Tag Archive | "Anna Throne-Holst"

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.

Cops and Trustees’ Last-Minute Budget Talks

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by Claire Walla

Perhaps no department in the town of Southampton has been as fiercely scrutinized during this year’s budget process as the Southampton Town Police Department. Though it’s still unknown how deep into the red the department’s overtime budget will be before the end of this fiscal year, it’s already seen a deficit in overtime spending that’s topped $250,000.

What’s more, Southampton Town Police Chief Bill Wilkinson has been tasked with streamlining the department, reducing current staffing levels from 96 to 90 officers.

While he’s been charged with finding a solution for his department’s current deficit, he also faces some backlash to his proposed plan to trim his department — which, he argues, would help alleviate the issues with the current deficit. The chief’s plan hinges on introducing new technology into the force.

“The technology program is critical,” Wilkinson told Southampton Town Board members at a town hall work session on Tuesday, November 15. “We’re looking to streamline and flatten out the command structure [of the police department] — that’s dependent on having the technology project.”

According to Wilkinson’s estimates, a standard Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrest typically requires officers to take roughly four to five hours to process the paperwork associated with it. With the proposed technology project — an automated system that would cut down on the amount of paper work and data entry officers are now responsible for — he said the time it takes to process a DWI would be cut in half.

Among town board members, there seemed to be few arguments with the benefits of the program. However, Councilman Jim Malone said he wondered whether the project, at roughly $700,000, would be too expensive to implement in this economic climate.

“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “With the state of economics being what they are, we’re trying to get by year to year… [The technology project] is an investment, but it carries a cost.”

For Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the decision of whether or not to invest in new technology is not a simple matter deciding whether or not to pay for a $700,000 project. “The balancing act is: do we invest in the technology, or do we invest in more police officers?” she asked rhetorically.

Because if the town decides not to invest in the new technology, she pointed out that the police force would be short-staffed and would not be able to function adequately — without dipping into its overtime funds.


TRUSTEES


After several meetings with town board members regarding their proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year, the Southampton Town Trustees finally seemed to come to an understanding with the board regarding how much money each entity is willing to spend to keep the trustees in operation.

The trustees’ ultimately requested permission to put up a bond measure for $250,000 that would be met with a financial contribution from the town of $150,000.

This money would be put toward a series of four projects that trustees said are of high priority. The first and most important project would be to build a new structure to replace the existing storage facility on Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays ($275,000). Additionally, the trustees need $15,000 to fix the Wooley Pond bulkhead, $200,000 for the Old Fort Pond dock, and $200,000 for the Baycrest Avenue dock

While Councilman Jim Malone noted that the total cost of these projects comes out to $690,000 and the trustees are asking for $400,000 in funds, Trustee Eric Schultz noted that the trustees would simply get through as many projects as they could before their funding ran out.

“I support the bonding,” Malone finally commented.

Additionally, the trustees asked to keep the services of attorney Joe Lombardo, who they said is well-versed in patent law and was instrumental in helping the trustees successfully defend their rights against implementing a saltwater fishing license in the town of Southampton. His has been written out of the supervisor’s tentative budget.

“If you decide not to keep him,” Schultz added, “We request that we have someone with the same amount of time dedicated to us.”

Finally, the trustees argued that they needed the services of a marine maintenance supervisor. The position is currently vacant due to retirement. And in order to save costs, the trustees proposed a 50/50 deal, in which they would pay half of this person’s salary, which they estimated would total $75,000.

Southampton: Top Cop Aims To Trim Operations

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By Claire Walla


Southampton Town Police Chief Bill Wilson admitted last Friday, November 4 that his department has, in fact, spent $225,000 more than its allotted overtime funds due primarily to changes in the department that he implemented when he took office last May.

However, he said, those costs don’t represent the full story.

Though the overtime budget is currently in the red, Chief Wilson said he has a vision for the department that will not only solve the overtime dilemma, but will bring more financial stability for the police department for the years to come.

