Note: This story was last updated at 5:30 p.m.
Despite Bellport Village’s mayor and a village lifeguard saying a deal was reached yesterday for the Ho-Hum Beach lifeguards to return after a four-day work stoppage, that never happened.
The village then issued a press release this afternoon, Wednesday, saying Bellport is contracting with Brookhaven Town lifeguards to man the beach for the remainder of the season.
The town-hired lifeguards are set to begin work at Ho-Hum Beach this Friday, July 24, village officials said.
Fell could not be immediately reached for comment, but issued this statement:
“We are very pleased with the resolution of the crisis caused by the existing lifeguards resigning. The primary concern of the trustees was not to compromise the safety of our residents at the beach, and we have found an appropriate solution.”
“They did us a favor by showing their true colors so efficiently,” said longtime village lifeguard Matt Horsley, who yesterday issued a statement on behalf of the lifeguards that was critical of the village.
“We left because of poor policies and treatment, and clearly they have not changed their tune.”
Another lifeguard, Alex “Z” Czarniecki, said the lifeguards were under the impression Tuesday morning that all they had to do was email the village, saying they wanted to return.
Czarniecki, like Fell, said the deal — which was never in writing — maintained life lifeguards’ families would be able to ride the ferry for free, provided there were open seats, the guards could use the pavilion for shade during lunch, provided they not camp out, and that there would be better communication and input back-and-forth on beach operations.
However, Horsley was not going to be welcomed back, something Fell confirmed in a phone interview with greaterpatchogue.com yesterday afternoon. Fell indicated Horsely formally resigned, unlike the other lifeguards.
It still wasn’t entirely clear last night whether Horsley would be returning.
The lifeguards insisted Horsley was being singled out for attaching his name to the lengthy statement, which appeared first in its entirety on greaterpatchogue.com. Before that statement was issued, Fell told the website he had hoped for a resolution “within the next couple days.”
However even at that time, around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Czarniecki said the lifeguards were under the impression they had reached a deal.
They took issue, however, to some of the statements then published in the initial greaterpatchogue.com report, and wanted to “shed light” on the situation.
And so came the statement from Horsley.
“We were trying to plead our case,” Czarniecki said. “I don’t think it was anything threatening or degrading in that letter at all, we were just trying to shed some light on the situation. After that was released, Matt was brought down to village hall where they claimed they had his resignation in writing.”
Fell has said all along his handling of the village’s lifeguards has had everything to do with keeping the safety of the public in mind.
Czarniecki said the deal reached yesterday came more through a “game of telephone” over group messaging then sides at a negotiating table.
“At some point it looked like Matt was getting thrown under the bus,” he said. “But we had been informed we could all return.”
Czarniecki went on to say the guards would not have returned to their stands without Horsley, though it wasn’t clear if that had been indicated to village officials.