Tag Archive | "Anna Throne-Holst"

Captain Robert Pearce Named Southampton Town Police Chief

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Southampton Town Board voted to promote Captain Robert Pearce into the position of Chief of Police of the Southampton Town Police Department at its Tuesday night meeting.

Captain Pearce will be officially sworn into the position on Thursday, December 6.

Captain Pearce was named interim police chief earlier this month in the wake of the resignation of Chief William Wilson, Jr.

Chief Wilson submitted his letter of resignation to the Southampton Town Board after just 18 months in command of the East End’s largest law enforcement agency. He replaced long-time police chief, James Overton, in May of 2011. Wilson had previously served in the Southampton Village Police Department, where he was named chief in 2006.

Wilson’s tenure as chief of the department will come to an official end this Saturday, December 1, although the chief has not been on the job since before Hurricane Sandy hit in late October, impacting much of Long Island including Southampton Town. Wilson was on vacation leave during the “super storm” and after submitting his resignation in early November, the town board announced Wilson would use the remainder of his vacation and sick time between then and December 1.

Captain Pearce led the town’s emergency response in dealing with the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, as well as the storm’s aftermath.

Board support for the promotion of Captain Pearce was decidedly different from when the officer was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain. Despite Wilson’s protest, in March the Republican and Conservative majority of the Southampton Town Board – Chris Nuzzi, Christine Scalera and Jim Malone – backed Pearce’s promotion. This time, the promotion to police chief was adopted unanimously.

According to the resolution affirming Captain Pearce’s promotion, there are fewer than three candidates willing to accept the position who have reached the rank of captain or higher in the whole of Southampton Town, including departments outside of the Southampton Town Police Department.

Following Wilson’s resignation, Councilman Nuzzi said he believed the majority of the board would want to see the promotion from within the department, rather than an outside appointment similar to Wilson, who came to the Southampton Town Police Department after serving as Chief of the Southampton Village Police Department.

The provisional appointment to police chief will include an annual salary of $166,669 for Captain Pearce effective December 1, according to the town board’s resolution.

Town Supervisors Release Tentative 2013 Budgets

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The tentative 2013 budgets for both East Hampton and Southampton towns are in. And both East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst are discussing fiscal restraint in their 2013 budget messages.

On September 25, Supervisor Throne-Holst presented her tentative budget to the Southampton Town Board.

The $82.7 million budget represents a zero-percent tax levy increase over the 2012 budget with an identical tax levy of $57 million, keeping it well below the state’s mandated two-percent property tax levy cap, said Throne-Holst

The budget does increase spending by about $2.4 million, primarily due to mandated costs like increases in salaries and benefits.

According to a budget message issued by Throne-Holst last week, the town’s ability to increase its fund balance in 2013 while maintaining a flat tax levy as mandatory costs like increases in insurance, retirement, workers compensation, legal fees, debt service costs and contractual expenditures increase is made possible by two key factors. First, over the last two years the town has reduced its staff by 18 percent and secondly, the town has accrued a surplus in operating funds.

In the tentative budget, staffing remains consistent, as do current town services and programs.

The budget also proposed to restructure the capital program to create a “pay as you go” fund in the operating budget.  That move, Throne-Holst said, will allow the town to reduce its borrowing costs, annual debt services costs and respond to unanticipated needs without a fund balance transfer.

“A goal of this budget was to limit our capital spending to $3 million, instead of the usual $8 to $10 million, in order to prepare for the peak in our debt service costs that will occur in 2014,” said Throne-Holst. “I firmly believe in a budget model that projects two years ahead so that we can anticipate these increases in costs, and plan accordingly. ”

“Transitioning some of the capital fund items into a pay-as-you-go fund is an example of a new practice that will allow us to better prepare for the peak in debt service, and also makes more sense from an operational perspective,” she added.

A public hearing on Throne-Holst’s tentative budget will be held on October 23 at 6 p.m. The Southampton Town Board is expected to vote on the budget on November 20, the state mandated deadline for budget adoption.

In East Hampton, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson submitted his budget just in time for the September 30 deadline.

That tentative 2013 spending plan proposes a $69 million budget, a $3.3 million or five percent increase over the approved 2012 budget.

