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Home for Sag Harbor’s Antique Fire Trucks Closer To Being Realized

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Members of the Sag Harbor Fire Department, from left to right, Second Assistant Chief Bruce Schiavoni, Pete Garypie, Chief Jim Frazier, Ed Deyermond and Bob Mitchell, with the department’s 1938 Maxim pumper.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Members of the Sag Harbor Fire Department see the light at the end of the tunnel in their quest to create a home where they can store and work on the department’s collection of antique fire trucks—as well as show them off to the public from time to time.

Last month, the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board signed off on the application of Sag Harbor Antique Fire Trucks, Inc., which has been spun off from the fire department to run the project, for site-plan approval. The nonprofit group wants to construct a nearly 4,000-square foot building on 2.5 acres it owns on the west side of the Bridgehampton Turnpike near Hildreth Street.

It will unveil the plans for a barn-like structure with three bays designed by architect Robert Lenahan before the Sag Harbor Village Board of  Historic Preservation and Architectural Review this Thursday, June 12, at 5 p.m.

Assuming the board signs off on the plans, Ed Deyermond, a village trustee, who is also the vice president of the nonprofit, said the department will seek some seed money from the fire department, pursue a building loan from a local bank, and start fundraising in earnest.

“This is our heritage. This is where we started from,” said Pete Garypie, the president of the organization, of the desire to house the department’s four antique fire trucks in a centralized location, where they can be stored in a climate-controlled environment, and where volunteers can keep them up and running.

The department owns four antique trucks. The only one that is currently operational is a 1938 Maxim pumper that is now stored at a private site on Clay Pit Road.

The village bought the pumper new, during the depths of the Depression, Mr. Deyermond said, and it arrived in town just in time for the 1938 hurricane, after which it was pressed into service to pump drinking water for village residents.

The department also owns a 1943 Chevrolet truck that was originally used at Camp Upton, which is stored in a private garage in Sagaponack, and two others, a 1951 Mack pumper and a 1929 Dodge pumper that are both “cocooned in shrink wrap” at a private garage in North Haven, according to Bob Mitchell, the secretary and treasurer of Sag Harbor Antique Fire Trucks.

Fire departments typically have antique trucks, which are used for parades and other special events, including funerals.

Although it has been named the Sag Harbor Antique Fire Truck Museum, the facility will not be open to the public except for special open houses, group members said, because, among other things it would not be feasible to staff it on a regular basis.

“This all started under the presidency of Chris Kohnken,” said Mr. Deyermond of the effort to safeguard the department’s antique apparatus. After Mr. Kohnken stepped down, other members stepped up, to keep the project alive.

“It’s been a long haul, basically because of the wetlands,” said Mr. Deyermond, noting that organization had to get approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Harbor Committee, the ZBA and the planning board.



Sag Harbor Village Board: Ambulance Corps Looks Towards Paid Help

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By Kathryn G. Menu

For Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Ed Downes each passing year is a record breaker, as emergency service calls increase and volunteers scramble to ensure the community has an ambulance corps it not only can count on, but one it can be proud of.

And they are certainly not alone.

Since last spring, the East End Ambulance Coalition — a group of representatives from volunteer ambulance companies from Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Amagansett, East Hampton, Springs and Montauk — have been working together towards a paid first responder program, which they hope will launch in the summer of 2014.

Starting this past June, the Montauk Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners approved a pilot program for this past summer, providing for one paid EMT 24 hours a day, seven days a week through mid-September.

Many departments on Long Island, including Southampton, have moved towards having at least partially paid paramedics and first responders who work with local volunteers, improving response times as a result.

During a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting last Wednesday, trustee Ed Deyermond noted with the increase in call volumes, considering a paid emergency medical technician (EMT) is something that should be considered within Sag Harbor’s fire district.

According to Downes, the company will likely seek to work cooperatively with the East End Ambulance Coalition, which was set to meet again Friday, towards a regional paid first responder program before seeking to fund a program for Sag Harbor alone.

Downes said if implemented, the coalition would have a team of three to as many as five paid responders on duty, available to respond along with one of the coalition companies to any emergency service situation from Bridgehampton to Montauk.

“The biggest problem is funding,” said Downes of the coalition’s efforts. Working with both East Hampton and Southampton towns for funding is being considered, he added, with the coalition waiting for newly elected town boards to take office before making any formal proposals.

