Tag Archive | "Bridget Fleming"

Fleming Discusses Diversity With Bridgehampton Community

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By Claire Walla

From crime and ballet to affirmative action, last Thursday, February 16, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming came to the Bridgehampton Childcare Center to talk about “the politics of it all.”

The monthy event, The Politics of it All, takes place and is co-sponsored by the Bridgehampton Childcare Center and the East End chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). And the purpose is to bring East End politicians to an informal setting with members of the local community to talk candidly about issues.

The Childcare Center’s Executive Director Bonnie Cannon said the aim is to create an atmosphere that’s “cozy” and “informal.”

The central talking point last week revolved around the town’s affirmative action efforts, particularly regarding the proportionately low number of African Americans serving in leadership positions at town hall.

Fleming pointed out that the town has appointed a new affirmative action officer, Thelma Harris, whose job is to make sure that the staff in town hall reflects the make up of the people who live in Southampton Town.

“Bonnie [Cannon] and I worked really hard to keep that position in the budget,” Fleming added, because, “those jobs [at town hall] shouldn’t belong to just an inside group of people.”

When asked whether or not the town currently has any attorneys of color, Fleming announced it does not.

This prompted Lucius Ware, president of the East End chapter of the NAACP, to reflect for a moment on the town’s hiring practices.

“Ten years ago, 3 percent of the town’s employees were people of color,” he said. That year, he added, “that number went up to 17 percent.” He said he hopes the town doesn’t lose sight of progress that was made then.

“It seems we’re trying to go through ground that was turned a decade ago, as if it never happened,” he said.

Fleming recognized Ware’s point, and took the issue a step further.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation. The bottom line is we have a situation that is unacceptable,” she stated, explaining that the number of African Americans in town hall is disproportionate to the number of African Americans currently living in Southampton Town. “Right now things need to be changed.”

Fleming said she helped put together an affirmative action task force, which includes several people at last week’s meeting: Thelma Harris, Gerald Martin and Bonnie Cannon.

Cannon went on to explain that there are three high-level management positions currently open at the town, including positions in the comptroller’s office, the assessor’s office and the land management office. Although Fleming pointed out that the town is in the midst of a town-wide hiring freeze. More immediately, however, Fleming said the affirmative action task force will work to bring more diversity to seasonal roles with the Parks and Youth Services Department, because these departments will be hiring in the immediate future.

Part of the goal of the task force, she continued, is to work to educate more people on how the civil service process — which is required for any town government job — works.

“The status quo is perpetuated if only a certain group of people knows how to navigate the civil service process,” she continued. “Education is the goal.”

Fleming added that the affirmative action task force will also “work on ways to support folks once they are in a career path.”

Mitchell recommended that the town create a public forum to educate people on the civil service process, which Fleming seemed to support.

Bridget Fleming moved to the East End 10 years ago with her husband and young son after having worked professionally as a ballerina and then a fraud prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. Since joining the town board nearly two years ago in a special mid-term election, Fleming said she has focused on economic opportunity, environmental health and government accountability.

“We have to partner in order to get things accomplished,” she said. “Government doesn’t have any money, the community doesn’t have any money, but we have each other.”

One More Meeting Before Town “Bites the Bullet” on Noyac Road Expansion

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Noyac Road Expansion adjusted

By Claire Walla


For Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, the town has been waffling long enough. Something needs to be done about Noyac Road.

“I think there’s just a point at which we have to take action that is effective before we see more tragedy,” she stated at a town board work session last Friday, February 10. “What are we going to do, wait for someone to get killed before we do something?”

The stretch of pavement in question curls at a small shopping complex between Bay Avenue and Cedar Lane, which includes Cromer’s Market to the east and the Whalebone General Store to the west. Addressing several accidents that have occurred in the area over the years — precisely 47 from 2008 to 2010, according to Southampton Town’s highway superintendent Alex Gregor — the town has sought to make traffic-calming improvements since at least 2003, when a hamlet study identified that intersection as a major traffic risk.

However, town government played hot potato with the project for years, passing it from Land Management to the Planning Board and then the Town Board, before the board finally passed a resolution at the tail end of 2009 to allocate funds to the Highway Department designated specifically for the road construction project.

“There are rumors in the community that the funding was taken away [from this project],” Fleming said at the meeting.

She spoke in reference to an “alert” that had been circulated the previous week by an organization called Spokespeople. The document conveyed the notion that Councilman Chris Nuzzi intended to defund the Noyac Road project.

However, Fleming continued, those rumors are “not true.”

She explained that there was a budget modification at the end of 2010, which reallocated funds that had been reserved for the Noyac Road expansion project to other road repair projects within the Highway Department. But, this was only because — by the end of 2011 — construction had still not begun in Noyac. Fleming reiterated that the money is in this year’s budget.

