Swift water rescue boat on deck for Fleischmanns

By Jay Braman Jr.
Fleischmanns Village Trustees authorized the spending of almost $60,000 of taxpayer’s funds last week on specialized swift-water rescue equipment for the village’s fire department.
At a special meeting held last week Tuesday, the trustees accepted bids for the purchase of two swift water rescue boats along with equipment and training with funds to be disbursed from the Fleischmanns Volunteer Fire Department Capital Reserve Truck Fund.

Mayor Todd Pascarella said this week that even though the village board has authorized the fire department to use funds for the equipment and the training to learn how to use it, laws require the fire company to wait 30 days before spending the money. During that time the purchase is subject to what is called a permissive referendum.

That means if some people oppose the purchase and they get enough people to sign a petition, the matter must be brought up for a vote by all the voters in the village. Twenty percent of the registered voters in the village would have to sign any such petition. Pascarella does not expect any opposition though.

Fleischmanns made national news back in 2011 after a woman drowned during Hurricane Irene. “This has been on their minds since that flood, “ Pascarella said of the boats.

The trustees accepted a bid of $30,294.40 for a 2013 Ribcraft AF 16 Rescue Boat and a bid of $7,800.00 from Brigham Industries, Inc. for an Ice and Swift Water Rescue Boat and a bid from Garrison Fire & Rescue Corp. of $18,180.90 for related equipment, and a bid from Lifeguard Systems for training of $2,800.00. In all it amounts to a grand total of $59,075.30.

Pascarella notes that funds are exclusively fire department funds that already exist in a capitol reserve account. He said that account had about $200,000 in it at the end of 2012. Also, the fund is replenished every year with about $50,000 from taxpayers. “They still will have plenty of money for other purchases,” Pascarella said.

Leah Stern-Gluck, 82, who lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn died when Irene hit Fleischmanns where she was vacationing at the Valkyrian Motel.

As the water rose that Sunday, emergency workers ordered evacuations. But evacuations are not mandatory, and when some people refused, rescuers began to go back for those who refused to leave and became trapped. Stern-Gluck was one of those that did not heed the evacuation warning, saying the she would not leave until her husband returned. It was later learned that her husband was at a nearby synagogue praying.

Buy the time Fire Chief Todd Wickham and other firefighters returned to rescue Stern-Gluck, the water level had reached nine feet above flood stage and it was too late. “By the time we got back to her unit, the water was too deep. We could not safely enter the area with vehicles,” said Wickham
after the accident.

As Wickham and others were standing there trying to come up with some method of getting to the woman, two houses upstream from her were knocked off their foundations. Both of them smashed into the motel where Stern-Gluck’s was staying as she stood in the doorway screaming for help. The wreckage of all three structures was then swept away, and destroyed the Bridge Street bridge just a few hundred feet further down stream.
Wickham said that was the last time she was seen alive.