No matter what program is implemented, Downes said all the fire districts will still rely heavily on volunteers. Working together, for example through the implementation of a daytime duty crew — a program established by coalition companies this July — is critical, he added. Downes said he expects the daytime duty crew is something the coalition will continue next summer.

A duty crew made up a volunteers from one of the coalition companies was on call Monday through Saturday to respond to any ambulance call, along with the home company the call originated from. The program gave the all-volunteer ambulance companies a back-up team to rely on.

For Downes, and the 29 members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, while having paid first responders on-call in a regional capacity would be a welcome help as calls continue to increase, the volunteer force will always be essential.

“Everyone gives what they can and all that they can,” he said.

In other emergency service news, last Wednesday Deyermond once again brought up the need for a helipad for medevac purposes in Sag Harbor. Last month, Deyermond suggested it could be something constructed near Havens Beach. Last Wednesday, he noted it would have to support a 24 ton military helicopter.

“Maybe we can get a ballpark figure and see if this is going to fly,” said Deyermond.

The village board also passed a resolution made by Deyermond to purchase 16 new air packs for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department at a cost not to exceed more than $70,000 out of the excess budget available through the fire department, and the remainder to be funded through the village’s contingency fund.

Deyermond said the village was also looking at the cost of purchasing two new dry suits for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team.

Last month, the fire department reported that 17 of its 60 air packs had to be replaced with newer models as they were now rated as “substandard.” Two of the dive team’s three dry suits, critical for water rescues, have been in and out of repairs.

In other village news, the board introduced two new local laws last Wednesday that will be up for public hearing at its January 14 meeting.

First is a local law amending the zoning code to require a certificate of appropriateness from the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation & Architectural Review Board (ARB) for any exterior “alteration, restoration, construction, reconstruction, demolition or material change in the appearance of such a property that is visible from an adjacent street or adjacent property.” A certificate of appropriateness would not be required for interior renovations alone.

The board will also hold a public hearing for a change to the building code, requiring sediment control during the course of a building project to protect natural vegetation and topography by requiring a project-limiting fence, mesh, straw bales, or similar devices during construction and any clearing or grading of land.

“First of all, this is usually done as a matter of course in most projects anyway but this will give the building inspector the right to enforce it,” said village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

The board was also unanimous in renewing its agreement with the Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club, which will be able to continue its program at Cove Park, a small public park near Redwood Causeway.

The not-for-profit Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club has been rowing off Cove Park since its founding in 2008. In addition to competitive rowing for middle and high school students, the organization also has adult programming and camp offerings in the summer. For more information, visit rowsagharbor.org.

The board did table a request by Martin Monteith to run a sailboat charter from outside the breakwater for the 2014 summer season. Monteith was asking the board for permission to load and unload passengers from the village docks.

Thiele cautioned the board that if it was going to allow the use of its dock space it would have to charge a fee.

The board asked Harbor Master Bob Bori to weigh in on the matter before making a decision.

The board also denied a request by Susan Mead of the not for profit Serve Sag Harbor to host a fundraising event on Long Wharf June 28 and June 29.

“I am happy to entertain it at a different venue or on a different day, but it’s just that this is Long Wharf we are talking about,” said board member Robby Stein.

