By Bryan Boyhan
The two candidates for the vacant seat on the Southampton Town board visited the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday night. While the event was billed as a conversation with the community, the two only spoke to each other briefly, to exchange hellos, and were only in the Old Noyac School House at the same time for a moment as one was just leaving as the other arrived.
Individually the two spoke to about forty members of the civic council in an informal introduction to themselves intended to demonstrate how they will handle themselves if elected.
“At the end of every month my wife and I balance our checkbook, that is how I will balance your money,” Republican candidate Bill Hughes told the audience.
Hughes will be retiring from the Southampton Town Police Department in March as a lieutenant after 29 years on the force. A recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, he joined the US Air Force at the age of 19.
Much of the dialogue Hughes had with the councul members focused on his background wit the police force.
Civic council treasurer Nicholas Metz asked if Hughes agreed with former town supervisor Linda Kabot’s attempt to retire several officers as a cost saving measure because they had been in the department of more than 20 years.
“I don’t want to say yes or no,” said Hughes. “In concept it’s a good idea; but you have to look at the particular situation.”
Hughes mentioned that the officers selected by Kabot were officers who had a high rate of absence from service.
“You have to see if the reason was they were injured in the line of service. Is that fair,” he asked.
“But, as a matter of policy, to save money, you can replace them with younger officers,” countered Metz.
“You need experienced officers,” observed Hughes. “To axe someone just because they’ve hit 20? No.”
Resident Paul Bailey asked Hughes how he would control speed and conjestion on Noyac Road.
Hughes said the town should take ownership of the road, which is presently owned by Suffolk County.
“Then we can do what we want.”
He suggested straightening out the road in front of the Whalebone/ Cromers parking lot, and suggested rumble strips as a way slowing traffic.
“Enforcement, though, is the biggest deterrent,” he said.
Asked how else he would help the town, Hughes, who lives in Hampton Bays, said: “I have a common sense attitude. I’m not looking for a bigger agenda, I’m looking for a smaller agenda.”
Bridget Fleming, who is endorsed by the Democratic and Independence parties, told the council members she was happy to be home. In fact she lives down the street from where the meeting was being held in Pine Neck.
A former attorney in New York City District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office, Fleming currently has a practice on Main Street in Sag Harbor.
Asked if her practice would interfere with her council duties, Fleming said she would scale back her job, and focus more on the part of her practice that does not require court time.
Metz observed that current supervisor Anna Throne-Holst recently reversed a decision by her predecessor, giving many employees back their town cars.
“How do you feel about that,” asked Metz.
“I don’t think it makes sense to use town resources on personal time,” said Fleming; but she added that, for many town employees, it makes financial sense for them to have a car.
One man asked if the crowds of day laborers who currently gather in Southampton Village were to move into the town’s jurisdiction would Fleming champion the building of a hiring hall.
“I’m not sure the concern they will migrate is a real one,” said Fleming. “They’re right where the bus drops them. The current leaders put their heads in the sand and blame the federal government.”
Asked how she felt about the proposal for town cops to go on 12-hour shifts, Fleming observed “some have said it’s better for the police; it’s certainly better for their families. It’s a lot more likely cops will call in sick less.”