By Kathryn G. Menu
So far in 2014, Sag Harbor has recorded 33 inches of snowfall, with much of the most recent precipitation frozen in icy mounds on village sidewalks and streets as temperatures have refused to budge above freezing since February 5.
For Nada Barry, owner of the Wharf Shop on Main Street and a decades-long fixture at Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meetings, the constant snowfall is not her concern, but making sure sidewalks are kept clean in the traditionally pedestrian friendly village is.
During Tuesday night’s monthly village board meeting, Ms. Barry approached trustees for the second time this year to call on the village to enforce its own laws and begin ticketing residents and businesses that do not comply with the village code and shovel the village-owned sidewalks in front of their properties.
“Nothing is going to happen until people are fined,” said Ms. Barry. “It is the only way you are going to get this place cleaned up.”
According to Trustee Kevin Duchemin, the liaison for code enforcement in the village, nine summonses were issued after the last two snowfalls in early February. However, for Ms. Barry, that simply does not go far enough.
According to the Sag Harbor Village code, it is not lawful for “any owner or occupant of land or premises adjacent to a sidewalk” to leave any snow or ice on the sidewalk longer than 24 hours after a storm has passed or ice has formed. Anyone in violation of that section of code, upon conviction, is subject to a fine not to exceed $250 or imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or both, for each and every violation issued by code enforcement.
However, as Mayor Brian Gilbride admitted at last month’s village board meeting, when quizzed by Ms. Barry, the village had not cited anyone following the January 2 storm. On Tuesday night, Ms. Barry called the nine citations “a start” and called on the village to become more proactive in enforcing its own laws. She suggested hiring someone to do the job and added that enforcing this section of the code could prove financially beneficial to the village.
“Because we cannot go on living this way,” said Ms. Barry. “It is so dangerous. So please take some action before next year.”
According to Mayor Gilbride and Trustee Duchemin, the nine summonses issued were in downtown Sag Harbor. Ms. Barry said sidewalks on the outskirts of the business district and on residential streets are also not being cleared and that those residents should also face fines.
“It’s just out of control and you are all aware of it,” she said.
Resident and Harbor Committee member Jeff Peters agreed.
Mr. Peters suggested a part-time employee could be hired in code enforcement if the manpower is currently not sufficient. He added that a village-wide letter could go out informing all residents of the code requirements as a warning. Ultimately, Mr. Peters wondered why the village itself could not take on the responsibility of plowing the sidewalks.
Mayor Gilbride said the village’s insurance company said it would be a liability issue if the public works department became responsible for plowing them.
“I think this storm it was a lot better,” he said. “But can it get better? Yes.”
Howard Street resident Mia Grosjean wondered if residents were responsible for snow pushed onto sidewalks by snowplows.
“You have to ask Nada,” joked Mayor Gilbride.
The answer was yes.
The village board passed a resolution Tuesday night authorizing Police Chief Tom Fabiano to hire Travis H. Chornoma as a part-time police officer at a rate of $23 per hour.
“Is this to replace Hughie,” asked Trustee Ken O’Donnell referring to former village police officer Hugh Caulfield, who retired from the department last year leaving nine officers and the chief on full-time staff.
“No, it is not,” said Chief Fabiano. “But if it gets approved I would like to request another meeting with everyone. I need a 10th man and I can’t wait until the summer to replace Hughie.”
While the resolution was passed, no meeting with Chief Fabiano was scheduled to discuss the future of the department and outside of Mayor Gilbride the remainder of the village board was silent on the subject.
“I have been asking for a meeting since June,” said the chief.
In other news, Sloan Schaeffer—the owner of the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street—will petition the board to hook up that property to the village wastewater treatment plant. Mr. Schaeffer is in the midst of re-developing the property for use as his private residence. On Tuesday night, his attorney Dennis Downes approached the board to see if it would consider the idea.
In order to hook up to the wastewater treatment plant, the system’s pipe would need to be extended down Madison Street roughly 100 feet, said Mr. Downes. Two additional properties would have to hook up to the plant as well, and Mr. Schaeffer has offered to pay for the extension of the line as well as the hook-up for each home. The property owners would be responsible for annual village water bills.
Board members said they were amenable to the idea as long as affected neighbors supported the plan.