Conte Opposes Bellone’s Plan For Takeover of Fire Academy
Robert Conte, candidate for the Suffolk County Legislature for the 18th District, announced today that he opposes Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s plan to cancel a $2-million annual contract with the Vocational Extension and Education Board (VEEB). VEEB operates the county’s fire academy in Yaphank, gives instruction and conducts field training for volunteer firefighters. After speaking with several officials in the volunteer fire departments that serve Huntington, Conte says that the majority oppose the switch to a county run program and want to continue to have their members trained by Fire Academy Instructors under the VEEB.
“The plan to have Suffolk County provide the services directly, through the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services (FRES), fails to give proper weight to the experience of the non-profit group that, for the past 70 years, has successfully trained the brave volunteer men and women who protect our citizens and their property daily,” stated Conte. VEEB is overseen by a board composed of nine members of the fire service. Conte continued, “Indeed, it would be bad policy to replace a well respected successful program which has always, as its primary goal, ensured that these volunteers are prepared when duty calls on them to run into a burning building.”
Conte further states that the County should stop justifying this grab for control with false statistics and claims of cost savings. Estimates that this move will save the county $200,000 do not take into account a potential loss of funds from the State Education Department. Statements by the County that the number of classes offered has been reduced over the last several years are misleading. It has been stated by those who run the Fire Academy that the number of classes offered by the Academy has been affected by reduction in State and County funding as well as cancellations due to Superstorm Sandy.
The safety of the 11,000 firefighters in Suffolk County must be the paramount concern in making this determination. Our firefighters have been trained by the Suffolk Fire Academy for decades and the programs and instructors there are sought after by other areas’ departments. Manufactured reasons are not reasons enough to change a system that has served us well.