“It has been in place since 2009,” she added. “We’ve authorized it, and we’re behind that.”

According to Gregor, the reason construction has been halted has to do with indecision in the community as to the best way to execute traffic-calming measures.

The proposed plan — which includes laying in concrete curbing to physically separate the row of shops from Noyac Road — has been through at least 13 drafts, Gregor explained. The current model includes expanding the road slightly to the south and adding three concrete medians in the middle of Noyac Road, plus a left-hand turn lane into the shopping center from the eastbound traffic lane. It also proposes cutting off access from Bay Avenue to Noyac Road.

Currently, Bay Avenue (which runs alongside Whalebone) meets up with Elm Street to the west at a single point, essentially funneling traffic from two roads onto Noyac Road in one spot. This is a major area of concern for Ray DiBiase, an engineer with McLean and Associates, who conducted a traffic study of this section of Noyac Road for the town.

While a normal “T” intersection will have roughly nine total “conflict points,” or areas where traffic accidents are likely to occur; this intersection has 20.

To mitigate this situation, the current plan cuts off access to Bay Lane from Noyac Road. Instead, the parking area extends into the road with a crescent-shaped area DiBiase explained could be used for trucks to park while loading and unloading goods.

However, Whalebone owner Linda Heine opposes the current configuration laid out by the town. And she has a more significant stake than many: her family now owns the triangle of land between Bay and Elm that the town has proposed paving over.

“I agree that something needs to be done, but this is way too much,” Heine said.

She particularly cited issues with the proposed “loading zone,” saying trucks in the area would block visibility to her store; but she also said putting concrete barriers between the parking area and the road is “overkill.”

“I don’t know why the parking has become such a major concern,” she continued. “I understand the safety issue, but anyone who couldn’t back out safely shouldn’t be on the road.”

In the end, Heine said she recognizes the conundrum the town is in, but feels there’s a better way for town officials to address the traffic problems.

In line with Heine’s concerns, the imposition of concrete barriers had some town council members questioning the need for such permanent adjustments — Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera wondered whether striping or rumble strips might be installed instead, and Councilman Jim Malone asked about traffic cameras as a way to prevent speeding in the area.

Both Gregor and DiBiase agree that more permanent fixtures were necessary to not only calm traffic, but prevent cars from swerving on the road.

“They call it a friction theory,” Gregor explained. “If your feeling is that the road is getting smaller, it forces you to drive slower.”

He cited the concrete median outside North Haven Village Hall as a successful example of this concept.

“Our responsibility is to everyone,” Gregor continued. “But, mostly the people walking and cycling the roads.”

Fleming added, “One of the things I’ve heard more and more is that if you make the roads safer for bicyclists, you make them safer for cars, as well.”

Noyac Civic Council President Elena Loreto agreed that something needed to be done. “Let’s face it, it’s dangerous,” she said. “As a bicyclist, I no longer ride on that road because it’s dangerous.”

However, she doesn’t believe the town’s current plan will satisfy all needs.

“I think maybe they need to look at the plan wish fresh eyes and come up with something different, because obviously some of [the plan] is not amenable to some of the store owners,” she said. “It doesn’t mean the town should stop, but maybe we should go back to square one.”

Last week’s meeting concluded when Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst reiterated her commitment to getting something done.

“Let’s have one more meeting,” she continued. “Let’s get as critical a mass [as we can] together at once, then after that I think we need to just bite this bullet and do it.”

Though an exact date and time have not yet been set, the town board is expected to hold a special meeting during the first week in March to address the proposed Noyac Road expansion plan.

Town Aims to Increase Recycling Efforts

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By Claire Walla


Christine Fetten is developing a 15-year plan for waste reduction. As Southampton Town’s Director of Facilities Management, she’s been tasked to lead the effort to improve the long-term recycling system laid-out in the town’s overall Comprehensive Plan, which will span through 2025. And as part of this plan, she aims to track every pound of recyclable material that leaves this town, ensuring it all gets disposed of in the most environmentally sound way possible.

Overall, she said the Town of Southampton is recycling more than the national average, for which only an estimated 33 percent of households are actually reported to recycle. Of the residents who use the town’s transfer stations, Fetten said about 51 percent separate out recyclables from their rubbish.

However, she went on to explain that only 15 percent of Southampton Town residents actually use the town’s transfer stations. This is where enforcing recycling efforts can become tricky.

This is not to say 85 percent of the Town of Southampton is not recycling — Fetten made that clear. But, it does mean that 85 percent of town residents use private carters, and where those recyclables end up, Fetten said, is unknown at this point.

But this is just what Fetten aims to find out.

