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Westchester Proposes Merging Emergency Services and Public Safety Depts
With Westchester facing a 130 million dollar budget deficit in the next fiscal year, County Executive Rob Astorino is proposing consolidating the County's Public Safety and Emergency Services Departments, a move he says will save Westchester $3 million over the next three years.
Astorino has asked the County attorney to prepare legislation to be submitted to the Board of Legislators to implement the plan. If approved, the resulting merger would be put into place on January 1, the start of the new budget year.
Astorino said, "Working closely together, Commissioners George Longworth of Public Safety and Anthony Sutton of Emergency Services have put their years of professional experience into building a new organization that increases efficiency, lowers costs and positions Westchester County to meet the public safety challenges it faces today and in the years to come."
The County Executive added, "In today's world, where an emergency is just as likely to be caused by a terrorist act as a natural disaster, it is more imporant than ever for our police and emergency services teams to be fully coordinated at every stage from planning to response."
The idea is being applauded by several Democratic County Legislators including Board Chariman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). Said Jenkins, "We are a growing and changing community and we can't afford to continue to operate with all of these overlapping services. I don't think there is anything as important for our future as the consolidation of government services and, ultimately, the consolidation of government itself."
The sentiment was echoed by Legislator Martin Rogowski(D-Harrison) who chairs the Committee on Public Safety, who said, "Mergers of this kind have been done successfully in other jurisdictions, so we look forward to seeing more details from the Administration on this proposal.
Under the proposed plan, the Department of Emergency Services would be folded into the Department of Public Safety with Longworth as its Commissioner. The new department would have three divisions, each headed by a deputy commissioner: emergency services to be headed by Sutton, fire services to be headed by John Cullen, who is now a deputy commissioner for DES,and police services to be headed by Joseph Yasinski, who currently serves as deputy commissioner for DPS.
The Department of Public Safety was created in 1979 through the merger of the then-county Parkway Police and the county's Sherrif Department. Initially it handled disaster and emergency services. In 1997, the county created the Department of Fire Safety Services and two years later, it was added to the newly created Department of Emergency Services.
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