However, according to Wilkinson’s budget message, the spending plan will not pierce the state mandated two-percent property tax levy cap. According to Wilkinson, the increase in the tax levy in this budget would be about 3.17 percent, however, because the town experienced a 1.73-percent decrease in its 2012 tax levy a portion of that decrease is credited to 2013, leaving East Hampton’s actual tax levy cap at 4.19 percent.

According to Wilkinson’s budget message, the proposed $3 million in additional spending contains $1,083,812 in increases tied directly to the town’s Scavenger Waste Plant and the East Hampton Airport.

The fate of the Scavenger Waste Plant —  an ongoing debate between town board members who are divided on what to do with the aging facility — will have to be born out during budget talks this fall. In his tentative budget, Wilkinson has only appropriated monies to run that facility for the first three months of 2013.

The budget also proposes to add a new position in the justice court, eliminating the need for the court to be closed one day a week and puts $559,000 total dollars into the contingency accounts for all funds for unanticipated expenses.

The 2013 tentative budget still represents a $2,68 million, or 3.74 percent decrease over the inherited 2010 budget of $71.7 million, noted Wilkinson. He adds that under his administration in the first three budgets, the tax rate for those living outside the villages has decreased by 13.19 percent, and for those living inside the villages the decrease has been 28.69 percent.

The East Hampton Town Board will host a public hearing on its budget at its November 1 meeting, with the board expected to vote on the spending plan on November 15 in advance of the state’s November 20 deadline.

Town Considers Limiting Truck Size On Noyac Rd.

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By Claire Walla

When it comes down to it, 10,000 pounds isn’t really that much.

Sedans, SUVs and light-duty pick-up trucks would make the cut. But, according to Southampton Town Traffic Coordinator Tom Neely, heavy-duty pick-ups, larger vans, dump trucks and tractor-trailers would have to go.

That was cause for concern for many who came to Town Hall speak out on the issue of banning vehicles over 10,000 pounds at a Southampton Town Board meeting on Tuesday, April 24.

The proposed legislation, put forth by Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, would effectively prohibit vehicles over 10,000 pounds from driving along Noyac Road between County Road 39 and the Village of Sag Harbor. A few exemptions would include school buses and vehicles doing business on Noyac Road.

The legislation was put together in an effort to further address traffic-calming measures, which have been hotly debated for years with regard to Noyac Road, specifically the curve that runs along Cromer’s Market and the Whalebone Gift Store.

Discussions have mainly revolved around road repairs, like installing a concrete median or adding striping to get cars to slow down. But at a community meeting last month, which was attended by over 100 Noyac residents and every member of the Southampton Town Board, a couple of people brought up the ban.

“We were thinking about fuel-delivery trucks, ones that seem to use [Noyac Road] as a thoroughfare rather than a delivery route,” Throne-Holst said. She added that the major threat comes from the large trucks that tend to use Noyac Road to bypass traffic on Montauk Highway, and proceed to speed through the bayside hamlet.

“There’s risk and danger for oncoming traffic,” she said. Let alone the noise factor.

“The noise is significant,” said Bill Reilly, who lives on Oak Drive near Noyac Road.  He explained that because road conditions have improved over the years, it’s effectively increased the amount of traffic caused by large trucks.  While banning all trucks over 10,000 pounds might not be the solution—Reilly admitted that vehicles prohibited from driving down Noyac Road would just travel elsewhere—he said, “we’ve got a significant problem.”

However, the legislation, as it now stands, may have some unintended consequences, as members of the Sag Harbor community pointed out on Tuesday.

“If you took the trucks off Noyac Road, my opinion is that you would also increase the speed on Noyac Road,” said Mickey Valcich of garbage-collection company Mickey’s Carting.

East Hampton Highway Supervisor Steve Lynch added that prohibiting certain vehicles from using Noyac Road would add time onto their routes, which would be costly in the long-run.

John Tintle, who owns and operates the Sand Land Corporation, which has a facility on Mill Stone Road, agreed.

“The unintended consequences passed on to the tax payers would be enormous,” she said. Tintle explained that he already charges higher prices for deliveries that are further away because of fuel costs. By averting Noyac Road, and thus adding extra time onto truck routes, he said costs would inevitably rise.