A Time to Grieve: Assessments Up, Despite Market

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On Monday, an outraged Southampton resident stood at the front desk of the town assessor’s office with a letter in hand.
“You are hereby notified … that the assessed valuation of the real property … owned by you has been adjusted as follows,” began the letter, which was mailed Friday, May 1.
“I bought my house six months ago for $600,000, but [this letter] tells me it was assessed last year at $1.2 million and now the assessment is $1.3 million,” said the resident, who preferred to remain anonymous. “Whoever did this assessment had to be blind to not notice all of the ‘for sale’ signs [in the area]. The market is dead and there is no financing. I can afford these increases, but my concern is for the 90 percent of the community who cannot … what will happen to the old woman who is on Social Security?”
Southampton Town’s assessor Ed Deyermond understands this complaint and the others like it that his office has received after 9,000 such notices were sent to town property owners. Deyermond contends the town must comply with state law, which dictates that properties be assessed based on the real estate market conditions as of July 1, 2008.
According to some reports, the real estate market was fairly robust last summer.
John Valente, the Southampton Town Senior Property Analyst, quoted Town and Country Real Estate as saying that, in 2008, “some markets drastically increased in some neighborhoods” and that “Sag Harbor Village prices jumped by 56.5 percent.”
When the economy nosedived in the fall, however, the housing bubble popped, sending property values plummeting.
“We are seeing significant changes in the value of homes,” Deyermond said of current housing prices. “In some cases the decreases are as high as 30 percent. But in some areas, like Hampton Bays, there is a greater decline.”
Because of state law, however, these market fluctuations couldn’t factor into the town’s assessments for 2009, but Deyermond said his team strove to make property evaluations as equitable as possible. After reviewing sales for the fall and winter of 2007, the town assessing unit met with the New York State Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) in March and refined the assessments for 4,400 properties. Overall, only 18 percent of the assessments increased, and many of these adjustments were based on renovations, quality of construction, land adjustments and neighborhood values.
At a town board work session held on Friday, May 1, Deyermond said he had been asked why the town didn’t lower assessments in light of the current economy. Deyermond pointed out that even if assessments could be lowered to reflect the present day real estate market, it would do little to alleviate the tax burden on local residents.
“If we reduce assessments by half, the budget will stay the same. The logical mathematical equation would be to raise the tax rate to raise the amount of money [the town needs],” explained Deyermond. Both Valente and Deyermond added that increased property assessments are not a revenue generator for the town, but rather are meant to ascertain equal property values in the town.
The assessment for next year will reflect the market values as of July 1, 2009 and show the decrease in property values. Town spending will most likely remain the same or go up, and this discrepancy worries Deyermond.
“I am concerned about next year. The values from 2007 to 2008 were generally stable, but property values have begun to erode out here,” said Deyermond. “The 5 percent tax cap limit has always benefited by the increase in property values.”
“If assessments drop from zero to 30 percent, we are going to have to make up for it somehow,” Valente argued.
For those residents who feel they were unfairly assessed, they will have the opportunity to plead their case May 19 — “Grievance Day.” The aforementioned Southampton homeowner plans to attend.
Deyermond and Valente are expecting a big turnout for this year’s Grievance Day. Last year, 7,000 letters were mailed and between 400 to 500 locals showed up. In preparation for Grievance Day, the town assessor’s office is dispatching representatives around the East End to meet with local residents. One employee will be stationed at the Sag Harbor Municipal Building on May 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Grievance application forms can be downloaded from the town’s website and must be submitted to the assessor’s office no later than May 19.
“People are concerned. They seem to be questioning almost everything, but that is not a bad thing,” Valente noted.

Looks Like Three for Mayor

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With June elections fast approaching, it’s shaping up to be an interesting campaign season as three prospective candidates have tentatively announced their candidacy for the position of Sag Harbor Village Mayor so far. Current mayor Greg Ferraris, whose term is up in June, told The Express in early February he wouldn’t seek re-election. Also up this June are two village trustee seats, including Ed Deyermond’s position. He, too, said he would not seek re-election. Ed Gregory, who holds the other available trustee seat, is undecided.

 According to Ferraris, one of the chief reasons for his decision to not run again was the amount of time he needed to devote to his mayoral responsibilities while also running an accounting business in recent years.

 “The demands on the position have increased over the three years I have been here, and well over the six years that I have served on the village board,” said Ferraris in February. “[Village] issues have become more complex. The demands on the village board from residents have increased.”

 With the mayoral position up for grabs, the village board might witness a little reshuffling as two Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustee members, Tiffany Scarlato and Brian Gilbride, have announced their intentions to run for mayor — although Gilbride says he hasn’t yet made a formal decision. Also throwing his hat into the ring is Jim Henry, a Sag Harbor attorney, author, business consultant and a 2007 Democratic candidate for Southampton Town Supervisor who recently picked up a petition from village hall and has expressed his intention to run for mayor.

 Scarlato has been on the board of trustees for almost six years, and is serving her third term on the board. Scarlato reported that when she first heard Ferraris would not run again, she “begged” him to reconsider, though he remained steadfast in his decision.

 “After I finished begging him, I decided it was a possibility [for me to run for mayor,]” said Scarlato.

 Currently, Scarlato is an assistant town attorney for East Hampton, though she added she doesn’t believe this will present a conflict of interest should she be elected mayor. Prior to becoming a village trustee, Scarlato said she conducted extensive research to make sure her two positions wouldn’t conflict. Of her interest in becoming mayor, Scarlato added that she has the energy to tackle the position, and ample experience in village affairs. Scarlato was also one of the main village officials who pushed to update the current village zoning code.

 Among the chief concerns for the next mayor, Scarlato said the village budget would be at the top of her priority list should she be elected.

