Tag Archive | "Mayor Brian Gilbride"

Sag Harbor Terminates Building Inspector

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Sag Municipal Building

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board in a split vote on Wednesday voted to terminate the employment of building inspector Jose Escalante.

Mayor Brian Gilbride and Trustees Ed Deyermond and Ken O’Donnell voted to end his probationary employment, while Trustees Sandra Schroeder and Robby Stein abstained.

The village hired Mr. Escalante last summer to replace Tim Platt, who resigned. But in late October, it hired East Hampton Town’s acting chief building inspector, Tom Preiato, as senior building inspector to serve as Mr. Escalante’s supervisor.

At the time, village officials were quick to say they had no problems with Mr. Escalante’s job performance, but they suggested that his lack of experience and an ongoing building boom in the village necessitated the need for a more experienced hand at the helm.

Mr. Escalante said on Wednesday afternoon that Mayor Brian Gilbride called him in for a meeting and asked for his resignation. “I said, ‘I’m not resigning,’” Mr. Escalante said. “And he said, “Alright, you’re fired.’” The mayor denied that version of events.

“I offered him the chance to resign,” said Mr. Gilbride, adding that the village board had already “voted to terminate his probation. That’s about all I’m going to say about it.”

Mr.  Escalante said that the mayor told him it was largely a budgetary matter, but he said with a month to go in the year, building permit revenue, at about $268,000 is already well above last year when the village took in $206,000.

“When Tom came in I embraced him, I brought him up to date,” said Mr. Escalante. “There’s no reason why the two of us couldn’t work together.”

Ms. Schroeder, one of the trustees who abstained, said she was opposed to terminating Mr. Escalante, whose probationary period would have ended later this month.

“I thought he was doing a good job,” she said. “He brought his heart into it.”

She said she thought the village could have compromised and perhaps split Mr. Escalante’s time as building inspector and code enforcement.

“There’s a phenomenal amount of building going on in Sag Harbor,” she said. “It makes you wonder if Jose could be filling in helping the building inspector and doing something else at the same time.”

“We appreciated his effort on behalf of the village and wish him the best of luck, but due to the financial constraints of the current budget the village couldn’t afford to keep two building inspectors,” said Mr. O’Donnell.

Mr. Deyermond declined to comment, and Mr. Stein could not be reached.

Sag Harbor Moves To Evict Yacht Yard From Village Parcel

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Yacht Yard web-1

The Sag Harbor Village Board has begun eviction proceedings to force the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard to vacate this parcel it has leased from the village for boat storage.


By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board in a special meeting on November 5 voted to begin eviction proceedings against the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard over a parcel of land the village had been leasing to the business as a boat storage area.

The board agreed to hire attorney Lisa Kombrink, a former Sag Harbor Village and Southampton Town attorney, at a rate of $250 per hour, capping the amount it would pay her at $10,000.

The village and yacht yard have been at loggerheads since a 20-year lease on a landlocked parcel the yacht yard has used for storage ended on May 31 and the two sides were unable to strike a new deal.

Yacht yard owner Lou Grignon this week said he had not heard anything from the village for several months.

Mr. Grignon said he had been sending the village the monthly rent of $1299.38 since his lease expired. “They sent back a bunch of the checks,” he said on Tuesday. “But then they cashed one and asked me send back the others.”

Three boats, some trailers and other equipment used to store boats on land remain on the parcel. They include a 57-foot Chris-Craft owned by Trevor Barry, who recently asked the village if it would allow him to pay rent directly to it.

Mr. Grignon said Mr. Barry is a customer who works on his own boat and hopes to have it in the water next spring. “He’s the kind of customer I can’t afford to have here now,” Mr. Grignon said. “Normally, if I had that property, it would be fine. Without that property he has to go.”

At last week’s meeting, Mayor Brian Gilbride told the board he had sent Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley to check on the property and that he had found it in full use. The mayor said the village could possibly use the property to store and repair floating docks. He added that the village has been receiving inquiries from private businesses interested in leasing the land.

Mr. Grignon said his staff was doing its best to clear the site, but he added that the yard recently took in two boats, a 37-footer and a 48-footer that ran aground in an early November storm, with one suffering a broken rudder, the other a cracked hull.

“We had to jam them in somewhere,” Mr. Grignon said.

Mr. Grignon questioned why the village is in such a rush to get rid of him. “They’re making money off me right now,” he said.

“Lou seems to be dragging this out,” the mayor told the board. “We’re going nowhere on this. There is stuff being taken off the property and stuff being put on it.”

The mayor said village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. had suggested the village begin eviction proceedings.

Mr. Thiele said he had been in contact with Dennis Downes, Mr. Grignon’s attorney, about a timetable for vacating the premises. “The emails are all the same: He is going to be leaving and now it is November,” Mr. Thiele said.

When Mr. Grignon’s 20-year lease expired on May 31, he had been paying $15,592 a year. He said the village told them the property had been appraised at $20,000, so he offered to pay that amount with annual increases of 2.3 percent over 10 years. The villager countered with a five-year offer starting at $22,500 and going up 5 percent a year.

The property, which was once used by the Mobil Corporation to store fuel oil, was contaminated by leaks from storage tanks. It was eventually turned over to the village for a nominal fee under an agreement that there would be no buildings constructed at the site.

Sag Harbor Hires New Senior Building Inspector

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Municipal Building

By Stephen J. Kotz

East Hampton Town’s current chief building inspector, Tom Preiato, will join Sag Harbor Village as its senior building inspector on November 7.

