Representatives of Manorville Fire District, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Riverhead fire marshal's office and Wading River Fire District meet with the Town Board to discuss emergency response to the EPCAL site. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Hoping to make sure first responder agencies have a coordinated response to any emergencies at the recreational facilities in and near Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton, Council Member Ken Rothwell set up a meeting with involved agencies during last week’s Town Board work session.

Rothwell, who serves as the Town Board liaison to the agencies, said he set up the meeting because of new development and uses in the area over the past several months. 

“Over the past few months,” he said, “Island Water Park, now known as Scott’s Pointe, opened up for business… Then next door, we have our ice rink as well. And so we have two major gathering points where I think we’re going to find a lot of population gathering, especially as we go into the summer months,” Rothwell said.

“There’s been a slight confusion of who’s responding and who’s ultimately responsible for those calls,” he said.  

“This doesn’t have to be a discussion to say where we want to change our district lines,” Rothwell said.“Maybe it could be by means of an inter-municipal agreement.  We just want to know that if there is a choking victim in a restaurant, say Scott’s Pointe, if somebody gets hit in the head with a puck at our ice rink, we just want to have a game in place to specifically know whose responsibility and who’s going to be responding to the scene.”

“And so we have two major gathering points where I think we’re going to find a lot of population gathering, especially as we go into the summer months,” Council Member Ken Rothwell said. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The area of the municipal park and the adjoining industrial park are within the boundaries of three different emergency services districts. Nearly the entire enterprise park site lies within the Manorville Fire District, which is responsible for fire services. For purposes of emergency medical services, the area is split between two districts:  Wading River Fire District and Riverhead Town Ambulance District. In the Wading River Fire District emergency medical services are provided by Wading River Fire Department Rescue. In the Riverhead Town Ambulance District, EMS services are provided by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a nonprofit entity in contract with the district to provide emergency medical services.

Middle Country Road (NY Route 25) and 500 feet south of the road are in the Wading River Fire District, Rothwell said. 

The rest of the enterprise park, including Veterans Memorial Park — the site of the ice rink — and Scott’s Pointe, are within the Riverhead Town Ambulance District. 

A potential added complication is that the Wading River and Manorville fire departments are dispatched by Suffolk County Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services, which handles public safety dispatch for the Suffolk County Police District. Riverhead Town is not in the county police district and maintains its own police department. Riverhead Police Department dispatches ambulances in the Riverhead Town Ambulance District. 

Rothwell said Suffolk FRES has dispatched Wading River Rescue to the ice rink and it has also dispatched Manorville to the rink. 

“Wading River is two traffic lights away and RVAC is 13 traffic lights away. And I think that would be clearly a significant difference in response times,” Rothwell said.

“So we just really wanted to have a discussion about how we can set up protocols” for emergency medical response to these new recreational facilities to ensure the fastest response times, Rothwell said. 

Manorville Fire District Commissioner Kenneth McLean said facilities with pools — or in the case of Scott’s Pointe, a man-made lake built for recreation — have to have their own lifeguards on duty. McLean said school districts hosting sporting events have to have their own EMS present for events. He questioned whether that would be any different in the Town of Riverhead for town properties.

Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps Director Rod Richardson, left, Vice President Joseph Oliver, Chief James Alfano, President Garret Lake and Riverhead Ambulance District Manager Patrick Gugliotta at the Jan. 25 Town Board work session. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Garret Lake said the corps answered about 5,100 calls in 2023. Lake said after a phone call with Rothwell the night before the work session, he checked RVAC’s records for response times to the area in question.

“Both of them, I believe, both of them were broken bones. And our response time was seven minutes on one and was nine minutes on the other,” Lake said. “To me that is well within our response time for any agency.”

Lake said RVAC has a new contract with Stony Brook University Hospital for first responder assistance. “They now provide us an additional ambulance from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and an additional paramedic flight car from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” he said. RVAC is adjusting its schedules so that it has a 24-hour paramedic on all the time, Lake said. “I just don’t see how anybody would be faster than us, having the capability of putting four ambulances on the road 24 hours a day at this point.”

RVAC had been told by the town that when additional development took place at the Calverton Enterprise Park, the town would build an ambulance facility on a few town-owned acres that have been set aside for that purpose. 

The town should do what it can do to improve accessibility to this location before it thinks about changing district lines, he said.

“There’s a lot of commercial activity going on there 24 hours a day,” Lake said. “We had no idea that the skate rink was open 24 hours. I found that out yesterday,” he said. 

In an interview after the meeting, Rothwell said the ice rink is not operating 24 hours, but it might eventually do so. Currently it is scheduling skate time after midnight and early in the morning on some days, he said.

“So there’s a lot going on there that none of us really knew about,” Lake said. 

McLean, the Manorville Fire District commissioner said he agreed with Lake.

“I would have expected the plans prior to building,” McLean said. “So the water park was built — and surprise, you have a  water park there. The skate rink was built — and, surprise, you have a skate rink built,” he said. “I have no idea the chemicals they’re using, how they’re chilling the ice, any of that.  It’s been in place for a while — same as the water park. We first saw it on [the] soft opening,” McLean said. 

The fire district should receive plans at the front end of the process, McLean said.  

