East Hampton Town Justice James Ketcham swears in Larry Cantwell during a swearing-in ceremony prior to the start of the first town board meeting of 2014 last Thursday.
By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
East Hampton Supervisor Larry Cantwell opened the inaugural town board meeting of 2014 last Thursday by making a pledge to usher in what he said would be a town board open to divergent opinions, one that is transparent and focused on quality of life issues, affordable housing, and ensuring the town remains fiscally solvent.
Cantwell, who ran unopposed to earn his seat as town supervisor, was sworn in Thursday morning, alongside new board members Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Fred Overton, the lone Republican now sitting on the East Hampton Town Board. They join Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, the latter of whom was named deputy supervisor during the organizational meeting.
Town clerk Carol Brennan, highway superintendent Stephen Lynch and Justice Steven Tekulsky were also sworn into office Thursday morning.
The board unanimously appointed Job Potter, a former town councilman and planning board member, to a seven-year term on the planning board, replacing J.P. Foster. Potter ran unsuccessfully for town board alongside Cantwell and Burke-Gonzalez on the Democratic ticket this past fall.
Cate Rogers was appointed to the town’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA), and will serve as vice chair of that board.
“We begin the New Year with great hope and expectations,” said Cantwell in his opening remarks. “We face many challenges and it will not always be easy. I know there will be disagreements from divergent points of view, but if we work together to find common ground and maintain our small town values, if we respect each other and our different opinions, if we continue the stewardship of our extraordinary natural environment, if we demonstrate our compassion for the elderly, fragile, and those new to our community and if we support working class families who are the backbone of East Hampton then this great more than 350 year old town will survive and prosper.”
Cantwell went on to dedicate the meeting to Lee Hayes, an East Hampton resident and former Tuskegee Airman who died in December.
“It saddens me how little we recognized and celebrated him during his lifetime,” said Cantwell of Hayes. “Over the many years that I knew Lee, he always went about his businesses contributing to the community. He educated us about the need to move our society forward.”
Cantwell said priorities for the new town board include a commitment to transparency, promising board agendas and minutes will be made public two days in advance of any meeting.
“No walk-on resolutions will be permitted unless there is a time is of the essence deadline and then only with the unanimous consent of the town board,” added Cantwell to applause from the audience.
While the town board will have to abide by the 2014 budget approved under the Wilkinson administration, Cantwell said this board is committed to addressing quality of life issues, and will demand town code enforcement become a priority.
“We request the housing authority, the housing office and local not-for-profits identify and propose new affordable housing projects that will meet the needs of local families,” he added.
Creating mitigation, resiliency and recovery plans to contend with erosion and the impact of storm events is another priority, said Cantwell.
“We request the Natural Resources Department to work with coastal scientists and engineers to assist the town in working with the Army Corps of Engineers and completing the project for downtown Montauk as soon as possible, and seek federal and state funding for beach replenishment for Ditch Plains,” he added.
Cantwell also called for a complete financial analysis of the East Hampton Airport to look at funding needed for capital projects while also completing a study of the airport to determine how best to mitigate noise.
Protecting surface and ground water, preserving land, and tying up loose ends in the town code are additional priorities Cantwell said the board would focus on.