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Heated Argument Briefly Stops Tarrytown Meeting

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – The Tarrytown Board of Trustees meeting was briefly adjourned Tuesday when a heated argument broke out between Mayor Drew Fixell and some residents who have repeatedly questioned village safety policies since two town employees died in a manhole in 2010. 

Tarrytown resident John Stiloski and others badgered officials Tuesday on the confined space program and the details of a recent permit. They read aloud memos and policies regarding confined spaces and angrily questioned Village Administrator Michael Blau until Fixell told Stiloski he was not at the meeting to quiz Blau. Stiloski disagreed.

“I'm here to quiz him so he understands about confined spaces so you get it right,” he said.

“You're here to make comments,” Fixell said in reply.

As voices rose and tempers flared, Fixell adjourned the meeting.

“We're going to adjourn until we can have order restored,” Fixell said.

The adjournment lasted less than a minute and then the meeting proceeded.

Stiloski and several other residents had been questioning the village board on a confined space permit that three employees had filled out when entering a hole on Martling Ave. on Dec. 1.

Tarrytown resident Lori Semeraro told village board members during a December meeting and again at Tuesday's meeting that she had seen village employees entering a hole without the proper equipment. 

The confined space program has spurred heated tensions because two village employees, John Kelly and Anthony Ruggiero, died after entering a manhole in September 2010. Tarrytown was later found in a Department of Labor investigation to have several violations when it came to confined spaces.

Village officials said during the meeting they looked into the permit and it was “not filled out properly,” Fixell said.

Safety Officer William Helmstadt of Pro Safety, which helped draft the village's confined space program and train village employees, also reviewed the permit and said he found several deficiencies, including not writing down the name of the air monitor or the equipment used.

Village Engineer Michael McGarvey said he went over the permit again with village employees during a meeting in December and he believed the problem was fixed.

In addition, a new approval process has been put in place: if village employees want to enter a confined space, they must first fill out the permit. Department of Public Works General Foreman Scott Weaver and McGarvey will then review the permit before employees are allowed into a confined space.

Village Administrator Michael Blau said he would also be reviewing permits before employees are admitted into a confined space. Blau also said the village would be drafting new permit forms with the CSEA union so that it is easier to understand and fill out.

Tarrytown residents told village trustees that they wanted to ensure that the village staff was properly trained and following safety procedures.

Village employee Pete Lombardi told trustees he felt Weaver should take more responsibility and make sure staff is following correct procedures.

“He's got an obligation to be general foreman and he should not get sidetracked with anything else for eight hours a day,” Lombardi said.

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