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Fire Commissioner Candidates Debate in Bronxville

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Two of the three candidates running for a seat on the Eastchester Board of Fire Commissioners participated in a debate Tuesday night at the Bronxville Library and said they would try to cut costs.

The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and put a spotlight on candidates Jerry Napolitano and David Levy, who are challenging incumbent Keith Fennelly who was not in attendance. The election is Tuesday and polls will be open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Eastchester Board of Fire Commissioners is a five-member, unpaid board that overseas five fire houses and approximately 80 firefighters. Last month the board adopted a $14.9 million budget that will raise taxes by approximately 4 percent throughout the Town of Eastchester, including the villages of Tuckahoe and Bronxville.

The spending plan is estimated to increase taxes by $135 per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average homeowner in Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe whose home is assessed at $10,000 the increase could mean an additional $1,500 per year in taxes.

Members of the Fire Commission serve for five years, and one seat on the board is up for grabs each year.

Fennelly is running for his second five-year term. He was a Eastchester firefighter for 35 years and served as Chief. He is also a fire inspector who has ensured homes and buildings met fire codes but has also acted as a dectective in arson cases.

Fennelly, 62, said that he would like to continue on with the Board of Commissioners projects to refurbish the five crumbling buildings under their care.

David Levy, 51, is a long-time resident who has run for other seats within the town, the most recent was a seat of the Eastchester Board of Education.

A professional iron-worker, Levy faced off against Jerry Napolitano at the debate. Napolitano, 46, has lived in Eastchester for about 4 years, but has attended just about every meeting of the fire commissioners for the last three years.

When asked how the candidates would try to keep costs down for taxpayers, Levy said he would use his skills to negotiate with everyone from firefighters to vendors in an effort to reduce costs.

""These are tough times," Levy said. "I would negotiate with every provider. Some will be willing to give a little more to keep a customer.

Napolitano said that he would make the major repairs needed by almost all of the firehouses more efficient and cost effective.

"The Chester Heights fire house uses 30 gallons of oil a day to heat the firehouse," Napolitano said. "There are many ways to save if we begin to examine our infrasture,"

Napolitano agreed with a question by Tom Andrus, who said the current board of fire commissioners has a reputation for being secretive.

"I don't think they have the correct stuff in place like a website or even public email addresses," Napolitano said. "A website is the first thing I would do to post things like meeting times and dates and the budget."

Andrus also asked the candidates if they would be willing to change the date of the election.

Napolitano said that he thinks moving the fire district election to the November election would be best.

"We only had 675 voters come out for the fire commissioner election last year out of 20,000 residents," Napolitano said,

Levy agreed. "I am all in favor of having just one day a year to vote for everything," Levy said. "We need to make things simple for the American people."

As for the ongoing reconstruction projects at the fire houses, Levy said he would go back to the drawing board to see where the project at Wilmot Road fire house went wrong.

Napolitano said that the project should be overseen by a project manager, who would make sure the project gets done properly and in a timely manner.

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