Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

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VOL Fire Chief Retiring; Career & Volunteer Staff to Share Leadership

Larchmont Fire Chief Richard Heine announced this week that he will be retiring after 20 years as a career firefighter in Larchmont. He will be leaving sometime after April 30, the date announced at the February 22 Larchmont Village Board meeting.

(Updated, Feburary 26, 2010) Chief Heine’s retirement at age 44 comes three years after his controversial appointment as chief, a position held for decades by a volunteer firefighter. The hiring of a paid chief led to two legal challenges and resignations by large numbers of active volunteer firefighters. (Larchmont Appoints Paid Fire Chief; Many Volunteers Resign.)

Larchmont Trustee Josh Mandell, currently the fire commissioner and the only candidate for mayor in the March 16 elections, said leadership of the department will be split between a career and volunteer officer after the chief retires, at least for the short term.

Captain John Caparelli, promoted last October, will oversee the career staff, while also serving as a daytime shift commander.Second Deputy Chief Sam Orans, installed this January after rejoining the department, will supervise the volunteers and preside over the fire council, the department’s governing body comprised of members elected by the four volunteer companies.

According to Mr. Heine, the board has asked that he stay on past April 30 to help with the transition.

“Chief Heine came into office at a very momentous time and has shepherded the department and the community through some difficult times,” said Mayor Liz Feld. “We are very grateful to him for his service.”

“Rich is the only chief I have known,” said Trustee Josh Mandell, who is also a volunteer firefighter. “He took charge of the department and moved it in a new direction.  He did all this without as much help as he would have liked.  But we are very lucky to have him as chief.”

Another recent volunteer, John Ponponio, praised the chief at the board meeting.   “I’ve had a wonderful experience working with Chief Heine these past few years.  He did a great job rebuilding the ranks of the volunteers. The volunteers and career people work together and train together.  l can’t say enough good things about how this man has gotten things back on track.”

What Comes Next?

“We are happy that he gave us some notice – that’s helpful,” said Mr. Mandell.  Going forward, “All options are on the table.”

Does that include a return to a volunteer chief? Mr. Mandell said, “I don’t want to take any option off the table.”

It is clear, however, that without a return of more experienced volunteers, it would be difficult to fill the chief’s position for very long.

And how about a possible consolidation with the Town of Mamaroneck’s fire department? Mr. Mandell is a member of a tri-municipal task force which is soon expected to issue a report on shared services. But he was not willing to speculate at this point.

“Potential consolidation with the Town of Mamaroneck – or any other municipality – is a much bigger issue and the decision relating to this issue should not be based on the retirement of one individual in the fire department, “ he said.

What’s Next for Chief Heine?

Since last October, Chief Heine had been on leave for extended periods, fueling speculation that he was using accumulated vacation and personal days in anticipation of retiring as soon as he was eligible this year. Larchmont Village has been reducing the amount of leave employees may “bank” so as to reduce large cash payments for unused days when an employee retires. (Westchester ‘s new county executive, Rob Astorino, proposed similar limits after having to pay around $700,000 in  sick pay for exiting employees, most of them part of the outgoing Spano administration.)

Firefighters may retire after 20 years of service. Retirement pay is 50% of the average salary for the last five years, said the chief. He plans to pursue a degree in public  health and public safety and then continue a career in public service – perhaps in another fire department.

Outgoing Larchmont Fire Chief Richard Heine is also in the Navy Reserves.

Larchmont Fire Chief Richard Heine is also in the Navy Reserves.

He will also continue his military service with the Navy Reserves. Stepping down as chief, a position typically exempt from a call to active duty, increases the chance he could be assigned overseas. He served in both Kuwait and Iraq before becoming chief. (See:  Rich Heine Returning From Iraq Heine Returns from Iraq.)

Looking Back – Looking Forward

Asked about his accomplishments, Chief Heine said, “with a lot of help,” he has been able to rebuild the volunteer ranks and “really get both the career and volunteer staff working together.” There are currently 15-20 active volunteers (with another 15-20 on the rolls) and 15 career firefighters. The chief also cited “better accountability” for equipment as an achievement.

“The fires we’ve had have been extinguished with a minimal loss of property,” he said. “I know the department will be in good hands.”

Deputy Chief Orans agreed that the fire department is improving. They are “way better than after Rich took office,” he said. “There’s a new enthusiastic bunch who have stepped up and are trying to fill the gap,” left by the resignation of many experienced volunteers.

Mr. Orans was among the long-term volunteers who left the department. Now , he said, “Captain Caparelli and myself have been working really well together since I was sworn in.”

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11 comments to VOL Fire Chief Retiring; Career & Volunteer Staff to Share Leadership

  • Lafayette

    Is this the opportunity to restructure and consolidate fire departments? It sounds like Chief Heine did a fine job. We wish him well. Our property taxes are crippling and less and less affordable in this economic environment. The fire department is serving too small an area to be cost effective. Isn’t it finally time to merge with Mamaroneck’s fire department and provide much needed tax relief? Josh Mandell, this is your opportunity to show leadership!

    • Ned Benton

      I commend Josh Mandell for his open mind about how to proceed about the Fire Department.

      Since April 2007, Larchmont has spent almost $500,000 on the salaries and benefits of a paid fire chief, a position that is filled by volunteers in the Town of Mamaroneck and the Village of Mamaroneck Fire Departments. These volunteer chiefs carry out their responsibilities with professionalism and competence. There is little evidence that Larchmont Village’s additional spending has produced benefits worth $500,000.

