a firehouse that is 75% complete. The district still has $500,000 in contingency bond funds and $293,814 left in money taken from the general fund.

Click here to see the budget breakdown, which includes the remaining amount of money left from the districts last bond.

There were issues on the project from the start, officials said during the call. The project manager they originally hired put out bids which were routinely around $1 million over budget. In Aug. of 2018 the district terminated its contract with its original construction manager. In February, 2019 they hired a new project manager, Devin Kulka, the CEO of Hauppauge-based Kulka Group, and were able to get started with asbestos abatement in May, 2019 and demolition followed in June. Materials and labor costs, especially with New York prevailing wage, also increased from when the bond vote was passed. The pandemic made things even more complicated. 

Documents show there were items that came in way over what they were originally budgeted for several years ago, resulting in the $752,310 shortfall. HVAC, for example, was slated for $600,000, but is now awarded at a $925,000. While a few items came slightly under budget, those overages make up the total of the $1.5 million the project is over by.

Kulka said during the Zoom call there was one contractor company that went under during construction due to COVID-19. He confirmed a surety company would be cutting a check for the cost between the work the contractor already did and what it wasn’t able to complete.

Gallino said materials costs increased by 10%. Some community members questioned what the cost could be on what has already been constructed, which now resembles a cinder block exterior, but officials said the price of prevailing wage kept costs high.

District officials said the increase of the yearly fire district tax bill will increase about $18 or $19 for the average house within the district. The idea of forking over more money during a time of austerity due to the pandemic might not be appetizing, but Gallino said this was the only means to construct the firehouse. Currently the station 2 company is housed in the old Thurber Lumber property on King Road, which is owned by local developer Mark Baisch. The developer allowed the company into the property free of charge, but plans to turn that property into a slate of 55-and-older rental pieces, and would need the company to be out by the end of the year.

“We’re also residents of the community, we understand that this was not an easy decision,” the chairman of the board of fire commissioners said. “We tried alternative methods, but we found if you want to finish this building on time, you need another $750K to get it done, I think it was the only decision we can make at this point.”

Kulka said the firehouse should be finished by the end of the year if things keep at the current pace.

Some residents are still not convinced, perhaps even less so because of the Zoom meeting. Shoreham resident John Searing, who lives in the district and himself works as a project manager, said he does not feel they were given all the information needed to make a decision as he listened to the Zoom meeting.

“I went into this meeting with an expectation that the Fire District would be able to clearly articulate the need for the additional 13.8%, or $1 million, increase in this project,” he said via email. “However, neither the fire district nor their construction manager or engineer could even provide a rough estimate of expenditures thus far, which raised many more questions in my mind about the future need.”

The bond vote is set for Tuesday, Oct. 13.  Polls will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Shoreham Firehouse, located at 49 Route 25A. Voters are reminded to please wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

This article was updated Oct. 12 to correct the spelling of a name as well as add additional information from the budget document.

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The new firehouse along King Road in Rocky Point has been in construction since May of last year, but fire district officials said they need more funds in order to fully complete the project. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Rocky Point Fire District has set the date for a virtual forum to discuss an upcoming $1 million bond referendum to help finance new firehouse construction. The forum is set to take place via Zoom Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.

The Rocky Point Fire District is asking for the community to consider a $1 million referendum to fund the remaining construction costs of the North Shore Beach Firehouse. In. a news release, district officials said an informational mailer has been sent out to residents. 

In a previous TBR News Media article, fire district officials said construction delays and a pandemic-induced drastic increase in material costs have mandated the need for new funds. 

Residents are asked to submit any questions they have about the project to the district via email at [email protected] by Tuesday, Oct. 6. Fire District officials promised to address all items submitted during the forum after providing an overview of the project. 

To join the meeting live, people can launch Zoom and enter the meeting ID: 823 0778 6425 and password: 767240.

The upcoming bond vote will take place Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Shoreham Firehouse, located at 49 Route 25A.

 

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Shoreham resident and ex FDNY Tom LeDeoux placed the ceremonial wreath in the standing pool. Photo by Kyle Barr

For the 19th anniversary of 9/11, the Rocky Point Fire Department’s annual ceremony in Shoreham was limited in attendance to mostly firefighters and a few residents. Despite the abbreviated ceremonies, it was still a solemn memorial to the many who have lost their lives during the World Trade Center terror attack and all those who died after.

The evening included firefighters from the Wading River, Miller Place and Ridge Fire Departments as well as the RPFD. Speeches by head of the 9/11 Memorial Committee David Singer and Fire Chief Adam DeLumen touched on how both partisan politics and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to division, but most can remember how Americans came together in solidarity after the attacks 19 years ago today. It was also a time to remember the thousands who have died as a result of adverse health effects caused from being at the scene when the towers fell.

As of June, 2020, 79,001 respondents and 26,271 survivors were enrolled in the Centers for Disease Control’s World Trade Center Health Program, of those, 58,933 have one or more certified health conditions. Now over 18,100 members have certified 9/11 related cancers. Every year the numbers rise.