Southampton Town is required to draft a waste management plan by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The town initially set to work on this document in collaboration with environmental consultants from CDM (Camp Dresser & McKee) and Smith Associates, who recommended the town continue operating its transfer stations. (In addition to facilities in Hampton Bays, Westhampton and North Sea, there is also a smaller transfer station in Sag Harbor.)

However, part of continuing operations included one crucial caveat: “The DEC wants us to gain more information on what all of the town’s garbage is doing,” Fetten explained.

Thus, her department will begin issuing permits to commercial carters in an effort to begin tracking that information.

“We’re looking to obtain: tonnage collected, tonnage disposed of, ultimately tonnage recycled and the location of the receiving facilities and the routes,” Fetten continued.

By collecting this information, Fetten said the town will “Gain an idea of the recycling rates in all parts of the town.”

Currently, she said the town itself is making all efforts to dispose of waste products in ways that minimize their impact on the environment.

“We bring our co-mingled [garbage] to the town of Brookhaven,” Fetten explained. “Plastics are generally baled and loaded into a trailer for overseas transportation containment.”

She said paper is also baled and sent overseas, but the town receives money for these recyclables.

“Waste management is set up to be an enterprise account,” Fetten continued.

So, the fees associated with the sale of recyclable materials go toward running the town’s transfer stations. So does the sale of compost to commercial carters, which is $2 a yard when loaded on site, and $3 a yard when delivered by the town. (It’s free for residents.)

“In addition to being sustainable, we need to make sure we’re covering our costs.”

Fetten said the town sends recyclable materials (paper, cardboard and metal) to Gershow Recyclables in Nassau County; it sends e-waste (including computers, cellular phones and televisions) to e-Scrap Destruction up island; and it takes all other recyclable materials (including glass and plastic) to Brookhaven Town’s recycling facilities, where Fetten said they are reduced and reused.

However, not all materials that can be are currently recycled. Fetten said her department is looking into ways to properly dispose of batteries and Styrofoam. While rechargeable batteries can most often be returned to the store where they were purchased, at this point Fetten said alkaline batteries can only be chucked into green bags, which eventually end up at a landfill.

The same is true for Styrofoam.

“There’s no longer a recycling facility on Long Island for that,” she explained. “At least not that I know of. That’s why it goes in a green bag [used for generic trash].”

She said the town is looking into opportunities to ultimately bale these products and then sell the materials for market value.

In the end, while Fetten said the town will continue to explore the most cost-effective and environmentally sustainable recycling options, and will continue to explore newer recycling technologies, she said the overall message is tied to a much bigger picture.

According to statistics compiled by CDM & Smith Associates, individuals in the Town of Southampton generate an average of 4.43 pounds of waste materials a day. And with a year-round population of 60,000, which is estimated to climb to 180,000 in the summer months, Fetten said, “that’s a lot of waste!”

The ultimate goal is waste reduction, she continued. In part, this is contingent on state and federal governments, which have the power to introduce new technologies, like soy-based Styrofoam, which decomposes instead of being co-mingled with regular rubbish and tossed in a landfill.

But, on the local level, Fetten said the town needs to work on fostering sustainability goals and options. Not only encouraging residents to recycle, but teaching them how to cut-down on their waste from the get-go.

“There are so many different opportunities for the population to make choices” about the materials they use, Fetten continued. “That’s really the goal of our education and outreach program: To provide that information to the public.”

The public comment period on the town’s Waste Management Plan will be open through January 31. The public is invited to review the plan online or in the town clerk’s office, and submit comments.

Waterfront Plan Seeks Public Involvement

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By Claire Walla


Do you have any thoughts or opinions about local waterways in the town of Southampton? The vitality of marine life? Public access to town-owned beaches? The quality of water in this coastal region?

As the town of Southampton is in the process of developing its Waterfront Protection Plan (WPP), now’s the time to make them known. And, with its new website created specifically to address issues of water safety and environmental sustainability, the town of Southampton is making that task very easy for you.

As part of its much greater effort to develop a WPP, members of the WPP steering committee — planning and development administrator Jefferson Murphree, assistant planning and development administrator Freda Eisenberg, chief environmental analyst Marty Shea, town trustee Ed Warner and councilwoman Bridget Fleming — helped launch the website www.waterfrontprotectionsouthampton.org.

While it’s certainly an effort to share information with the public, it is also important for culling information from the public as the town continues to pursue drafting this plan to protect its waterways, according to Eisenberg.

As she explained to Southampton Town board members at a meeting last Friday, December 16, the website is part of an agreement the town made with the state one year ago when it accepted grant money to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP).

“One of the components of our contract with the state is to have a community outreach program,” Eisenberg explained.

Since it launched nearly two months ago, Eisenberg said the site has seen several hundred hits a month and has generated several comments from the public. Many of the issues raised on the website are being addressed by members of the town’s consulting agency, the Urban Harbors Institute at the University of Massachusetts.