      I offer three examples.

      1) Even though we have hired additional paid firefighters, Village financial records indicate that this year LFD has already overspent our $110,000 overtime budget by $19,000 and it’s only February. At the current rate, overspending will reach almost $70,000 by the end of the fiscal year. (This observation is based on a general ledger inquiry report provided to me by the Village last week.)

      2) Volunteer firefighting strength has declined from 28 fully-qualified volunteers responding to 15% of alarms or more before the paid chief, to 14 volunteers with 15% attendance during the most recent reporting year, including members not qualified for interior firefighting such as teenage explorer club members. The average response per alarm has declined from more than 10 to less than 5 volunteers. (Both observations are based on LFD attendance and alarm response records.)

      3) The current property tax assessment rate for fire protection services for taxpayers in Larchmont Village is twice what TMFD taxpayers are assessed. (More information is available about the rate differences at )

      Consolidation would save tax dollars, improve services and response times, and resolve the absurd and unnecessary risks associated with TMFD driving through Larchmont Village to respond to alarms in the unincorporated area on the other side of the village.

      There may be different ideas about how to proceed in the short run, but sometime during the next 2, 5 or 10 years, Larchmont Village must consolidate fire protection into the Town Fire District. This year would be a good time for the Town and Village to start taking steps toward consolidation of fire protection services under the TMFD.

  • Michael Williams

    Thing have changed with the new leadership. A lot of it was great & some was not. I was a volunteer for just over 8 years & resigned on account of a dispute with one of the career staff. I gave 110% of my self in the 8 years I was there – leaving my family for up to 24 hours or more. I have no regrets in giving my all to the department but when I left it was in a heated battle between my self & one of the career staff. I may be to blame for letting it get that way but after I cooled down I had asked to come back & I was denied to come back by fire commissioner Mandell on a stipulation that i am not a Larchmont resident and after all I did for the department I felt it was a big slap in my face. So now insulted that I don’t even want to go in to visit all my friends in the department, being the career staff & the volunteers

  • back to the future

    Sharing leadership would have been a good idea at the time of the rushed appointment of Lt Heine, but it would not have shielded him from an additional heroic tour of duty in Iraq. Now, with a few more years of pension rights, Lt Heine can retire, go to college on a vet’s tuition grant, and take another job in public service to round off his pension. Assuming there is no recall to heroic tour of duties AND enough money in the pension fund, that is.

  • All for Consolidation

    What can the community do to bring about the long overdue consolidation of the services of the Town and the Village….not just fire, but police, recreation, and sanitation services? I haven’t seen that on any ballot? Why can’t we vote for consolidation??? All of these fiefdoms need to end. The taxpayers of the towns and villages can no longer afford to pay for inefficiency, nor should they have to.

    • Anon E Mous

      1. They can form a secret committee, as has been done.
      2. We can sit back and accept what exists, as we have done.
      3. We can demand change. Let’s change.

      Think of the meetings of our municipal governments, our town and villages, and then remember the words of John Kenneth Galbraith, Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.’

  • Frug Al

    Is there a way we can force a referendum on this question and get the village to comply with the results?

    • Anon E Mous

      ‘Municipal consolidation or dissolution can typically be initiated by either a vote of the governing board of the municipality or by petition by a certain percentage of the citizens or property owners in the municipality. Since dissolution or consolidation would result in the elimination or reduction of governing board members, such boards are typically not enthusiastic about exploring those options.’ – New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness (LGEC), 21st Century Local Government, Final Report,

  • Ned Benton

    There is a state law that authorizes consolidation referenda, but I don’t think that’s the way to go.

    I believe that there is wide agreement, among Town and Village residents and elected officials, that sometime, some number of years from now, fire protection in 10538 should be provided by the Town of Mamaroneck Fire District.

    The disagreements are about what to do now to move from the current situation to consolidated fire protection under TMFD.

    What is needed next is for the Larchmont Village Board take three practical steps.

    First, the VOL Board should officially decide that consolidation into TMFD is the preferred strategic direction for VOL fire protection.

    Second, the VOL Board should ask the Town Board to join in a study of how to implement consolidation into TMFD. (The Town Board members have already said they would do this if Larchmont asked.)

    Third, the VOL Board should refrain from taking steps that would make consolidation more difficult.

    If these three actions were taken this year, consolidation could take place within a few more years.

  • mrssleigh

    Do we now have to pay for his pension and retirement benefits? At 44!! I will drop dead at my desk at 80, working to pay for the highest taxes in the country.

  • all for consolidation

    Yes, that is the sad part…many of us long term residents can no longer to afford to pay the taxes that allow people to retire at 44. We are one of the heaviest taxed communities in the nation…A cpa just told me that under the new tax code, families earning up to 100k, will now pay no federal tax. That represents 90% of the taxpayers in the nation. So, EVERYTHING, is funded by the remaining 10%. Of course…for those of us living outside of NYC, there is no cost of living adjustment to our salaries. If there were, we might be ok. As it is…for us to have the standard of living of the guy making $250000 in Little Rock (Hillary’s salary as a lawyer during Bill’s campaign) we would need to make $880,000 in NYC to have an equivalent lifestyle. But the “millionaire’s tax went through…penalizing any family making more than that. With our tax structure (state and local tax, and high real estate taxes) I am pretty sure that there aren’t a lot of $250k families living here who feel like millionaires! Many of us can’t relocate to Little Rock…but Connecticut is looking like a real option…