And they would not only rise for those living in Southampton Town.

Jay Card, superintendent of highways for Shelter Island, and Jim Dougherty, Shelter Island Town Supervisor, both spoke out on the issue, saying it would make commuting on and off the island for commercial trucks very difficult.

“It would essentially cause us to go all the way to East Hampton to get back to Montauk Highway,” Card said.

“We basically think that in a soft economy like this, this is no time to be burdening our residents with additional costs,” Dougherty said.

Neely explained that the town used the 10,000-pound benchmark only because it had used that measurement in the past. He further noted that this would prohibit F350 trucks and Ram 3500 trucks from taking Noyac Road.

“If this were to go forward, looking at heavier weights would be something we’d want to put out there,” he said.

The other big issue is enforcement, a topic many speakers brought up.

Neely explained that in order enforce the law, police officers would be responsible for pulling vehicles over and physically checking the inside of the passenger door, where the maximum weight is listed. Officers would also be responsible for checking any documentation the driver might have to prove he or she is making a local delivery or service call.

“You would have to put a number of vehicles on that road to do enforcement,” said Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano. “And I guarantee that once you put this into effect, you’re going to get a lot of calls [from people saying], ‘there’s a truck on Noyac Road, do something about it.’”

Throne-Holst said she recognized there were many concerns, particularly for the business community. And while she said the town does not have accurate statistics on just how many of the vehicles that drive down Noyac Road are large trucks, she suggested the town put together a study in order to secure that information.

“In the end, we need some sort of understanding of what the actual traffic looks like there,” she said, adding that this is just one component of what she hopes will be a bigger plan. “What this town needs to do is a comprehensive truck route.”

The board closed the public hearing on Tuesday, but has opened up a 30-day comment period on the proposed legislation.

Thiele Proposes New Zone for Higher Ed. in Southampton

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By Claire Walla

According to New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, the fate of the college campus in Southampton has been put into question more than once in the last decade, which, in his opinion, is disconcerting.

To alleviate any uncertainty that may be swelling around that campus, especially in recent years, Thiele went to the Southampton Town Board last Friday, April 13 to propose legislation that would create a University-25 Zoning District in Southampton Town, specifically where Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus now sits.

There’s been a college campus in Southampton since 1963, when Long Island University built facilities there. And there the campus remained, relatively untouched, until 2005 when Long Island University announced it was for sale.

According to Thiele, a moratorium was then placed on the campus while a planning study was conducted. A year later, Stony Brook University stepped in and took over.

“When Stony Brook bought the campus [in 2006], all was well with the world,” he joked. “Then, of course, the sustainability program was transported to [the main campus], the dorms were closed and it was undetermined what the fate of the campus would be.”

In a surprising, last-minute decision, Stony Brook University decided to close all undergraduate operations at the oceanside campus at the tail end of the 2009-2010 academic year. The only operations that remained were graduate programs in creative writing and marine sciences.

After much debate and backlash from both students and lawmakers (Assemblyman Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle leading the fight), Stony Brook rescinded its decision in 2011, made a formal apology, and is now making plans to bring programs back to the campus.

The push to create an educational zoning district would be to ensure that the land always be used for higher education, no matter what.

It’s called University-25 because a minimum of 25 acres would be needed before the law could be enacted.  Although, at 82 acres, the Southampton property well exceeds that limitation; all 82 acres would fall under the town’s new educational zoning law, if enacted.

While Thiele said the property could theoretically be sub-divided at some point, he added that he couldn’t imagine a scenario in which that would take place.  Stony Brook University, which currently owns the land, is actually in support of the new zoning district.

Any voices of dissent could certainly challenge the new code (if enacted), Thiele continued, which would prompt the town the show that there’s “rational basis” for the zoning district to be enacted.

“I think the fact that it’s been a college for 50 years is certainly rational basis!” he said.

At the work session, Thiele said the thought of taking action to preserve this land for educational (and related) uses only came to him in a relatively random fashion.

“Quite frankly, I was doing research for something else when I came across Ithaca’s zoning ordinance,” Thiele explained. Ithaca, home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, has a zoning district reserved for higher education. He continued, “I had one of those ‘eureka!’ moments and said, ‘This would be great for the Southampton campus.’”

