John Kapica, the Chief of Police of the Town of Greenburgh since 1992, notified the Town Board in a letter dated September 26 that he intends to retire for financial reasons in 2009, most likely November, after the development and testing of an All Hazards Emergency Management Plan. The Chief states that two years notice “is barely adequate to ensure a smooth leadership transition and, most importantly, that the Town has an inclusive, viable and tested plan in place to assist in preparing for, responding to and the recovery from any serious catastrophe that might befall us.” His concern for the town as he plans his retirement is typical of the professionalism he has shown over his long career.
Chief Kapica noted that there are serious deficiencies in the town’s ability to handle widespread emergencies, as demonstrated during the April floods. These deficiencies were further highlighted during his recent participation in a five-day, county-wide exercise simulating a category 3 hurricane. The simulation showed that “after the lack of a formalized Comprehensive All Hazards Emergency Management Plan, the most pressing need of the Town was for an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) from which representatives from each involved agency could coordinate the Town’s response to any major occurrence.” The Town does not currently have such a center or an adequate telephone system to use if we did.
While noting the impact on the budget, Chief Kapica wrote, “I urge the Board to resist the temptation to put off addressing the emergency management needs of the Town because of this exigency. To do so could have catastrophic results. As evidenced by the severe storms experienced during the past two years, the effect of climate change is real and its effects are likely to worsen significantly over the next decade. The only questions that remain are ‘when’ the Town will experience a major event and ‘will’ it be prepared when this occurs.”
Consistent with the discussions the Chief and I have been having over the summer about this plan as well as an "All Hazards Mitigation Plan," he recommends a comprehensive town-wide plan, citing as an example that during a hurricane “Elmsford could easily be isolated from the balance of the Town by rising water levels complicating the delivery of advanced life support services and the transport of patients to area hospitals.”
Developing a formal Comprehensive All Hazards Emergency Management Plan for the entire town could benefit every resident in the town, as well as all the school districts within its borders, and make the villages and unincorporated area eligible for grants. To turn Chief Kapica’s retirement goal into reality will take a cooperative effort of the Town Board and the officials from all six villages in the town (Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Elmsford, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington, and Tarrytown). Since the Town receives rental money from Westchester County and a recent NYS Comptroller’s Audit said the rent must be used for town-wide purposes, if all the autonomous village municipalities are willing to participate in developing a town-wide integrated plan, it would be a great use of the rent money. No tax increase would be necessary to develop the plan.
As Chief Kapica said, two years is “barely adequate” to develop and test the plan. Therefore, we need to use the heads-up the Chief has given us, get started, determine if the effort will be limited to the unincorporated area or expanded town-wide, and move forward to protect as many residents as possible with the resources available. If the F-2 tornado that crossed land just north of the Town on July 11, 2006, instead crossed over Greenburgh, the results would have been even more devastating due to the increased development and population of our town.
We need to be prepared and make the Chief’s retirement goal of emergency planning and preparedness our goal as well. I look forward to any comments you may have on this issue.
Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Town of Greenburgh