While individual questions may not necessarily get answered directly, Eisenberg said the consultants will search comments for common themes and address overarching issues.

The website also includes research and information, such as the town’s current Peconic Estuary Plan and Regional Plan. And it further clarifies information, such as explaining why the town decided to develop a Waterfront Protection Plan — the town’s own terminology — rather than a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, or LWRP.

An LWRP — a common method of putting plans in place to protect local waterways that many local municipalities (including Sag Harbor) have already adopted — is technically what the state’s grant money is earmarked for.

However, Eisenberg explained, “the reason why it’s ‘waterfront protection,’ not LWRP, is that … the term ‘revitalization’ has connotations of redevelopment that aren’t particularly consistent with what we want to do in Southampton. The emphasis here is on protection and preservation enhancement.”

The website, she added, is important for getting information to the public in a more timely and efficient fashion.

“Instead of waiting until we have a complete plan at the end of the project to come out for a public hearing, we’re going to post material as it becomes available,” she said.

In January, Eisenberg said the committee plans to upload a research report submitted by the project consultants.

“They admitted they were a little overwhelmed by the amount of information Southampton has out there,” she added. “But, we’re still pretty comfortable in keeping to the finish date.”

The town is only one year into its two-year contract with the state.

Paper or Cloth? Southampton Town Seeks to Ban Plastic Bags

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By Claire Walla

“In my opinion, we’re going to look back at this and question why we didn’t do this earlier,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said to her fellow council members.

Throne-Holst was speaking at a town board work session last Friday, December 9 in reference to a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags throughout the town of Southampton.

“I think the entire world is moving in this direction,” added Throne-Holst, a stanch proponent of the measure.

The proposal to ban plastic bags in the town of Southampton comes nearly six months after the first work session was held on the matter. In that time, the town’s sustainability committee chairman Tip Brolin sought more information from the town’s business community and consumers, specifically addressing concerns many businesses initially expressed regarding the high price of replacing plastic with recyclable paper.

The town’s proposed plastic ban initially would effectively ban single-use plastic bags less than two mils thick, and less than 28 inches by 36 inches in size. Smaller plastic bags — like those used to hold fish and produce — would not be affected by the ban.

The legislation also originally included provisions that would have allowed stores to carry paper bags made of 40 percent recyclable materials, a stipulation that essentially mirrors similar legislation already enacted in Westport, Conn. (Most grocery stores use paper bags that are made of 30 percent recyclable materials.)

“I do generally agree with the fact that we need to get greener,” said Debbie Longnecker of Cromer’s Market on Noyac Road.

However, she expressed some concern with the added price tag associated with purchasing reusable bags and paper bags.

At one point, she explained, “We gave reusable bags away. However, not everyone brings them back.”

She said the store’s winter clientele is more inclined to get into the habit of consistently bringing reusable bags when they shop. But she said it’s a different story with the summer people who are in the area for a short period of time and less inclined to bring their own bags when they shop.

“I think a lot more planning has to be done before [this law is enacted],” she added. “There needs to be a cost-effective alternative before you say to people: You can’t do this anymore.”

Partially quelling Longnecker’s concern, Brolin explained last week that the proposed legislation will in fact allow stores to use the less expensive paper bags made of 30 percent recyclable materials. Plus, he added that follow-up surveys with nearly 1,700 shoppers in Westport, Conn. revealed that 53 percent were consistently using reusable bags after the plastic ban went into effect. Brolin compared this number to the nearby Norwalk/Wilton area — which has not implemented a plastic bag ban — where the number is closer to 10 percent.

Should Southampton Town decide to implement legislation that bans single-use plastic bags, it would follow in the footsteps of both Southampton Village, which banned plastic last spring, and East Hampton Village, which adopted similar legislation last month. The legislation proposed for the town would essentially be the same as that adopted in the Village of Southampton, except that paper bags would only have to be made with 30 percent recyclable materials as opposed to 40 percent.

Before adopting the legislation, Brolin reported that the town initially discussed promoting the use of reusable shopping bags by educating the community on the harms of single-use plastic bags — the fact that most of the bags are not recycled and are piling up in landfills and littering the oceans, thereby potentially harming at least 260 different sea species. However, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that after a lackluster response from the business community, she feels the best tactic at this point is to adopt the legislation and spend six months before the policy is enacted making residents aware of this change.

According to Liz Plouff, the town’s sustainability coordinator, education will come in the way of press releases and conferences, as well as a partnership with SeaTV, the town government television channel. In addition, Plouff has suggested the town hand-out reusable bags to town residents at no charge. She said the town could finance this measure by getting local stores and businesses to pay a small fee in exchange for getting their logos printed on the bags.

The town board will hold its first official public hearing on the proposed plastic bag legislation on Thursday, December 22.

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.

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.”


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.