 “I think the biggest issue [for the village right now] is fiscal responsibility,” said Scarlato. “I would focus most of my attention on that. The board as a whole has done a good job to pare down the budget and be as fiscally responsible as possible, but it has to be kept up.”

 Also considering a mayoral run is Sag Harbor Village Trustee Brian Gilbride who has been a mainstay on the village board for the past 15 years, and served as deputy mayor for nearly four years.

 “I am still thinking through it, but I am leaning towards saying yes,” said Gilbride of his mayoral candidacy.

 Aside from being a trustee, Gilbride has worked for the village in many different capacities. In 1966, he was hired by the village as an employee of the highway department, which led to a position with the maintenance department. Previously, Gilbride also served as the chief of the village fire department. He feels that his relationship with the village will help him, if he were to become mayor.

 “I worked with a lot of good people [in the village],” he said. “I have an understanding of how the village works, and I look forward to help continuing the way things are going now.”

 Seven years ago, Gilbride left a position with Norsic, the sanitation services company based on Long Island. As a retiree, Gilbride reports he isn’t “the least bit worried” about the amount of hours the village mayor puts into the position. Of the challenges facing the mayor, however, Gilbride reiterated Scarlato’s belief that fiscal and budgetary issues will be the chief issues the village will face in the coming year.

 “Hopefully the zoning code will be put to bed … Things are a little tough with the economy, but we [the village] are very conservative and started planning a year ago,” said Gilbride.

 Although the other prospective candidate, Jim Henry, hasn’t served on the village board, he has run for town office (Henry lost the 2007 supervisor’s race Linda Kabot), and also has business and economic experience. Henry created the Sag Harbor Group, a consulting firm for technology-based businesses. As an author, Henry has written investigative books on economical mismanagement and also pieces for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Nation, among others. 

 No candidates have stepped forward yet for the two trustee seats.

 In Sag Harbor, prospective mayoral and trustee candidates are permitted to submit signed petitions beginning March 31. The elections will be held on June 16.

 Over the bridge, two North Haven Village trustee seats will be open for election in June. The trustees currently holding the positions are Jeff Sander, a Main Street building owner, and Jim Smyth, the owner of The Corner Bar. In addition, two seats on the Sagaponack Village board will also be up for grabs come June. These seats are currently occupied by Alfred Kelman and Joy Seiger. No candidates have yet come forward to announce their intention to run for the positions in either village.

Above: Photos of Trustee Scarlato, Trustee Gilbride and Jim Henry. 

Ferraris and Deyermond Won’t Seek Reelection

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As the village faces rising costs, and decreased department revenue, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees has agreed to accept less payment for their services. The decision to cut back, which was made on Tuesday night at the trustees’ monthly meeting, includes the mayor’s salary and will help offset some of the village’s other expenses.

This decision comes in the months leading up to village elections, which will be held on June 16. Among the seats up for grabs will be Ed Deyermond’s village trustee position. Deyermond says he isn’t planning to run for reelection. Last week, Deyermond screened with the local Republican Party for an East Hampton Town Council seat. Deyermond, however, hasn’t formally announced if he will run for a council seat there. He is scheduled to interview with the party again in March.

Village trustee Ed Gregory, whose term also ends in June, hasn’t formally decided if he will run again.

Also coming to an end this June is the term of mayor Greg Ferraris. Ferraris said he does not plan to seek reelection. Prior to his tenure as mayor, Ferraris served on the Sag Harbor Board of Trustees for one full term, and was re-elected to a second term. During that second term, then-mayor Ed Deyermond stepped down, and Ferraris was appointed to fill the vacated seat. In those years, Ferraris notes, the village board faced many controversial issues and as a consequence, the responsibilities of the mayor have increased. Ferraris says he devoted a significant amount of time to his position as mayor, while also maintaining his own accounting business. During an average week, Ferraris estimates he spent 50 to 60 hours working on his own business, in addition to his obligations to the village.

“The demands on the position have increased over the three years I have been here, and well over the six years that I have served on the village board,” said Ferraris. “[Village] issues have become more complex. The demands on the village board from residents have increased.”

Upon completion of his term, Ferraris is looking forward to spending more time with his family, and will perhaps have the opportunity to coach his daughter’s t-ball team. Of his position as mayor, Ferraris said the most gratifying experience has been working with the village employees.

