By Kathryn G. Menu
Since last fall, the fate of the iconic Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, a county road operated by the Village of Sag Harbor through a lease that expired this past winter, has been in constant state of flux.
On Tuesday, with its impending sale to the Village of Sag Harbor tabled by the Suffolk County Legislature, it appears the county still hasn’t made up its mind about what to do with the wharf, much to the frustration of Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.
“You have to make up your mind,” said Gilbride on Wednesday morning. “Since this past fall, this has gone from the county wanting us to take the wharf for a dollar and give us $600,000 for long term maintenance, to the county giving it to us, but only with half that money, to the county saying we have to take the wharf and fix it ourselves. And now that County Executive Steve Levy is out of the running for another term, the county is saying, ‘Maybe we will keep it.’”
After much back and forth between Levy’s office, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Gilbride, in February the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees agreed to purchase Long Wharf from Suffolk County and take on the long-term maintenance costs associated with the facility. The village already pays for annual maintenance like re-striping parking spaces, winterization of the floating docks and general upkeep.
According to Gilbride, the village collects revenue from dockage at the wharf, which last year topped $95,000, but often the village brings in far less and certainly not enough to offset the cost of long term maintenance of Long Wharf which over the next decade could cost the village $621,000, according to a report compiled by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.
Planning to create a dedicated reserve account to cover those costs, Gilbride said he was frustrated to learn the county legislature has now stalled on the Levy-sponsored bill to sell the wharf to the village, and Schneiderman admits he too was surprised by the outcome.
“The village seemed ready, but reluctant to take it and my position was I was ready, but reluctant to give it away,” said Schneiderman on Wednesday morning. “I would have preferred the county continue to maintain it with a village lease, but I fear if that happened it would not be maintained properly.”
Schneiderman said he did not vote to table the measure.
With the county in what Schneiderman called “very difficult financial times,” he said he was unsure the county would be able to afford the estimated $100,000 it spends annually on Long Wharf’s upkeep. With the wharf likely in need of being re-bulkheaded at some point — a costly project, said Schneiderman — the county legislator said he tried to explain to his colleagues that the wharf would have maintenance costs that exceed its current revenue.
On Tuesday, in session, Schneiderman said the discussion was not focused as much on giving the wharf away, but more a questioning of why the county would give away an asset it could make money from, through, for example, charging for parking on Long Wharf.
“I explained that could severely hurt local business, and in particular Bay Street Theatre,” said Schneiderman. “It could have an impact on the vitality of the downtown area, and typically the county is about revitalizing downtown areas.”
“To me it makes sense to have the village manage and own it and determine its future,” he said, adding it is his hope that at the June 7 meeting of the legislature they will vote to do just that.
Gilbride questioned whether the county would legally be able to have paid parking on Long Wharf should they decide to keep it for themselves, but also wondered how would it be enforced.
“And if you put county, paid parking down there, Bay Street Theatre might as well close its doors now,” said the mayor. “All we are doing on our end is trying to protect our theatre and our business district.”
Septic Law Goes Back to the Drawing Board
A proposed law aimed at protecting the health of the Peconic Estuary through regulation in the Village of Sag Harbor that would require homeowners have their septic or wastewater treatment systems checked once every three years will go back to the drawing board, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.
The draft law would have required residents to have any in-ground cesspool, septic tank or drain field inspected once every three years, starting four years after the law is adopted by the board.
An impetus for creating the draft law, said trustee Robby Stein, is that the county is looking specifically at Sag Harbor and three other waterfront communities that have sewage treatment plants to see if the plants should be expanded in an effort to reduce the number of in-ground septic systems on the waterfront.
“I think it is a little too much for us,” said Gilbride of the draft law. “I think we need to have some more discussion about this and then re-introduce a new law.”
Former mayor Pierce Hance said he would like to see a needs assessment study performed on the waterfront to see if nitrogen loading is in fact happening because of in-ground septic systems before the village moves forward.
Save Sag Harbor Hopes for Recycling Bins
Local not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor would like to install three recycling bins, each with a container for glass, paper and general trash, on Main Street, Sag Harbor this summer.
According to Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean, the organization would pay for the cost of the three containers as well as regular pick-up service, which, after the village board meeting on Tuesday night, she said may be donated for one year by a provider the group has a tentative agreement with.
“Someone has to take care of it,” said Gilbride. “That was my issue the last time this came up.”
He added as long as the village could be assured someone would regularly clean the bins and pick up the recycling and trash, he was fine with the concept.
Thiele Asks for License Refund for Charter Boat Owners
New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. has asked the New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Joseph Martens to refund the $400 fee many charter and party boat operators have already paid for a 2011 Saltwater Fishing license.
The State Legislature has repealed the license, however, according to Thiele, a number of captains had already paid the fee for 2011 before the repeal. The State has already authorized refunds for individual lifetime license holders.
“Charter boats in New York already pay the State of New York a $250 fee for a charter boat license, in addition to the repealed $400 saltwater fishing license,” said Thiele in a press release issued late last week. “The $400 fee should be returned. The $250 is already a higher cost of doing business for charter boats than most neighboring states.”