Village Siren, Summerfest Liquor License Disputed At Lakewood Board Meeting

LAKEWOOD — There was no shortage of turmoil inside Lakewood’s Anthony Caprino Municipal Building during Monday night’s meeting of village trustees.

A number of complaints and heated discussions centered on several topics took center stage during the public comment portion of the agenda; including the oft-visited subject of the village fire siren and instituting a valid liquor license for the village’s upcoming Fourth of July Summerfest.

Per the fire siren, which has returned to the spotlight in recent board meetings, Laurie Shults and Salvatore Rachuna, residents and co-owners of The Fitness Bunker, expressed confusion and dismay over what they perceived to be an “orchestrated” and “shady” decision by the board to essentially do nothing to alter the functionality of the alert system currently in place.

Shults and Rachuna, while repeatedly expressing their utmost respect for the village’s fire and police departments, and their volunteers, had previously provided the board with a petition containing several signatures gathered from those around the community concerned with the siren’s decibel level and frequency of its sounding. They also provided a list of alternative measures that could be taken, emphasizing the potential implementation of a curfew that would ensure the siren would only sound during late night and early morning hours in the event of a structure fire.

“We’re not asking that the siren be dismantled or moved, we just don’t want to have to feel like we’re in 1940s London and could be bombed at any time,” Shults said during a board meeting last month. “There are other, quieter methods of keeping our first responders aware of what’s happening with just as much efficiency.”

The board, at its June 12 meeting, approved a resolution, which did not appear on the meeting agenda that went out to the public in advance of the meeting, to retain the usage of the siren in its current capacity, in spite of Shults’ and Rachuna’s complaints.

“We’ve been bringing this to the board for over a year, and we’ve been told a number of things about what we should do and where we should do it in order to have a discussion about this,” Shults said. “But when we found out that a vote was made at the last board meeting, which was the one board meeting in the past six months we were unable to attend, especially when that resolution didn’t appear on the public agenda, it was very confusing; and honestly it’s a little hard to trust anyone right now. We’re very frustrated.”

Trustees Ellen Barnes and Randy Holcomb defended the decision of the board, with the latter stating, “I feel what the board did at its last meeting was done in the best interest of the village as a whole.”

During the June 12 meeting, Barnes had distributed a packet of information she had gathered on the subject that pointed not only to the system’s efficiency, but also to the legal requirements it fulfills for a village that fields an exponentially higher amount of emergency calls than most of its neighboring municipalities.

After an extended discussion between multiple parties, Mayor Cara Birrittieri explained the chain of events that led to the board’s decision to vote on the subject at its last meeting, and expressed her desire to see some compromise down the line.

“This is where we stand at the moment, but it doesn’t have to be where we stand forever,” she said. “I would hope that we can try to find some degree of compromise, and I would be interested in reaching out to other experts in the field to weigh their thoughts on the matter.”

On another subject, Josie Caprino again expressed her concern with the idea that wine and liquor will be served at the VIP area of the upcoming Fourth of July Summerfest event; a concern she initially raised at the June 12 meeting. Caprino said it was her understanding that gifts will be given to those who donate money at certain dollar amounts, and wondered at the legality of that.

She also repeatedly raised the question of who holds the liquor license for the event, stating that the village would be liable for damages in the event that anyone who became intoxicated at the event was injured or involved in any kind of accident as a result.

Bill Chandler, chairman of the Lakewood Zoning Board of Appeals, was in attendance and offered a feasible solution.

“There was a change to liquor licensing laws in New York state a couple years ago, whereby the owner of a liquor store establishment can take his liquor license temporarily off-site for the purposes of an event,” Chandler said. “All you have to do is post that liquor license at the event, along with sign stating that only visitors 21 years of age or older are permitted there and you only have to pay $36 per station. So you just have to make sure everyone is of age, and make sure nobody is inebriated. It’s a really nice option for something of this nature.”

Chandler, having spoken with Village Attorney John LaMancuso, said the village can either opt to get a temporary license for the event or ask a local liquor store to lend their license to the Summerfest.

“It’s a whole new system that really works well for events like these,” he said.

The next meeting of the village trustees will be held Monday, July 10, at 6:30 p.m.