Because this would be town-wide legislation, Thiele pointed out that it would apply to the Long Island University campus in Riverhead, as well. When asked whether or not this zoning legislation would affect Stony Brook’s ability to build a hospital in Southampton, Thiele said it would not. The hospital would be regarded as a “related activity.”

The Southampton Town Board would now have to adopt a resolution to create the proposed University-25 Zoning District.

“In my view, this is a good goal, to [also work toward] maintaining that open space,” said Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming. “I want to do whatever we can to preserve that.”

According to the town’s Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray, a public hearing on the matter will be set for May 22.

Truck Stop

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There are few who would argue with the fact that there is a problem on Noyac Road.

A sliver of roadway once created for commuters to get between Southampton and Sag Harbor, the road has become much more significant for cars regularly traveling the length of the East End. It is often used as a zippy alternative to Montauk Highway, meaning speeding autos and commercial truck traffic are regular fixtures on this bayside artery.

For years residents have complained of increased traffic. Noyac Road, the main thruway for a relatively small community primarily comprised of homes, has become a by-way for an influx of vehicles, large and small. It’s annoying and dangerous to residents. And it’s also physically damaging to that road.

The road was not designed for incessant truck traffic. The noise is obnoxiously close to many residences, sure, but the weight of those vehicles digs into the pavement and causes more unnecessary cracks and blisters than the highway department can regularly keep up with.

We’re happy to hear Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has been proactive in putting forth legislation that would ban commercial truck traffic on Noyac Road. The proposed legislation would prohibit trucks over 10,000 pounds — except those vehicles with reason to be there, like school buses or delivery trucks making stops on or near Noyac Road — and subject any violators to traffic fines.

This is a measure that’s been talked about for years, and it’s something that should have been enacted a long time ago, as Noyac Road traffic is nothing new. Southampton Town will hold a public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, April 24 and we hope to hear many voices in support of this plan.

However, we urge the Southampton Town Board not to lose sight of the bigger issue at hand. There is a real problem with the curve in front of Cromer’s Market and the Whalebone Gift Shop. We believe the ban on trucks on Noyac Road is a great way of addressing part of the problem, but it is in no way a silver bullet.

We’re pleased to see the town responded favorably to the wishes of Noyac residents at a community meeting two weeks ago and proceeded to back away from the extensive plan to totally transform the road in that area. (The handful of concrete medians, including a “loading zone” that blocks direct access to Bay Avenue, were a little too excessive.) And we’re eager to see more immediate measures being taken. Striping and/or rumble strips are a great way to initiate small steps toward change that the community, and the town at large, can begin to respond to.

At the same time, residents need to understand that anything the town does is going to change something. The hamlet is going to evolve whether residents want it to or not, and they have to be participants to help manage that change as best as possible.

What we really should be doing is making that road more pedestrian friendly, with bike lanes and sidewalks. Ultimately, we should not only work to ease the dangers that are so prevalent on that stretch of roadway, we should work to make Noyac Road even better than convention. But, that’s not possible without us first committing to some sort of change.

Again, there are few who would argue with the fact there is a problem on Noyac Road. ?But, it’s not going to get any better until we take decisive steps toward making that change.

Town Considers Banning Trucks on Noyac Road

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By Claire Walla

It’s not a panacea, but it’s a start.

When Noyac residents gathered two weeks ago at the Bridgehampton Nutrition Center to discuss their distaste for the 2011 plan to calm traffic on Noyac Road, one of the many ideas tossed out from the crowd was a measure to limit commercial truck traffic on that strip of roadway between North Sea and Sag Harbor Village.

And at a Southampton Town board meeting last Tuesday, April 10, board members unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing on the matter. (This will take place Tuesday, April 24 at 6 p.m.)

The idea was pushed by a handful of people at that Noyac community meeting, but it’s an idea Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said goes back a good number of years.

“There’s just been such an explosion of traffic on that road,” she said.

The effort to limit trucks was brought about in earnest in 2004 when the town conducted a hamlet study of Noyac. In addition to the current traffic issues concentrated on the curl in the road near Cromer’s Market, the frequency of large, 18-wheeler trucks along the narrow, single-lane, shoulder-less roadway was of concern.