“As we get further and further away from that terrible event 19 years ago, we must continue ceremonies like this all around the world to make certain that present and future generations never forget the lives lost and continue to lose because of 9/11- related illness,” Singer said.

DeLumen, in his speech, also noted that this year is likely to be his last year as chief of the department.

“I remember exactly what I was doing that day of the attack and feeling the fear of the unknown, this year has much the same feeling,” the chief said. “I remember the day after 9/11 … we all became became one nation and came together no matter what, the same way these first respondents have always done.”

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The new firehouse along King Road in Rocky Point has been in construction since May of last year, but fire district officials said they need more funds in order to fully complete the project. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Rocky Point Fire District is asking residents for an additional $1 million bond on top of existing money to help finish up the Station 2 firehouse construction project.

In 2017, 204 residents voted “yes” and 197 voted “no” for the new building to replace the original firehouse built in the 1950s, alongside the purchase of a new ladder truck. Costs for the building were estimated to be $7,250,000. On Sept. 1, Rocky Point fire commissioners voted to establish a new $1 million bond vote set for Oct. 13.

Rocky Point vice chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, David Brewer, said it is unfortunate but they lack much other choice than asking the community to go out for more project funding. 

“We’re not happy about this, but in order to complete this project we were forced to go out to the public for another bond,” he said. “I understand people are tight right now, but we have no choice because by law we are prohibited from spending any more for that building other than what was authorized by the bond.”

Officials said this new bond would result in an annual increase of $17 to $18 for the average household in the district. 

There were issues from the start of the project, Brewer said, with them having to break ties with the first project manager they hired for construction, which set them back on their timetable. Officials have previously said the first bids for construction companies came in too high, and then after putting the project out for bid again, they received too few. Construction of the project fully started in May 2019. 

“When we originally worked with the first project manager, after reviewing some information we were given, we felt that the projected costs and completion date were somewhat unrealistic,” Brewer said. “Because of the delays and because we started so far back, there have been increases for construction.”

The commissioner cited an increase in labor costs as much as 4.5%, an increase of materials from 4.5 to 5%. Then with the arrival of the pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of all construction projects until the first phase of reopening in May, commissioners were told they were required to “tack on” another 1% toward labor costs.

Without the additional funding, Brewer said they would have to make a drastic decision, which could mean even delaying the firehouse construction until they could go to a revote. The issue with any delay is that currently the Station 2 Black Sheep Company has relocated all its trucks, equipment and other apparatus to the warehouses of what was once the Thurber Lumber Company property. That site was loaned free of charge by developer Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties, though only temporarily as Baisch has slated the site for a new set of 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors inside 10 buildings located along Prince Road and King Road. 

Brewer said Baisch is currently building on the other side of the road, and would need the company to be out of the lumber warehouse by the end of the year if that project is to keep on schedule. 

“If that happened, I don’t know what we’d do,” Brewer added. “We just wouldn’t have anyone else who would be able to house our apparatus.”

Otherwise, without a vote, the commissioner’s vice chairman said they would need to cut away from the project, but he did not know what could possibly be removed or slimmed down, as the site was planned to be a no-frills firehouse.

“The building was proposed and designed very conservatively from the get-go,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of amenities and fluff we could cut, especially to reach the amount of money we need. We are really between a rock and a hard place here.”

The fire district is hosting the vote Oct. 13 at the Shoreham firehouse located at 49 Route 25A from 3 to 9 p.m. While district officials said they would not be offering absentee ballots, they would be ensuring people wear masks and socially distance while conducting polling. 

The Rocky Point Fire Department building in Shoreham. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Rocky Point Fire District will soon extend its coverage area to include the Village of Shoreham. 

Town of Brookhaven officials have already scheduled a public hearing later in the month for the resolution, which is expected to pass. In conjunction, as part of the village merging into the fire district, officials passed a resolution that authorized the tax assessor to consolidate the district’s three separate tax zones into one. 

Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said both the Town and fire district could not get it done without the other. The change in tax zones will essentially make for a more streamlined process for the district.

“After the public hearing, if it was supported by my colleagues, [the fire district] would include the Village of Shoreham,” said Bonner. “It is essentially an easier process and less paperwork for both of them.” 

The two latest decisions come after a months-long process where Shoreham officials requested home rule applications to extend the fire district boundaries to encompass the 0.5-square-mile village. In May 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill introduced by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) that authorized the fire district extension. 

Rocky Point Fire District attorney, the Port Jefferson-based Bill Glass who represents the fire district, said the change wouldn’t affect the day-to-day operations of the fire departments and district.

“Operationally there will be no change at all within the district,” he said. “There will not be a significant change to the amount the village already pays for emergency services.” 

Glass said the process should be seamless as the village has contracted out to the fire district for the past decade. He said he doesn’t expect the tax rates for residents to change that much and would probably be similar to the amount that they paid when Shoreham was contracting them. 

On the subject of the consolidation of the three tax zones, the lawyer said the decision was necessary as there was no point in having three separate tax districts anymore. 