“I think we can agree that the Southampton Town Police Department, operationally, has been on an austerity budget for quite some time,” Wilson began. “In looking at the long-term health and longevity of the police department over the next 20 years, I was tasked with finding significant savings [when appointed as police chief ].”

For fiscal year 2012, that total is $1.5 million, which is currently built into the supervisor’s Preliminary Budget. That cost savings is laid-out in a plan to trim the police department by eight members, using a stipulation in all officers’ contracts with the town that allows town officials to force officers who have reached 20 years of service into retirement. (Under Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s plan, officers who have 25 years of service or more will be affected.)

While Southampton Town Comptroller Tamara Wright recently said this formula has been complicated by the fact that fire service has now been thrown into the mix of what constitutes an officers’ employment with the town — the number of officers now eligible for retirement has risen to 12 — the chief maintains that trimming his staff in this way is the most effective for the department.

“There has been some concern with the department’s ability to operate with a certain amount of ‘brain drain,’” he said, referring to the fact that those forced into retirement would be the town’s senior officers with the most experience.

“We have talented people in those positions,” he continued, “But we have talented people waiting to fill those positions. So, at no time would public safety be jeopardized.”

He went on to explain that part of his reorganization would be removing superior officers from positions that he said could easily be “civilianized.” Wilson said that the lieutenant currently responsible for the office of emergency management — “an expert in the field” — has agreed to come back to the department after his retirement next August on a part-time or consultant basis in order to train a “civilian” to do the job.

Similarly, the chief said that a current sergeant interested in taking the town’s retirement incentive has agreed to come back to the department to work in an administrative, civilian position.

“In doing so, that would allow me to be able to flatten out the current command structure,” Wilson commented.

His goal, as he has explained it, is to get more uniformed officers out of the office and onto the streets.

In speaking to the longevity of the department, Wilson also told town board members that he hopes to make better use of technology to streamline procedures within the department that, as of now, are “archaic.” After adding that he has been asked to trim current staffing levels down to 90 (he said there were 96 when he first took command), operations will have to be streamlined.

That cannot be done “without the automization of a substantial amount of the services we perform — filling out paperwork, records management, processing evidence,” he added.

In one sense, Wilson continued, overtime numbers increase “because of the amount of uncommitted officer time — there is a report generated for every single thing that we do.”

But cutting back on those reports is not an option.

“One of the primary purposes of law enforcement is documentation,” Wilson said. “It’s just the way that the documentation is done that takes up time.”

The board went into executive session to discuss the finer details of Wilson’s plan regarding which specific staff members he proposes moving to higher positions to fill the spots of those expected to take retirement or be forced into retirement. However, though the board discussed Wilson’s plan for reorganizing his staff, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst noted that she would be continuing discussion with the department’s two main unions: the Superior Officers’ Association (SOA) and the Police (PBA).

Should an agreement be reached or should the board decide not to force officers into retirement, Wilson noted that it would affect his carefully mapped out plan for a reorganization that would result in $1.5 million in savings.

Pointing to the fact that the new measurement for retirement eligibility at 25 years now includes 12 officers instead of eight, Councilman Jim Malone said that decreasing the department by 12 officers “is not sustainable,” adding that that would mark a drop-off of nearly 50 percent.

As discussions continue about the future of the town’s police department, Malone said he wanted to see more options than the what’s currently laid-out in the Preliminary Budget (retiring those who have accumulated 25 years of service).

“While it’s a viable choice, the choice of one is not really a choice in my mind,” he said. “There’s got to be a contingency plan.”

Looks to be Wins for ATH and Fleming, Scalera Leads Bender By 85 Votes

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By Claire Walla


For the duration of the night of Tuesday, November 8, Independence Party candidate Brad Bender and Republican candidate Christine Preston Scalera were neck-and-neck in the race for Southampton Town Council. And though by the end of the evening Scalera edged Bender out of the number-two spot behind incumbent Bridget Fleming, the race has not officially been called.

