Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride on his first 100 days in office, the challenges ahead and putting on a pair of ice skates.
Since taking office as mayor, what are some of the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
I don’t know if it is so much a challenge as it is a readjustment. As a board member and deputy mayor everything you do is on a regular basis, but as mayor I stop at the village every morning to see what is going on. Like I did when I was deputy mayor, I still meet with [Sag Harbor Superintendent of Public Works] Jim [Early] every morning and as liaison to the police I speak with [Sag Harbor Village Police Chief] Tom [Fabiano]. Then throughout the day I get quite a few calls from the village on the day-to-day operations. I have to say, since becoming mayor, I have a much better respect for anyone who has served in this position, but I really do enjoy it. In Sag Harbor we have a great staff – everyone is a team player. I am lucky in that when I was on the board I was a team player and now that I am mayor, I have a great team. The board doesn’t always agree, but I think that is part of being a great team. I believe we are pretty effective and we get a lot done.
Other than the schedule, does it feel different serving as mayor rather than trustee?
Honestly, it is like when you are the second chief in the fire department. You can blame the first assistant and the chief if something came up. And when you’re the first assistant chief you can blame the chief; but as mayor, all the blame stops with me. Some days, I don’t want to say it’s overwhelming, but you feel the decisions you make have to be made in the best interest of the village as a whole and sometimes that is a heavy weight because what you can think is a simple decision as mayor can have a big effect throughout the village. But, at the end of the day, I talked to [deputy mayor] Tiffany [Scarlato] right before I came [to this interview], I talked to [trustee] Tim [Culver] this morning, I speak with [trustee] Robby [Stein] often and I see [trustee] Ed Gregroy daily. We communicate daily and I am lucky to be able to bounce a lot of ideas off the board as we move forward.
One of your biggest public battles, which has received a lot of community support, has been over the ownership MTA roadbed. Where is the village in that process?
We are firmly behind trying to get a park [at the village owned beachfront and adjacent sliver of the old MTA rail bed which a developer in the village is also seeking possession of] done sometime in 2010, or at least get started at that point. As I have mentioned before, we hope the MTA comes to its senses and either gives us an opportunity to buy the property or, another option [the village attorney] has advised me of, is eminent domain, as fair market value [of the property] has been established. I do hope that some day the developer gets a project together next door, but we have not changed our position on this park. I have had many residents from Sag Harbor and North Haven contact me trying to make this park a reality.
During the campaign you often referred to yourself as a fiscal conservative concerned with keeping the village budget in line. Has this year’s budget been sustainable with spending and do you see next year’s budget as one that will need to be trimmed?
I don’t think we can trim next year’s budget. I think it will have to go up. I think we have cut the budget to where we cannot cut anymore without cutting services and I am not prepared to do that. I believe we will have to look at some things this year, maybe as early as October, about spending. It might be unpopular, but my thing is this is what we have budgeted for, so how can we address it. We have a couple of line items to look at right now and we are about a third of the way through the [fiscal] year, so I will ask the village treasurer to run reports for the first four months and will give a report on that at the October trustees meeting.
Moving forward, what are some of the bigger initiatives you would like to see the village take on in the next year?
In the next year, the 2010 budget will be limited because I am pretty sure at this point we will see a tax increase. First on the agenda is getting the park alongside the [Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial] bridge started. The other thing I know we will look at in the budget process is that Trustee Stein has started looking at “greening” the village and has already looked at the possibility of solar panels on the village sewage treatment plant and other buildings. Tim [Culver] has taken a hard look at the waterfront and has some great ideas on how we can make a little more money down there. Tiffany [Scarlato] has been working hard continuing with the new zoning code and a new wetlands code. Ed Gregory will work with the fire and ambulance squads, and every year those guys are a good bunch that work well with the village in telling us what they need to provide the great service they do to the village.
We will see what 2010 brings.
If the village does move forward with a planned ice rink, will you don your skates?
Just so you can get a picture, yes. I would love nothing more than to have a picture with my three grandchildren and myself on that ice rink.