“The tax zones were put in place because at one point there were three different water companies [in the area] who had their own tax rates,” Glass said. “That stopped with the Suffolk Water Authority — this helps streamline a lot of things.”

For Shoreham, being a part of the fire district could allow the village budget to decrease as they are not using funds for fire/emergency services. 

A representative from the village could not be reached for comment.

In addition, bringing the village into the fold would allow Shoreham residents to run for positions like fire commissioner. 

The Town will hold a public hearing for the fire district extension Feb. 27. 

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File photo

Police said a woman was hit and killed Sunday night in Shoreham after she allegedly was crossing over Route 25A.

Suffolk County Police said in a statement a yet-to-be-named adult female was crossing westbound in front of the Rocky Point Fire Department at 49 Route 25A, Jan. 12, when she was struck by a 2018 Hyundai SUV at around 6:10 p.m. The woman was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where she died from her injuries.

The driver of the Hyundai, Paula Avent, 36, of Rocky Point, was alone in her vehicle and not injured.

The event is under investigation why the woman was crossing the road. The Hyundai was impounded for a safety check.

This story will be updated when the name of the woman is released.

Rob Bentivegna, center, helped build the Rocky Point EMS building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Rob Bentivegna, a former firefighter and general handyman for Rocky Point Fire District often goes unnoticed. 

Usually a cheerful and magnanimous guy, Bentivegna allows other people to sit in the limelight, but firefighters, according to fire district and department officials, would be at a huge loss if it weren’t for their go-to maintenance man. 

Rocky Point’s Rob Bentivegna was the driving force in reconstructing a historic building. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He’s got a work ethic you don’t see in a lot of people anymore — it’s something to see,” said RPFD fire commissioner Kirk Johnson. “Anything he does do, he doesn’t do the minimum. If there’s a job out there, Rob takes care of it, he’s right on top of everything.”

Bentivegna, a Shoreham resident, has gone far beyond the scope of what his job entails. When RPFD bought a section of property at the corner Hallock Landing and Rocky Point Landing roads, Bentivegna rolled up his sleeves to help reconfigure a new EMS vehicle garage out of what were two rundown buildings. Many thought the buildings were beyond repair. 

Bentivegna also set himself apart on another project: Repairing and revitalizing the old Parish Resource Center, a historical building that has been neglected for years. 

To hear the maintenance man speak of the building, one would think he designed and built it himself back when it was originally constructed in 1849. Bentivegna kept an eye on the details of everything from the molding in the building’s interior, to the hand-blown glass windows, which he stressed needed to remain intact. He built shutters, based off of old pictures, by hand. The constantly flooded basement was reconfigured into a space where volunteers could wash their equipment after a job, and the maintenance man has plans to turn it into a training space. What had once been derelict has been transformed into a useful community center. 

It was two years worth of work, and much of the effort he completed on his own time. 

Tony Gallino, chairman of the board of fire commissioners, said Rob goes far above and beyond, noting that he has saved the district and the taxpayers thousands of dollars by doing work they would otherwise have to contract out. Bentivegna is a perfectionist, he said, who will do anything for the department and its volunteer members. 

When the fire department company 2 needed to move out of their space into a neighboring yard during construction, Bentivegna was instrumental in getting the new space on Prince Road ready to receive all the department’s equipment, trucks and personnel. He even went in to collect pictures and other items at the company 2 house to make sure they were preserved, Gallino said.

Rob Bentivegna points to the windows that had been reinstalled in the old Lecture Room’s interior. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He doesn’t miss a day’s work, and he comes in on his own time, doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas day,” the board chairman said. 

Kristen D’Andrea, a Shoreham resident and spokesperson for Brookhaven town highways superintendent, said Bentivegna offers help to anybody who needs it. He had come by her house to offer landscaping support.

“We had a groundhog in our front yard we couldn’t get rid of,” she said. “He came over, set a trap and removed it. He wouldn’t take money. … He’s just a genuinely good guy.”

Bentivegna had been a contractor for more than 30 years and had joined the fire department as a volunteer around 15 years ago. Unfortunately, life had thrown him a curve ball. What coworkers and friends called an “illness” had left the Rocky Point volunteer in large amounts of pain. Johnson said the longtime firefighter was “crushed” to have to step down from active duty, but even as a paid employee he said the man cannot stop giving his time to make sure things are done well. The Shoreham 9/11 responders memorial had taken years of planning, but Bentivegna’s expertise in contracting and landscaping lent itself toward constructing both the wall of names and the fountain in the center of the grounds.

“For those few who know what he’s going through, actually being able to work and do what he gets to do every day gets him through it,” Johnson said.

Adam DeLumen, chief of Rocky Point Fire Department, has known Bentivegna for around 15 years. He said that Bentivegna has also renovated each company’s back rooms and created a training room at the Shoreham firehouse. He even helped with renovations to DeLumen’s own house several times. 

“Most people don’t know what they have with Rob,” DeLumen said. “He’s just one of those guys, he’ll do anything for anybody.”