“When you live here, after a while you become blasé about it,” said Noyac resident Chuck Neuman, who is also the former president of the Noyac Civic Council. “But, when you think about it, it’s a quality of life issue. I live about 500 feet away from the road, and when [trucks] break, I hear it!”

According to the current draft of the law, the measure (if enacted) would ban all commercial trucks over 10,000 pounds that aren’t traveling Noyac Road for a pre-approved purpose. School busses and delivery trucks with designated stops on Noyac Road would be allowed, for example. But commercial trucks using Noyac Road as an alternative route to Highway 27 would be banned, and subject to fines.

Throne-Holst said the reason why this measure was largely overlooked in the past is because the original plan included the construction of weigh stations in order to regulate truck traffic. These would cost a pretty penny to implement, and the thought made many residents pessimistic of the town actually going through with putting such a structure in Noyac, or North Sea.

But Throne-Holst said the current plan is for this new law to be upheld by law enforcement.

In addition to the issue with weigh stations, Throne-Holst added that there was some skepticism surrounding the viability of a plan to enforce traffic restrictions without the town implementing a comprehensive, town-wide plan for traffic. While this is still waiting in the rafters of town hall, Throne-Holst said she hopes this might be the start of an effort to create a town-wide transportation plan. But, even so, she said Noyac Road is “well situated” for the proposed ban on commercial trucking.

According to town records, there are currently several roadways in the town of Southampton that limit commercial truck traffic—most of them small side roads—including Hildreth and Carroll streets streets in Sag Harbor. And, as Supervisor Throne-Holst pointed out, many smaller roads that lead in to Noyac Road currently impose trucking restrictions, which would make it a bit easier and even logical to regulate traffic on Noyac Road.

Noyac resident Linda Heine has been at the helm of efforts to control traffic out in front of Cromer’s Market. As the owner and operator of the Whalebone Gift Shop in that same shopping complex, Heine has held strong opinions of the various plans the town has put forth in an effort to take traffic-calming measures.

After expressing a deep dissatisfaction with the town’s most recently proposed effort to increase traffic safety near her store—plans which included cutting off access to Bay Avenue from Noyac Road and creating several concrete medians—Heine said she was pleased the town seemed poised to scale back.

“I really appreciate the fact that Supervisor Throne-Holst was willing to re-think it and look at alternatives,” she said this week.

Of the concept of banning commercial truck traffic, Heine said, “it’s a very interesting thought.” She admitted the volume of large trucks on Noyac Road is an issue, even pointing out that in the span of just a few minutes last Tuesday morning, she counted four large trucks zoom passed her house, which sits on Noyac Road.

However, she admitted the issue is not at the forefront of her thoughts at the moment. She said she’s not sure the measure will directly affect the need for calming traffic.

“No matter what kind of vehicles you have on Noyac Road, the whole key to traffic-calming is slowing traffic down,” she said.

Back to the Drawing Board For Noyac Road

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By Claire Walla


“I think this is the largest community meeting of this kind that I have been to in my four-plus years in office,” exclaimed Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst as she looked out at more than 100 faces at a Noyac Civic Association meeting last Wednesday, March 28.

The public had turned out en masse at the Bridgehampton Nutrition Center to weigh in on the town’s most recent version of a plan to reconstruct Noyac Road. Twenty-eight people spoke that evening, and all but one was adamantly opposed to the current 2011 plan detailing new traffic-calming measures to be implemented at the bend in the road near Cromer’s Market in Noyac.

Above: Southampton Town Director of Transportation Tom Neely addressed a packed house last Thursday at the Bridgehampton Nutrition Center.

Complaints mostly hinged on the scale of the town’s blueprint, which most residents agreed was much too extreme for their bayside neighborhood.

“Of all the plans I’ve seen, this is about the worst,” said Ralph Dispigna. “If you want to destroy a neighborhood, this is the way to do it.”

Tony Lawless, who owns and operates Cromer’s Market, echoed most of the sentiments that night, saying the current plan would create more traffic, causing cars to drive into Pine Neck to avoid congestion.