“Whether it be the highway department to the village hall staff, they all work with such pride that you don’t see in other municipalities,” Ferraris said. “The knowledge that I have gained in working with people like [village planning consultant] Richard Warren, [and village attorneys] Tony Tohill and Fred Thiele [has been remarkable.]“

Ferraris added that the board was frequently proactive in handling village affairs. One key to his success as mayor, said Ferraris, was abstaining from pushing a political agenda.

“I don’t believe you can succeed at this level if you try to move forward with a political agenda,” noted Ferraris.

Trustee Brian Gilbride said he will miss Ferraris’ leadership. “It has been a great pleasure working with Greg,” added Gilbride.

At this point, it remains unclear who will fill Ferraris’ shoes, or the two other trustee seats, as no one from the community has stepped forward to announce their candidacy for any of the available positions.

According to village election procedure, interested parties may sign a petition to run as early as March 31. April 6 is the first day the village clerk may accept a nominating position.


Southampton Town Talks Home Assessments

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The Town of Southampton is preparing for tax grievance day in May. But here in Sag Harbor, residents on both the East Hampton and Southampton sides of the village will get their chance to grieve on Tuesday, February 17.

Grievance day allows residents an opportunity to contest their property assessments, which are used to determine the amount of taxes they pay. Residents are invited to come to the municipal building in Sag Harbor between 1 and 5 p.m. on Tuesday with the required grievance form, which is available online, as well as any documentation dated before July 1, 2008, to prove that their properties were incorrectly assessed.

While the Town of Southampton is still preparing for its own grievance day, town officials are saying the change in the economy won’t affect the results this year.

Those living in Southampton Town east of the canal will see the biggest change this year and are “carrying most of the burden of the operating budget,” according to Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot.

On Friday during a work session, the Southampton Town Board met with Ed Deyermond, the town’s Sole Assessor, to discuss the progress in anticipation of grievance day and assessment rates within the town.

“There was not any measurable significant drop in value,” Deyermond said on Monday. But he said that the assessment was done based on information of properties before July 1, 2008. That preceded the major economic shift in the country which came in the fall.

“That complicates the issue for a lot of reasons,” he said.

But according to Deyermond, any information a homeowner brings to grievance day must provide data on comparable properties prior to that July 1 date.

Deyermond said that the value dropped in the last few months of 2008 and if the property values “bottom out… next year you will see the values going up and the assessments going down.”

This would mean a reverse of what has occurred this year. For example, Deyermond said that if a home was worth $1 million in July of 2008 and sold for $800,000 in December 2008, that data could not be comparable for this year’s assessment. The assessments are always a year behind, he said.

 “It is important to stay close to the 100 percent for property taxes to get ready for grievance day,” Kabot said, explaining that the closer the assessments are – the better the property taxes will be for individuals.

The town is expected to mail out notices to any homeowner whose assessment rate has gone up or down, but are not mailing notices to every resident in the town, which was what happened last year. That, according to Deyermond, only happens every three years.

The notices to Southampton Town residents will be sent out on May 1, 2009 and grievance day will be on May 19.

Deyermond said that his department remains “cautiously optimistic,” and added that from 2007 to 2008 he sees some stability.

At their meeting on Friday, the town board and the tax assessor representatives discussed creating informational literature in order to avoid misunderstandings similar to those that happened a few years ago.

In 2006, prior to Deyermond’s current tenure as sole assessor, the town was criticized for failing to communicate to the public the details of their re-assessment and what effect those changes would have on individuals’ property taxes. That year marked a major re-evaluation, the first to occur since 1992. According to Deyermond, when the market was booming between 2003 and 2005, there was a tremendous appreciation.

On Friday, Deyermond said the department is working on a public relations package that would further assist the community in understanding the impact an assessment would have on their individual taxes. Further, he said that currently anyone could walk into his office at Southampton Town Hall and get any information they require pertaining to their assessments.

Deyermond also said that the town is looking to set up a call center, where homeowners can call in with any questions pertaining to the assessed value of their home. The call center was set up for this very reason last year.

Right now, he said there are two individual appointments for the village of Sag Harbor. And the other villages including Westhampton Beach and Quogue, that are going through the process now are “really quiet.”

Overall he said there seemed to be stability in comparison to years past in both Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, but Sagaponack will see some changes.

“We are coming to the end of a new cycle,” he said “and there are a lot of new homes in that area.”

Sag Harbor Village residents can obtain a form online from the town’s website and bring that along with their documentation to the office on grievance day.

Deyermond said Southampton Town residents can make appointments on May 19, grievance day, at Saint Rosalie’s Church in Hampton Bays.

Deyermond added, “It’s a unique market out there.”