Incumbent Bridget Fleming (D.) maintained a steady lead as voting results continued to pour in from districts throughout the town, and she ultimately ended the evening with a predicted 27 percent of all votes cast (excluding absentee ballots). Republican candidate Bill Hughes, on the other hand, remained at the tail end of the competition, trailing Fleming by three percentage points and garnering approximately 24 percent of the votes.

While the gap between Fleming at the top and Hughes at the bottom was arguably close — representing a difference of only 655 votes — the competition between Preston Scalera and Bender was even more intense. The two candidates swapped places in the race on more than one occasion, at one point divided by a scant three votes, or .02 percent.

Though Bender showed an early lead — edging out Preston Scalera by almost three percentage points — Scalera was soon ahead by a nose. But by 10:53 p.m., with 41 of the town’s 42 voting districts accounted for, it looked to be Bender ahead by 68 votes. Finally, at 11 p.m., the competition flipped for he last time.

The unofficial results as of Tuesday night showed Fleming in the lead with 26.97 percent, Preston Scalera in second with 24.72 percent, Bender in third with 24.32 percent, and Hughes rounding off the competition with 23.94 percent of the overall vote.

“This is not over,” said Southampton Democratic Committee Chair Gordon Herr at the Democratic committee gathering, held in the large auditorium of 230 Elm in Southampton Village. “We still have 791 absentee ballots. I’m still convinced Bradley’s going to win.”

In an email response Wednesday night, Preston Scalera wrote that she is “cautiously optimistic” that the results reported Tuesday night will remain.  ”I look forward to the opportunity to be able to serve the residents of this town,” she added. Hughes did not respond to a request for comment on the election results.

But in an interview on Wednesday, Bender said a margin of 85 votes is still too small to make a final call on the race. With 271 absentee ballots yet to be counted, he added that it’s anyone’s game.

“I wouldn’t want to concede or congratulate a victory with 85 votes,” Bender stated. Now it’s just a waiting game, which Bender said he’ll take one day at a time.

“For a virtual unknown to poll within 85 votes on my first time shows how well a race I ran and what the people actually think of me,” he said. “However the people decide is how the people decide.”

Standing on the stage against a patriotic backdrop lined with her running mates, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (a member of the Independence Party who also was endorsed by the Democrats) offered similar sentiments.

“What you’re looking at here is the new majority of the town board,” she declared to much applause from the audience composed of Democrats. The supervisor continued by saying to her constituents that while watching the election results as they were projected against the wall of the building, “a moment of true emotion came over me.”

“[I thought about] what the last two years have been,” she added, referencing the fact that she has been the supervisor in the political minority on the town board. “And I’m confident that they’re over.”

“We’re only a few votes away,” Bender added from the stage.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming also said she felt assured Bender would pull ahead and become the newest member of the town board. But she also made sure to congratulate the election of her fellow Democrat Steve Bellone who was voted the new Suffolk County Executive, replacing Steve Levy.

“I’m looking forward to working with him and not being ignored by the county executive’s office anymore,” she declared to the sound of much applause.

By the end of the night, incumbent Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst — the only supervisor candidate officially on the ballot — gained 63.43 percent of the total votes for supervisor, while 36.56 percent of votes were recorded for write-in candidates. Presumably, the vast majority of those write-in ballots went to former Southampton Supervisor Linda Kabot who waged a strong write-in campaign against the current supervisor.

In an email response Wednesday morning, Kabot wrote, “I am proud of all the grass-roots campaign efforts and the percentage points I garnered … without even having my name listed on the official ballot line-up.”

She added, “For me, this race was all about integrity and demonstrating a tireless and true commitment to public service.”

Even though she fetched an impressive 3,602 votes compared to the supervisor’s 6,349, that count was still not enough to tip the scale and oust Throne-Holst from office.

Also celebrating victories Tuesday night were Southampton Town Trustees Fred Havemeyer, Eric Shultz and Bill Pell — all Democrats — who joined Throne-Holst, Fleming and Bender on stage when the unofficial results were revealed. Across town, at the Republican celebration in Hampton Bays, trustees Ed Warner, Jr. and John Semlear cheered on victories of their own.