“A lot of things have gone on up there that haven’t benefited us. We haven’t been involved in the process. So that’s mostly why my cohorts and I are here,” he said, referring to other Manorville Fire District commissioners and members of the Manorville Fire Department seated in the audience. “Just to make sure that you understand that we’re here. We have expectations. We’re glad we finally get to sit with you all,” he said.

“We had noticed a lot of things going on that we had no idea what’s happening up there,” McLean said. “We’ve been responsible for that region for about 75 years, you know, So please don’t forget we’re here prior to all this.”

Renewing his pitch for improved access to and through the town-owned enterprise park property, Lake said he wanted to bring it to the attention of the Town Board’s attention that the Riverhead Ambulance District extends south “from the back of [the EPCAL site] all the way to the Long Island Expressway.” 

Changing the lines to put Scott’s Pointe or Peconic Hockey Rink in the Wading River Fire District for EMS isn’t going to help the taxpayer citizens that wait for an ambulance because there’s no other road, Lake said. 

“Now, I don’t know if you know this,” he said. “We have to go to exit 69 on the expressway to cover the other part of our district.” That’s a 13-minute drive. “So this is a bigger issue than just these two specific locations, you know.”

Rothwell said in response that he wanted to “focus on the lake” at Scott’s Pointe because “you’re going to have hundreds of people… on a daily basis at Scott’s Pointe and I want to know who’s going to get there the fastest.”

Riverhead Ambulance District Manager Patrick Gugliotta responded that Scott’s Pointe will have to have medical personnel on site. “If they’re going to have that many people there, they clearly have to have a plan in place. And then we’re going to be an emergency backup. When they have an issue, they’re going to call us and we’re going to take the people to the hospital,” Gugliotta said.  “Otherwise, just like Splish-Splash has, they have a whole first-aid station there for all the people they have. So I would imagine this place has a contingency for caring for their own customers,” he said.

“And we need to make sure that’s in place,” Rothwell said. 

RVAC Chief James Alfano said he’s been to Scott’s Pointe twice on calls and both times, there were two EMTs employed by the facilities, treating patients before the ambulance arrived.

Lake said RVAC is capable of handling multiple calls at once. “We can staff four calls at a time,” he said. 

“We get the call immediately” from the Riverhead Police dispatcher.  Wading River, dispatched by FRES, is not going to be dispatched as quickly, he said.

Lake reiterated that RVAC is more concerned about getting to “the center of EPCAL” than these two locations, because of access issues. 

Riverhead Fire Marshal Craig Zitek, left, and Wading River Fire District commissioners Kevin McQueeney and Greg Meyer. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Wading River Fire District Commissioner Greg Meyer said Wading River Fire Department Rescue is capable of responding to both Scott’s Pointe and the hockey rink. “We have the population to support the volunteers and we have paid staff,” he said. The department has two ambulances and is getting ready to buy a third, he said. There is a medic on duty 24 hours, with two medics on duty from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Wading River’s response time to that area is four minutes, Meyer said. 

Wading River responded to “just under 1,400 calls” last year, Meyer said. 

He said it “really makes sense” for Wading River to be the EMS agency responsible for Scotts Pointe and the hockey rink, because both locations are right of Route 25.

Meyer pointed out that Calverton Meadows East is split between Wading River Fire District and Riverhead Fire District/Riverhead Ambulance District, and, as with the north end of EPCAL, the only access is through the Wading River Fire District.

“That’s all because these lines were drawn prior to any development,” Rothwell said. 

Lake said RVAC is not prepared to discuss moving district lines right now. He suggested RVAC and Wading River enter into a mutual aid agreement. 

McLean said the agencies all have mutual aid agreements already, “so that shouldn’t be an issue.”

Riverhead Fire Marshal Craig Zitek said the two agencies could enter into an automatic mutual aid agreement. “Whoever gets there first can either cancel or they can work together and then, you know, decide who’s transporting and so on,” Zitek said. “Patient care comes first. And then as time goes on, you can work out the bigger question of whether we need to shift district lines or not,” he said. 

Wading River and RVAC representatives agreed. “That could be done tomorrow,” Lake said. “It’s not difficult.”

The Manorville commissioner returned to his earlier complaint about the district not being provided with plans for the project prior to construction. 

“We are supposed to be afforded the opportunity to review the plans, have our expert make some recommendations,” McLean said.

“With all due respect,” Rothwell replied, “your chief has been on scene and—” 

“I know that,” McLean said. “But that’s backwards. We’re supposed to — they will have to pay our expert to review them. So, you know, we’re supposed to know what’s happening in the lead up and decide what is the best course,” he said. “So just please be reminded we’re involved.”

Manorville Commissioner Jason Naurek joined the discussion to support McLean and called for continued better communication between the town and Manorville Fire District.

“That’s on us. We will correct that immediately,” Hubbard said. “We will make sure that anything that involves any agency” is provided to the agency.

“At the end of the day, the biggest key is safety,” Naurek said. “We don’t want our members to go in and attack a fire and we don’t know what the structure is. When someone goes and gets hurt because at the end of the day, who’s responsible? Who’s liable? It’s going to be Riverhead,” he said.

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