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Noyac’s Civic Council Ponders its Purpose

Posted on 10 December 2009

Frustrated by what he sees as a lack of forward movement with town issues, Noyac Civic Council president Chuck Neuman asked his membership on Tuesday evening if the council should consider a different direction. The group, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2004, is charged in its charter with addressing “quality of life” issues in the community, and for much of the past decade or so has become more politically active.

But Neuman bemoaned the fact that key issues such as calming traffic along Noyac Road and finding an adequate location for a new community house, have gotten little traction from the Town of Southampton. And considering the economic downturn and the town’s current fiscal worries, it appears they will not be addressed in the near future.

“We have done an awful lot of work with town-oriented issues, but have not accomplished much,” observed Neuman at the start of the council’s regular monthly meeting. He noted, in fact, they were unable to attract a guest speaker that evening, a spot usually featuring an official from the town.

Neuman said little had come of a hamlet study conducted by the town seven years ago, except for a zoning change on a piece of commercial property.

“There was even supposed to be a determination of our boundaries, which never came to fruition,” he said. He added the town had spent about $180,000 on just three studies for Noyac, which had not resulted in a project.

“I’d like to say we accomplished a lot, but I can’t,” he said. “We just couldn’t get things going.”

Instead, Neuman turned the meeting into a general discussion of where the civic council should concern itself.

“I would like to get into a little reorganization of the organization,” said Neuman, who observed he is one of only two presidents who have served more than six years in the council’s history.

“There is no doubt in my mind, to do this for eight years, mistakes start,” he said. “I don’t have the energy to fight the same battles over and over.”

 “What happened to our activity at the school,” wondered Vince Starace. “It’s the biggest part of our tax bill.”

In the past two or three years in particular the civic council has devoted considerable energy to school matters, and has established its own school affairs committee to monitor the Sag Harbor School District. Since the last school board election and budget vote this past June, however, the council’s attendance at school board meetings has waned.

Neuman did brighten, though, recalling the council had helped elect Wes Frye to the school board two years ago.

“We have had some successes,” he said.

He noted, though, the organization had “been on the verge of being something different — something of a taxpayers organization,” and wondered if that was the direction the council should continue in.

“We’ve got to keep going forward,” urged Tom Baldassari, who, along with Diane Hewett and Ralph DeSpigna, had just been elected to the council’s board of trustees that night. “When we started going to the school, it brought the civic council and the community together.”

Others suggested the council did more than behave as a political action group.

“We have been very charitable, and I’d like to see us do more of that,” suggested Elfriede Winkle. ”We do good, and people should know that.”

Neuman agreed: “We’ve done a lot of good with our charity endeavors. We hardly say ‘no’ to anyone.”

In the end, the dozen members present agreed to send out a survey to its estimated 500 members, polling them on what the council should address.

“We have to ask ourselves a question, ‘How should we be in the future,’”said Neuman. “Should we be more political? Should we be advocating for quality of life issues? Should we be just the way we are?”

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