The three candidates challenging the town’s trustees in this year’s election race — Scott Horowitz, Janet Beck and Edmund Pavlak — were left out of the running when the final votes were tallied.

Finally, a Southampton Town proposition pertaining to PDD (Proposed Development District) legislation passed with 79 percent of voters voting “yes.” The proposition will make it so that a super majority of town board members will be required to approve all non-agrarian PDD applications in the future.

Town Cops Bust OT By $225,000

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By Claire Walla

Much to the surprise of all members of the Southampton Town board, the Southampton Town Police Department has already spent $225,000 more than was allotted in its 2011 overtime budget — and it continues to accrue more debt.

At a town board work session held last Friday, October 28 the board met with Lieutenant Bob Pearce, Deputy Town Comptroller Kathy Scott and Town Management Services Administrator Russell Kratoville to discuss how the police department managed to run such a high deficit. Police Chief Bill Wilson was unavailable last week, though he is scheduled to address the issue again at this Friday’s work session, November 4.

According to Pearce, there are several factors for the overtime shortage. Not only was the department overworked in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, he said a recent shortage of staff has contributed to the need to dip into overtime. The department has lost four officers, bringing its force down to 92, and there are currently eight officers who are out, six of whom are being replaced in their absence.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi demanded to know why, from 2008 through 2011, when there wasn’t a huge variance in the number of police officers, “there is a huge variance in overtime,” he said. “I think drilling down to the details is necessary to see how these numbers shifted.”

Pearce further explained that when Chief Wilson joined the town he increased the number of sectors with 24-hour patrol from seven to eight, adding an additional patrol car for the Flanders/Riverside area, which Pearce said studies have showed has a relatively high rate of crime and warrants 24-hour patrol.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that it’s important to maintain eight sectors of patrol.

“We saw a very active season this year and there was a commensurate rise in crime activity that needed to be investigated,” she said.

For that reason, Throne-Holst said that the rise in costs came from the detective division.

According to figures read off by Russel Kratoville, the detective division generated 91 hours of overtime in July, 170 hours in August, 120 in September and 150 hours during the first 15 days of October.

For Nuzzi, the crux of the issue goes beyond the reasons why the department has accrued this debt, he is concerned with the town’s immediate dilemma. With two months left in this fiscal year, he emphasized the fact that there is currently a zero in the budget line for the department’s overtime pay.

“How are we going to be able to shift resources around to deal with this?” he asked.

The board had previously authorized shifting $175,000 from the department’s retirement fund to off-set this deficit, but that was before it was revealed that these overtime costs are rising.

“I just want to add that I felt as though I was caught,” Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said. “I didn’t know that we were in this position in the first place. I would have felt a whole lot better about authorizing the money if I had known prior to that — or if we had had something in the way of advisory — that there was no more money left.”

Budget Discussion Focuses on CPF Bond

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By Claire Walla

The first regularly scheduled public hearing on Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s tentative 2012 budget focused largely on the Community Preservation Fund (CPF).

Bob Anrig, chairman of the CPF advisory board, began discussions by firmly urging the board to approve a $125 million bond offering for the department.

“What I care about is the long-term interest of the town,” he said last Friday, October 28 at a special board meeting on the budget. “I believe that going forward this [bond offering] is good, smart government. The land is available, prices are the best they’ve been in a long time and the financing costs are at all-time lows.”

The benefit to the bond, Anrig further explained, would be to secure the money to preserve the lands now, at a relatively low interest rate, before property values in the town rise.

“We have been stalling on this,” Anrig continued. “My fear is that it’s become a political hot potato and we need to move forward on this now.”

Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming are in support of the bond measure, while the board’s conservative majority members — Chris Nuzzi, Nancy Graboski and Jim Malone — expressed some concern with taking on more debt. If, for whatever reason, the CPF does not have enough money to continue paying back the bond, Nuzzi said his worry was that then the burden would fall to Southampton Town taxpayers.