“On any given day I could have three tractor-trailers pulling into here,” he said, pointing to the proposed parking lot, where the 2011 blueprint calls for a stop sign to be implemented. “Do we need tractor-trailers driving in here [Pine Neck] because they can’t get in here?”

He continued, “Elm Street is one of the narrowest roads in Pine Neck and you’re diverting all the traffic onto it.”

According to a survey drafted and tallied by the Noyac Civic Association (84 people responded to 350 surveys which were sent out) 56 percent of respondents said “No,” the 2011 plan does not accomplish its mission. And an even greater number of respondents, 65 percent, felt the plan would “change the rural character of Noyac.”

.Ultimately, when asked point blank whether they were in favor of the 2011 plan, 64 percent of respondents voted “No,” versus only 27 percent who voted “Yes.”

Noyac resident Jim Posner said he felt the town should “respect the survey.”

“We’re not engineers, but the surface of it shows that we’re against it,” he added.

Like many, he said speed bumps and stop signs — part of what he called “the ‘let’s take it easy’ approach” — would be a much better solution than concrete barriers.

“If we did step one, then we could see how it worked,” he continued, and if it doesn’t, “then we could go into a fancier plan.”

Ultimately, after listening to many reactions from community members, Throne-Holst submitted that the current plan would need to change.

“I think what we’re hearing first and foremost is that this is overkill,” she said. “We have to take a giant step backward.”

The effort to improve the bend in Noyac Road near Cromer’s was first established on a town-wide level eight years ago when a 2004 Hamlet Study identified the potential dangers on that stretch of pavement. A year later, the town’s first conceptual plan for reconstruction involved adding a concrete barrier between the road and a proposed parking area in front of the commercial businesses on the north side of the street.

The plan also called for blocking access to Bay Avenue from Noyac Road, making it only accessible via Elm Street.

Six different iterations of the original plan surfaced over the years — all of them blown-up into large color posters, which peppered the walls of the Nutrition Center last week — the last of which seems to have brought on the most controversy.

The 2011 Conceptual Plan, like the original, proposes adding a concrete median between newly created parking spaces, in front of The Whalebone and Cromer’s Market, which wraps around Bay Avenue, cutting off direct access to the neighborhood. Like the original plan, cars would be forced to access Bay Avenue from Noyac Road by first turning onto Elm Street, then taking a right onto Bay.

Keith Schumann, who said he was representing the next generation of Noyac residents and just so happened to be a former traffic engineer, said he, too, believed the 2011 plan was too drastic.

This plan also requires cutting into the triangle-shaped property where Bay and Elm join — a piece of land belonging to Whalebone owner Linda Heine. Even though the town has drafted plans that build over that patch of dirt, Heine said last week that she was “offended” by the town’s intent to build over it.

“That piece of property is owned by my family,” she told the crowd. “I was told it wouldn’t be touched unless we wanted to give it away.” And, she said, they don’t. (Throne-Holst later stated that the triangular piece of land would not have to be touched in order to implement traffic-calming measures.)

Heine said she preferred the 2009 Plan over the 2011 iteration, saying it was much more “friendly.”

Resident John Anderson, who has lived in Noyac for 50 years, didn’t object to any of the statements made that night. Rather, he simply called for action.

“Sometimes, backing out of those spaces [at Cromer’s], you’ve gotta say your prayers!” he exclaimed.

“We’ve been talking about this problem off-and-on for 10 years,” he continued. “And I’ve seen faces here I’ve never seen before. My great concern is that we’re going to spend another 10 years talking about it.”

He paused before continuing, making his message was loud and clear.

“For crying out loud, let’s fix it,” he exclaimed, making no attempt to contain his passion. “Can the powers that be make some decisions?”

According to Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, the town is now hoping to implement striping, rumble strips or stop signs before the start of the summer season. While the supervisor is also exploring the idea of preventing commercial trucks from traversing Noyac Road, an idea some in the audience seemed to favor, he said this is something that would take a lot longer to implement and would require an additional public hearing and a resolution by the board.

New Southampton Town Board Member Focuses on Environment

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By Claire Walla


Last Friday marked the four-week point for new Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera. The Republican from Water Mill defeated Independent Party member Brad Bender in a tight race last November for an open seat on the town board.

