According to the Sagaponack Village Board of Trustees, it appears Southampton Town’s financially strained condition is beginning to adversely affect the small village.
At a work session held on Tuesday evening, Mayor Donald Louchheim informed the board that the town is beginning to shirk some of its duties to the village. The town is responsible for tree removal on municipal property and Sagaponack contracts with the town for police coverage. Services such as public works and highway maintenance in the village are also generally handled by Southampton town.
Noting a decrease in the level of these services provided by the town, Louchheim broached the subject of perhaps expanding the responsibilities of the village. He pointed out that these measures would increase village expenses and differ from the original intent of the village’s founding.
“When we formed the village the expectation and the actuality is that we would be bare bones. We would rely on the town to provide the same services that it was performing to it as a hamlet,” opined Louchheim. “Now as we have gone along for a couple of years and as the town has become more financially strapped … they aren’t staffing as much as they used to. We are starting to get requests for services, above and beyond those that are being provided.”
Louchheim cited tree removal, saying the town has told the village there isn’t money in the budget to remove trees in an adequate and timely fashion. The village is also vetting requests from residents for better ordinance enforcement, especially at the beaches, and installing more of a police presence to monitor speeding.
“These are all supplemental services that we could provide as a village. [But] do people really want us to provide these services? What do we want to provide and what does the community want us to provide?” asked Louchheim, addressing the board. “I don’t know how to get feedback from the community. Should we as a village make those decisions?”
Louchheim added that there is an inherent cost to expanding the kinds of services provided by the village and these costs would be borne by future budgets. Although Louchheim didn’t expect any formally decisions to be made at Tuesday’s meeting, he wanted to introduce the subject to the rest of the board. The trustees will no doubt mull over the topic in the coming meetings as the board will soon begin preparations for the next budget cycle.
“It would mean that we are going above and beyond our initial strategy,” remarked Louchheim.
While on the subject of tree removal, the board engaged in a lengthy discussion on individual property’s landscaping encroaching on the village right of way. Louchheim pointed out that bushes, trees and gates are beginning to incorporate municipal property into front yards. The village, added Louchheim, has received a report on Sagg Main Street to study the phenomena. The report in effect is a Google Earth image with the village right of ways mapped onto it, said Louchheim.
“Some of the encroachments have created blind spots,” noted trustee Lisa Duryea Thayer on the safety risks caused by the added landscaping.
The board agreed to conduct an informal study to map out all landscaping on the right of way. Each board member was given a geographical zone in the village to study.