GovernmentThe White Plains Examiner

Common Council Presented with Requests to Fund Capital Projects

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Requested funds to aid capital projects in the White Plains Department of Public Works (DPW) and a one-year renewal of the city’s current contract with Empress Ambulance Service were discussed at the Common Council special meeting/work session on June 27.

DPW Commissioner Stefania Mignone detailed the three capital projects, which include installing new control boards, card reader servers and software and cameras for the security of the Department of Public Safety building and all firehouses; purchasing new heavy-duty vehicles and equipment; and annual maintenance of the city’s municipal garages.

Among the new vehicles are a fire pumper, rescue vehicle, sewer jet truck, Zamboni for the ice rink, street paver and a bucket truck for forestry. 

The rescue vehicle, which will mainly be used by the police, will feature a rescue hatch in the undercarriage and be equipped with medical benches that stretches can be locked into.

Mayor Tom Roach noted that the new rescue vehicle will replace an armored truck the city currently has in its fleet. 

“This is a much heavier version of that,” Roach explained. “Because I know that we’re all concerned about the militarization of the police, this has no offensive weapons on it.”

“If officers are inside, they could, if necessary, be able to fire out of it, but [the vehicle] itself does not have a water cannon or a gun on it,” Roach added. “If we had an active shooter, it’s a way to move people safely — either officers to get into the building where it’s happening or to rescue people without putting [them] at risk. It’s unfortunate that we have to have this type of equipment, but this is America today.”

When discussing the requested purchase of new vehicles, Councilwoman Jennifer Puja asked Mignone whether supply chain issues will impact the ability of the city to acquire them. 

“Are these already secured once it’s approved, or are these things that still have to be shopped for, looked for, and tried to get?” Puja asked. 

Mignone said once the vehicles are approved, they need to be specked and ordered.

“The supply chain has been a real issue and things have been delayed,” Mignone said, noting that some vehicles ordered last year have not yet been manufactured. “Now there are some surcharges that are going into [purchasing new vehicles], which we weren’t expecting.”

If the purchases are approved and there are surcharges, Mignone said they will work with the vendors as best as they can to try to get prices down to where the target budget is.

Police Chief Joseph Castelli requested that the city’s current contract with Empress Ambulance Service be extended by one year. 

“We’re at the end of a three-year contract, and it does call for an option of extending by a year twice — one year at a time,” Castelli said. “Empress has been a valuable partner. We think they do an exceptional job.”

On average, the city gets 7,500 calls a year. Castelli said that, although their response time per the current contract must be under eight minutes and 59 seconds, their average response time is often under five minutes. 

Previously, White Plains had three Empress-contracted ambulances before adding a fourth to handle the projected busy periods five days a week.

“We are going to take a look at that again to see if those five days are still the right five days,” Castelli said. “That way, next year when this comes up again, if we have any adjustments or tweaks, we can talk about those.”

Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson asked if, in an emergency situation, such as an active school shooter, Empress would be able to sufficiently man a high-volume call. 

Castelli highlighted that should White Plains have a situation where all four Empress-manned ambulances are overwhelmed and additional ones are needed, there is a mutual aid process in Westchester.

“In circumstances like that, 60 control, the country dispatch for fire/EMS, would be activated, a mutual aid plan would be put in place and ambulances and other resources would be coming in,” Castelli said, adding that the police department also trains its officers on various types of mass casualty events. “Within our own department, as well as county-wide, we have the training in place.” 

Common Council members will decide whether to approve these items at the regularly slated meeting on July 5. 

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