Fleming, however, noted that the bond measure would take fluctuating costs into account. It’s a four-year pay-back plan that she insisted the town would be able to extricate itself from, should the town foresee the possibility of CPF revenues not remaining as strong as they are currently predicted to be.

Throne-Holst pointed out that even in the midst of the financial crisis, “CPF has remained robust.”

She doesn’t expect the fund to decrease so dramatically that it would be unable to pay for the bond, but if it should, she added, “The fact of the matter is that should it ever get to that dooms day scenario, we could then go to the state and say we may need to reverse one of these purchases. But the likelihood of that is so remote.”

Jim Malone echoed Nuzzi’s sentiments by reminding the board that in 2007 the fund was lower than it had been in years past.

“We saw an impact,” he stated. “The fund does move.”

Nuzzi also pointed out that without the additional bond, the CPF would still have roughly $20 million worth of funds to dedicate to the purchase of open space.

“I support the bond, and I think it’s completely right that it’s become a political hot potato,” Fleming said, harking back to Anrig’s previous statement. “I feel good that this is good, strong money management. It’s different than just taking on debt.”

Fleming urged Anrig — himself a banker and a local real estate agent — to further explain why the CPF advisory board is so adamant that the $125 bond be issued as soon as possible.

“The bond proposal has been written in extremely prudent terms,” said Anrig. “ We tried to ensure that even after all costs of the fund are considered that we have a debt service coverage ratio of projected revenues that’s at least one-and-a-half or one for the bond.”

“The opinion of the underwriters was that that was an extremely conservative set of assumptions and a conservative debt service coverage ratio,” he continued.

Anrig added that this bond would be completely funded by CPF revenues, so it would have no affect on the Southampton Town tax rate.

During the public portion of meeting, Linda Kabot, the former Southampton Town supervisor who is running a reelection campaign as a write-in candidate against Throne-Holst, used her time at the podium to weigh-in on the issue.

“I applaud [the fact] that the majority of you appear to be more fiscally conservative to scale that [bond proposal] back to address the risk,” she said.  “You’re talking about doubling our debt load. I do think that needs to be vetted further.”

Town Seeks Direction to Protect Waterways

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By Claire Walla

The town of Southampton has just embarked on a two-year process that will culminate in a comprehensive plan to protect all town-owned waterways heading into the future. And at this stage in the game, it wants to hear from you, the residents of Southampton Town.

Members of the advisory committee for the town’s Waterfront Protection Program (WPP) gathered at the community center in Bridgehampton last Thursday, October 27 to give the initial presentation on what the plan is expected to entail. (The same meeting was held the previous night in Hampton Bays for town residents west of the canal.) But, as committee member and Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming told the roughly 50-person crowd, “right now we’re in the inventory and analysis phase.”

The WPP is similar in theory to a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), which earns seaside and oceanfront towns and villages in New York financial assistance for certain funding programs. Southampton Town is, in fact, preparing its WPP in accordance with the New York Department of State so that it meets all the requirements of an LWRP. The only reason the town has chosen a new acronym, according to Assistant Town Planning and Development Administrator Freda Eisenberg, is because LWRP traditionally refers to waterfront in industrialized urban areas. Southampton Town, she said, doesn’t quite fit that bill.

In addition to members of the 14-person advisory committee, last Thursday’s meeting was also attended by faculty members of the Urban Harbors Institute (UHI) at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. UHI will work in concert with the Pace University Land Use Law Center to complete the first draft of the proposal for the town.

“Our expertise really lies in supplying scientific information,” said UHI member Jack Wiggin.

In general, the WPP will be designed to address several key issues that affect the waters of Southampton Town: flooding, erosion and sea level rise; public access; water-dependent uses and harbor management; water quality; fish, shellfish and wildlife habitats; land use ranging from housing to agriculture to open space; scenic, historic and cultural resources. But Wiggin added that before the UHI team can address such categories, it has to know what the pertinent issues might be. And for that, it needs public input.

