Southampton Town Police Chief Defends Dispatchers

Mark Balserus, Chuck Broadmeadow and Tim Sieger are sworn-in as newly-elected Bridgehampton Fire Department chiefs inside the meeting room during a Bridgehampton Fire Commissioners meeting to determine the outcome of a recent election of new chiefs on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. Michael Heller photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

Representatives of the Southampton Village Police Department, which provides dispatching services for the Bridgehampton Fire Department, on January 10 attempted to answer fire commissioners’ concerns about what they said were slow dispatch times.

Commissioner chairman Bruce Dombkowski said sometimes the fire department was not being notified in a timely manner for car accidents and other emergencies. “We had a rollover on Head of Pond Road,” he said. “They called the police first, but we never got called until about a half hour after.”

“The problem is town police are not giving us the calls. That’s where your problem is,” replied dispatcher Brian LaMonica of the village police department. “We are having a big problem with them. Still to this day they will not transfer calls to us.” Mr. LaMonica, who was accompanied by Chief Thomas Cummings and Lieutenant Christopher Wetter, in an email this week directed inquiries to the Bridgehampton commissioners’ office. Mr. Dombkowski could not be reached for comment by this paper’s deadline.

Because it does not have its own dispatch center, the fire district contracts with Southampton Village to provide those services, but 911 calls are directed first to town police dispatchers, who relay the information to village dispatchers who, in turn, notify the fire department.

Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki this week insisted that his department’s dispatchers are handling calls correctly and notifying the fire department in a timely manner when it is needed.

“If we receive an incoming call regarding an auto accident, we are going to always ask if there is property damage, injuries, threat of fire or any hazardous materials leaking,” he said. If the answer is no, the department will first dispatch a police officer. If there is an injury or other hazard, the town will notify Southampton Village dispatchers to call the fire department, he said.

If someone called with a medical emergency or to report a fire after taking the initial information, “the dispatcher just clicks on a button” that immediately connects them to the village dispatch center and allows them to notify the fire department immediately, he said.

Chief Skrynecki said it was possible that a call could be mishandled, but said he had no reason to believe Bridgehampton was not being well served.

“I think it is based more on ‘we’d like to know about every call’ than on a real ball being dropped,” he said of the complaints. “I’m unaware of any situation when fire apparatus should have been immediately dispatched and it wasn’t,” he said.

He praised the quality of the town’s dispatching staff, noting that besides town police calls, it also handles some or all of the dispatching for the Quogue and Westhampton Beach village police departments, the New York State Police and a number of fire departments, including East Quogue, Hampton Bays and North Sea in addition to Bridgehampton.

“We very much welcome and enjoy the assistance of the fire departments and we certainly want to maintain a good relationship with them,” he said.

Department Elections Approved

Also on January 10, the fire commissioners voted unanimously to approve the election of Chief Tim Sieger, First Assistant Chief Chuck Broadmeadow and Second Assistant Chief Mark Balserus.

Before casting their vote, the commissioners, who have the authority under state law to not approve election results, held a brief executive session to discuss the qualifications of the candidates.

Before approving Mr. Sieger as chief, the board issued a waiver from the requirement that he be certified as an interior firefighter. On Monday, Mr. Sieger said that he needs to undergo a brief physical exam to test his lung capacity before he will be recertified. The commissioners also ordered Mr. Broadmeadow to complete a 16-week interior firefighting course and a shorter Homeland Security course within the year. Mr. Balserus had met all the requirements.

The election outcome had been cast in doubt when the commissioners, complaining that department members had not followed proper procedures, threw out the results of a December election in which department members elected Mr. Sieger, Mr. Broadmeadow and Mr. Balserus and called for a second vote on January 8. Some department members charged the commissioners were trying to influence the outcome by ordering rule changes and hastily calling a second vote, but district officials insist they were simply trying to improve a flawed system.