So, what’s it been like to be at town hall for one month? The Express sat down with the councilwoman to find out.

“I know it’s only been four weeks, but it feels like it’s been four months!” exclaimed Preston Scalera who said she felt almost fully integrated into the fabric of town hall pretty early on.

As the former deputy attorney for Southampton Town and a former councilwoman in Oyster Bay, Preston Scalera said she came into town hall with certain strengths, which she said she’s already put into action.

“My background is planning and zoning,” she noted. “I would very often help people through the myriad of legislation [surrounding such things as building permits], and help them deal with different people in different departments.”

Thus, she is already assisting Councilman Chris Nuzzi in his effort to create a project development council for the town.

According to Preston Scalera, this would be a resource for residents, particularly small business owners, who are in the midst of planning or building projects. The council would advise applicants how to best complete all necessary documentation with the town in the most efficient way possible, to avoid redundancies and superfluous material.

But beyond town hall operations, the councilwoman has already demonstrated a keen interest in environmental issues, and is spearheading the effort to build an educational campaign around the town’s use of plastic bags.

“I’ve been working on that diligently,” she said. “The challenging part of that is trying to get the food industry and the other business entities, and the town’s sustainability committee all on the same page.”

While Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst had pushed efforts to adopt legislation that would effectively ban all single-use plastic bags in the town of Southampton — as has already been done in Southampton Village — Preston Scalera said there are too many interests at stake, which is why she’s helping to promote an education campaign instead.

“I think that an all-out ban, legislation, is the easy way out,” she continued. Getting people to change their habits and stop throwing away plastic bags “takes more thinking outside-the-box. You have to balance the very real goal of protecting our natural resources and minimizing the impact on the business community.”

At this point, Preston Scalera called legislation a “quick fix.” But, she said if education efforts don’t seem to work, then the town might revisit legislation.

In the same vein, Preston Scalera is also beginning to draft legislation that would create a water mitigation fund, which she said would be general enough to apply to both freshwater and coastal mitigation projects.

“It could be used for a whole host of things, like upgrades to septic systems or even projects the [Southampton Town] Trustees are working on,” Preston Scalera said of the proposed fund.

“I also want to change the code so that it would be a town-wide benefit under PDD [Planned Development District] law,” she added. In this way, any construction project that falls under PDD jurisdiction would be able to put money toward water mitigation as a “community benefit,” just like low-income housing and pine barrens restoration.

Most recently, Preston Scalera also said that she completed the rather customary cycle for new board members of official “getting to know you” conversations with town hall department heads. She expects to review their written feedback — details on plans or studies in the works, and upcoming capital projects — in the coming days.

“I want to see where there may be room for us [town board members] to step in and help, or what may need to be put on the backburner,” she explained. “Just as we’ve streamlined staffs, we have to help them run [their departments] efficiently.

“The most challenging thing is constantly looking for that balance,” she continued. “Given our economic constraints, this means [streamlining the town’s workflow] and still getting residents the services they need.”

Similar Issues, Different Tacks

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By Bryan Boyhan


Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson may have more in common than most think. Aside from being the heads of governments in the two South Fork townships, they have faced many similar issues in the past two years — not the least is inheriting governments with crushing deficits.

The pair were the guests of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons on Monday night at a public forum held at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton. An audience of about 50 tossed out questions and, finding common ground, gained a bit of insight into how the leaders addressed problems both big and small.

“You had to bring up the leaf pickup,” laughed Throne-Holst while Wilkinson smiled and rolled his eyes to a question from LWV member Judy Ross about how the two supervisors approached the issue so differently.

“Southampton went to brown bags and East Hampton just dropped the program cold turkey,” observed Ross.

“The decision was not made by the board, but by the highway superintendent,” Throne-Holst continued. This year, homeowners were not allowed to simply pile their leaves in front of their houses for pick-up (with some exceptions) as they had in years past. Instead they were to acquire town bags for pickup or haul the leaves themselves. The move was ostensibly to cut costs, but has been widely criticized.

“Once we’ve had the program for a full year we’ll be able to evaluate it better,” said Throne Holst. “If we were in better economic times, we could easily say this wouldn’t be as a big a problem.”

