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Three Candidates Face Off For Seat on Fire Board

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Three candidates are running for one open seat on the Eastchester Board of Fire Commissioners.

Incumbent Keith Fennelly is facing a challenge from one candidate who is a longtime town resident and another candidate who has spent the last three years attending all of the board's meetings.

Fennelly and opponents David Levy and Jerry Napolitano will appear on the ballot in the race for one seat in an election to be held on Dec. 13 from 2 p.m. to 9 pm.

Fennelly, 62, has served a single five- year term on the board. But he is spent all of his career, 30 years, as a professional firefighter.

“Being on the board, is my way of giving back to the community,” Fennelly said. “It’s a way for me to share my professional expertise in my hometown.”

Fennelly was a member of the Eastchester Fire Department as a paid firefighter for 30 years and served as chief from 1997 to 2004. He has also served as a fire inspector and an arson investigator over the course of his career citing a long list of professional associations, which include a seat on the New York State Task Force to rewrite the fire code, a stint as president of the New York State Fire Marshalls and Inspectors Association, and membership in the Westchester County Fire Advisory Board.

“I have an extensive amount of experience in fire department services, and operations, putting together a budget, negotiating contracts and keeping up with equipment,” Fennelly said.  “But with all of that, we have to keep the budget in line and try not to raise taxes.”

Fennelly agrees that the town’s five firehouses need extensive renovations and said he is running again to see the completion of projects that have been ongoing since he was elected to his first term.

Fennelly said he would like to take on the challenge of bringing more consensus to the board, which can be seen at meetings arguing and disagreeing.

“I know we can work together to get things done, if we all agree to be on the same page,” he said.

The first thing Jerry Napolitano said, if elected to the board of fire commissioners, his first order of business would be to put a spotlight on the board.

“Last year, only 675 voters came out to vote in the election for the board of fire commissioners out of a possible 20,000 voters in the community,” Napolitano said. “I hope to bring more awareness about the board and what it does to the community.”

Napolitano, 46, moved to town about four years ago. He works as a solutions architect in Motorola’s government and enterprise division and dealt with emergency services and public safety issues in his position there, including during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

He started attending fire commissioner board meetings three years ago when he took on the task on behalf of the Green Knolls/Greenvale Community Association.

Napolitano said he strongly supports the creation of a website for the five-member volunteer board, who are all unpaid.

“Right now the commissioners only use their personal email addresses to conduct fire board business and the budget is not easy to access,” Napolitano said.

Napolitano said he thinks there are ways the board can save some money and reduce spending.

“At the Chester Heights Firehouse, the old boiler uses 30 gallons of oil per day just to keep the heat going,” Napolitano said. “I would certainly look into getting better prices, these are tough times and we should try to get new contracts with every service provider in the district.”

Napolitano also said the district needs to jumpstart much needed fire renovation projects and find ways to involve the public. “I think there’s a lot of ways to communicate better to the public what the fire board is doing,” he said.

Longtime Eastchester resident David Levy, 52, is a union iron worker who has been involved in fire safety and prevention as part of his day job.

As someone in the construction industry, Levy said one of his first orders of business would be to oversee and create a better plan to repair the crumbling firehouses.

“Putting only a floor in the firehouse in the north-end should have been planned better,” Levy said. The building needs a complete renovation and the board should have made that investment and done the job properly.”

Levy said he would encourage the board to hire a project manager to oversee repairs to all of the firehouses in need.

“Right now, the architect is overseeing renovations and that should not be,” Levy said. “With all of the money we are investing in this, these projects need the attention of a project manager.”

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