All attendees of last week’s meeting — including Citizens Advisory Committee Chairs Fred Cammann and John Linder, as well as the Town Trustees and elected officials — split into four main groups, each facilitated by a member of UHI. They proceeded to discuss any personal or regional issues residents may have had. Issues ranged from chemical runoff and global warming to waterfront access.

“What’s happening here is that property owners adjacent to the ocean are trying to restrict access to those roads [that end at the water],” said Bridgehampton resident Jeffrey Vogel.

“The towns are hard-pressed to fight these things,” he added. “It’s a continuing problem and it’s happening all throughout the East End. Public access is being taken over by property owners through lawsuits.”

Vogel’s fellow Bridgehampton resident Jeff Mansfield, head of the Mecox Sailing Association, which has entered into a license agreement with the town to create a sailing school where the now-defunct Mecox Yacht Club was once housed, echoed these sentiments.

“We’re currently being sued by the homeowners [on Bay Lane in Water Mill],” he stated.

UHI member Steve Bliven, who facilitated this discussion, said, “that’s just the kind of neighborhood versus facility-access I’m talking about. That’s the kind of issue that the plan is trying to address.”

With a WPP in place, he added, the town will be able to confirm its stance on waterfront access issues, allowing officials to refer to written documentation for each case in which waterfront access is threatened.

“That way the town doesn’t have to address these things on an ad-hoc basis,” Bliven continued. “The best way to fight that is to have a clear set of laws and policies.”

Another topic residents raised was the inordinate amount of parking tickets issued throughout the town in the summer months.

“They give tickets all over the place,” Vogel explained. “Including in my driveway!”

Bliven said the same issue had been addressed the previous night with residents in Hampton Bays. He suggested that perhaps “increased signage” would reduce the influx of falsely issued parking tickets.

Across the room, a group of residents discussed water quality with Wiggins and his UHI associate Kristin Uiterwyk. Northampton resident Brad Bender (who is also running for Southampton Town Council) expressed concern with soil runoff from farmlands. And several other residents were worried by the presence of nitrogen in groundwater often caused by septic systems.

While Wiggin said he was happy to hear about these issues from the residents’ perspectives, he added that “I don’t think this plan would necessarily be the primary way you would go about addressing the septic problem. What’s happening with the septic system is causing concern for us, but this plan won’t provide the solution.”

Similarly, just as toxic runoff has an affect on town waterways, so do waters from neighboring towns, an issue some residents thought to address. Wiggin said the WPP would only govern areas within Southampton Town, even though town waters are integrally connected to neighboring towns.

“That was one of our frustrations,” explained Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

But she said she and her administration will continue to try to work with neighboring districts so that the affects of the WPP will have more far-reaching impacts.

“That is a big part of this plan,” she added. “We want to do it on a broader level.”


Town Votes Yes To Mecox Sailing Association

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By Claire Walla

The decision was unanimous. All five members of the Southampton Town Board voted on Tuesday, October 25 to enter into a license agreement with the Mecox Sailing Association which proposes to open a sailing school at the end of Bay Lane in Water Mill.

“I’m very pleased with the actions of the board last night,” explained Jeff Mansfield, a Bridgehampton resident who is spearheading the effort to turn the dilapidated site of the old Mecox Yacht Club into a new not-for-profit sailing association.

Members of the newly formed Mecox Sailing Association have waited two years for the Southampton Town Board to finally weigh-in on the issue. But, he continued, “At the same time it’s a bit bittersweet.”

The Mecox Sailing Association and the town of Southampton have been slapped with a lawsuit by a collection of Water Mill homeowners calling themselves the Mecox Bay Civic Association. The homeowners challenged the legality of the town’s wetlands permit, charging that the Mecox Sailing Association should not be allowed to clear away vegetation in a designated wetlands area. (Bram Weber, the lawyer representing the homeowners, could not be reached for comment.)