Wilkinson acknowledged that economics were a factor in his board’s decision to cancel the leaf program.

“No kidding, I was told in the first week [of his tenure] that we had to declare bankruptcy,” said Wilkinson who became supervisor just as the town was facing a multi-million deficit. “I had to decide what services I had to cut. Not cops, not lifeguards, not senior programs. That was the backdrop to the leaf decision.”

The economy has played a large role in both administrations. Throne-Holst inherited a broken process that left the town with a multi-million dollar deficit while Wilkinson’s predecessor put the town into a $30 million hole through mismanagement. Audience members wondered how such problems would not arise again.

“I’m under review by the state comptroller, which ratchets it up a bit,” said Wilkinson, who borrowed money from the state to make up the deficit. “We’re putting in controls that should have been there all along.”

“I think we share that,” said Throne-Holst. “Our issues are different, but they exposed a lack of control.” While Southampton didn’t pursue state financing, they have since added controls.

“There are new policies and procedures, from purchasing to overtime to transfer of funds; just about none of that can happen without town council resolution,” she said.

Audience member Nada Barry wondered what cooperative efforts there were between the towns and other municipalities in purchasing and shared services.

“It’s something we pursue on a regular basis,” said Wilkinson, although he conceded later there is little the towns do together.

“The savings are in purchasing through state contracts,” said Wilkinson. “Am I sitting down with Anna trying to figure out if we can save money on buying paper towels? No.”

“Savings are in bigger purchases,” agreed Throne-Holst, “which is why we’re looking at a health consortium.”

Throne-Holst explained that the supervisors from all the towns in Suffolk County are currently looking into a joint purchase of health insurance for their employees — notoriously one of the most expensive parts of a budget. She said a similar proposal through another association, the East End Mayors and Supervisors, stalled; but she is more confident the larger numbers will make it more appealing.

“It all has to do with the economy of scale,” she said.


Town Board Approves $80.3 Million 2012 Budget

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By Claire Walla


Last week, the town of Southampton unanimously approved a 2012 Adopted Budget that would represent a tax levy of approximately $63.8 million. According to the supervisor’s office, the exact calculation for what next year’s spending cost would be is still being tallied.

While this budget will be less than Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s preliminary $80.2 million spending plan, it still represents a 1.2 percent tax levy increase over this year’s operating budget. The supervisor had created a zero-percent increase in her proposed budget. But the 1.2 percent tax levy increase incorporated into the adopted budget still resides within the two-percent tax levy cap local governments throughout the state of New York must abide by for the 2012 fiscal year.

For a resident living in a home assessed at $600,000 outside an incorporated village in the town of Southampton, this represents a tax increase of $18.48, bringing town taxes up from $816 to $834. For residents within incorporated villages with homes assessed at $600,000, this would represent a reduction of about $24.21 on their tax bill.

In total, the town board will see 19 voluntary retirements from those taking advantage of the town’s retirement incentive. Employees will receive an additional $1,000 per every year of service to the town upon their retirement this year.

One of the greatest topics of conversation leading up to last Friday’s vote was the town’s police department. The supervisor had laid-out plans to reduce the staff by eight senior officers. However, the town board ultimately voted to force into retirement only three senior officers, who will retire by the end of the year along with four senior officers who had already planned to retire in 2012.

Town board members have the authority to force into retirement any police officer who has served for at least 20 years on the force. Though never enacted before, this provision to town code was implemented decades ago during contract negotiations between the town board and the police union.

The board’s Republican majority — Jim Malone, Chris Nuzzi and Nancy Graboski — voted in favor of the revised plan, which would retire three members of the Police Benevolence Association (PBA) instead of those officers who are members of the Superior Officers’ Association (SOA). Bridget Fleming voted against it and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst abstained.

What’s more, board members also voted 3–2 against the supervisor’s proposed plan to spend nearly $700,000 on technology upgrades at the town police department. The program would purportedly have cut-down on the amount of time it takes officers to generate paper documentation and according to Throne-Holst, it would have saved the department money over time. But the board’s majority members, while supportive of the overall idea, felt it best to be more fiscally prudent in these economic times.