“It’s a frivolous lawsuit,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said. She went on to explain that the lawsuit was brought on by a group of homeowners, most of whom live on Bay Lane, which dead-ends into Mecox Bay.

“This is just a blatant example of [a private group] that happens to have a lot of money behind it,” she added,

The proposed Mecox Sailing Association “is a very low-key plan to teach kids from all walks of life to sail,” she continued. “The fact that that kind of money gets thrown in[to this scenario], I think is in really poor taste.”

Members of the Mecox Bay Civic Association have been fighting the Mecox Sailing Association since its proposed plan for a sailing school was put before the board in 2010. In the past, residents have complained about expected issues with traffic, parking and the school’s presumed exclusivity.

Mansfield has rejected these claims.

Though the current lawsuit takes issue with the fact that the town approved the clearing of vegetation in a wetlands area, Throne-Holst added that she believes the town and the Mecox Sailing Association are in the right.

“It’s town land, and we got the clearing permit,” she added.

For Mansfield, the suit filed against the sailing association and the town has less to do with the sailing school itself, and more to do with what he believes stems from homeowners’ efforts to maintain privacy. In fact, it’s an issue he said has resonated across the East End in recent months.

“There’s been an epidemic recently of individuals trying to block beach access,” Mansfield declared.

He pointed to the recent legal fight over a stretch of beach in Nappeague and this summer’s clash in Noyac over beach parking.

“It’s scary for our little group [the Mecox Sailing Association] because it’s quite costly to fight these battles,” he added. “We’re just a couple of mothers and fathers defending this.”

“If we don’t come together as a community,” Mansfield added, “We’re going to lose this access.”

Now that the sailing association has finally entered into a license agreement with the town, Mansfield said members will be putting their efforts into raising money to fight the legal battles before them. He said the group has applied for 501c3 status, which he expects to be achieved by year’s end. This would make all donations to the Mecox Sailing Association fully tax deductible.

Mansfield explained rather lightheartedly that he and other sailing association members initially expected to have the whole operation up and running last summer. Suffice it to say, the process has been a bit more elongated than he had predicted. And with a lawsuit now in the picture, he said he has no idea how long it will take before the sailing association will actually be able to begin clearing the small patch of land on the bay — if, of course, it wins the lawsuit.

“We’re not about to abandon ship here,” Mansfield added. “We have only yet begun to fight.”

Dems’ Campaign Video Sparks Ethical Debate

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By Claire Walla


On Tuesday, October 25 the Southampton Town GOP filed a claim against Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, alleging the board members violated the town’s code of ethics. Both women are up for re-election along with the newest member of their political team, Brad Bender, who is running for a second available council seat.

The GOP takes issue with scenes in a campaign video put out by the candidates, called “The Southampton Project,” which were filmed within Town Hall. According to Southampton Town GOP Chair William Wright, the scenes violate the ethics code because they make use of town property and feature a town employee (Throne-Holst’s assistant Jennifer Garvey, who speaks on the phone to the supervisor) for campaign purposes.

“This is not about whether I think the video is good or not, it violated town code,” Wright reiterated. “I know the other side says we’re grasping at straws, here … but we’re playing by the rules. They should be too.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Throne-Holst said the GOP claim is “baseless.”

“We were not filmed campaigning at town hall, or doing any sort of campaign work in the video,” she explained.

Southampton Democratic Committee Chair echoed Throne-Holst’s sentiments and downplayed the GOP’s claim.

“It’s pretty petty,” said Gordon Herr. “Anyway, the video’s already out there. It’s viral. [News of this claim] is probably going to make more people want to watch it.”

According to Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, all four members of the town’s ethics board have been notified of the complaint. Scarlato could not speak to the suit, saying only that it’s in the hands of the ethics board, which has full authority to decide the case and determine what potential repercussions might be appropriate, should Throne-Holst and Fleming’s video be determined unethical.

Fleming is a Democrat. Throne-Holst is a member of the Independence Party as is Bender — both are also running on the Democratic Party Line.