Jose Escalante, who was hired this summer to replace Tim Platt as village inspector, will stay on for now as a building inspector and work under Mr. Preiato.

Mr. Preiato was one of the finalists for the opening last summer but said he withdrew from consideration in part because taking the job would have required a major pay cut.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride on Tuesday morning said the village board saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of its building department at a time when the village is undergoing a major building boom by reaching out to Mr. Preiato, who has more than 15 years of experience as a building inspector with East Hampton Town.

“He’s been in the trenches a long time,” Mr. Gilbride said.

“No disrespect to Jose,” the mayor added. “He didn’t have the field experience. It was baptism by fire for him.”

The village’s move came as a surprise to many employees at the Municipal Building, who said they knew nothing about the village’s intention to hire a new building inspector until this week.

Mr. Preiato, who is a Sag Harbor resident, said he was looking forward to his new position. “I’m ready to jump right in,” he said. “I know there is a backlog. But I think I bring a lot to the table.”

Mr. Gilbride said the village board decided to act in large part because members were concerned about the growing backlog of building permit applications, a backlog, he added, that was already posing a problem when Mr. Platt resigned last summer.

At their October 14 meeting, board members expressed surprise that Building Department revenue had declined for the year to date, despite signs of ongoing construction work in nearly every village neighborhood.

Mr. Gilbride said after that meeting, he drove around the village and noticed that many projects were proceeding without posted building permits.

With the Watchcase condominiums under construction in the old Bulova building, Barons Cove being redeveloped and the Harbor’s Edge condominiums nearing completion, not to mention dozens of other smaller projects scattered throughout the village, Mr. Gilbride said the time to bolster the department was now.

“Before things got too out of hand, we decided to act,” Mr. Gilbride said. “Hopefully, we can now break through this backlog.”

Mr. Gilbride added that the village is looking for ways to streamline the permit process, so building permits for simple projects can be issued more quickly. “If all the paperwork is in and it doesn’t need a board approval, it shouldn’t sit 17, 18 down on the pile before it is issued,” he said.

Mr. Preiato will be paid $75,000 in his new position. The mayor said Mr. Escalante is being paid approximately $42,500 in large part because he has less experience. Mr. Escalante is a probationary employee until December.

Mr. Gilbride, who prides himself on his tight budget practices, said the increase in spending was justified. “At the end of the day, in all honesty, Tim Platt was a very valuable guy,” the mayor said. “We probably weren’t paying him what he was worth.”

Mr. Gilbride met with East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell on Monday to discuss the matter.

Mr. Cantwell said the town is shorthanded in its own building department but would work quickly to replace Mr. Preiato.

“The building department is a very busy office,” Mr. Cantwell said, “a very busy operation, and we are going to do everything we can to keep it operating effectively.”

Mr. Preiato has served as the town’s provisional chief building inspector since late 2013. A provisional appointment is made when there is no updated Civil Service list of qualified candidates available, Mr. Cantwell said.

With Mr. Preiato leaving the town in just two weeks, the town will be down to one building inspector, Dan Casey. Another building inspector, Robert Fisher, is currently serving a work-related suspension.

Mr. Cantwell said East Hampton has already hired one retired building inspector to work on a part-time basis. He said the board would likely appoint two new full-time inspectors when it meets on November 6. It is also considering hiring another part-time inspector, he added.

The village board made the appointment at a special meeting on Tuesday morning. The village Building Department was closed afterward for a staff meeting.


Page at 63 Main Wins Reprieve Against Sag Harbor Village

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Page re open for web

The tables and diners were back in front of Page at 63 Main in Sag Harbor on Thursday evening.


By Stephen J. Kotz

Less than two weeks after the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees revoked the license of Page at 63 Main to have outdoor dining on Main Street, the restaurant has won a reprieve.

On Thursday, the restaurant obtained an injunction in New York State Supreme Court, restraining the village from enforcing its ruling, which was made at a July 18 meeting.

By Thursday evening’s dinner hour, the tables—and diners—had returned to the sidewalk.

Tom Horn, a Sag Harbor attorney who represented the restaurant before Justice Denise Malia in Riverhead, in a press release said he believed the court would be inclined to allow the restaurant to keep it seating through the summer season, reducing the financial impact of the village’s ruling.

“It was a good day for fairness today,” Mr. Horn said. “What the village was doing was hurting Page and for no reason other than to try and show that [the village] had the ability to hurt them. To be granted a judgment like this you have to have an extraordinary case. And we did. We had the facts, truth and law on our side and the court awarded what was fair.”

“We are delighted that we will be able to restore our seating and rehire the individuals who unfortunately had to be laid off as a result of this irresponsible revocation of our license. By ruling in our favor it is apparent that the court feels the village has overstepped its bounds” said Joe Traina, one of the restaurant’s owners in a press release.

The village revoked the license after charging that the restaurant had failed to get a building permit for a renovation project, overstepped the planning board’s approvals for that project, and had fire code violations in a wooden Dumpster enclosure.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride declined to comment on the ruling, referring calls to village attorney Denise Schoen, who prosecuted the case for the village.

On Friday afternoon, Ms. Schoen disagreed with Mr. Horn’s take on the way the court was leaning. The judge “was fine with letting them stay open on a temporary basis while we try to work things out,” Ms. Schoen said.

But the village attorney said it would be difficult for the court to ignore the wording of the dining license, which, she said, allows the village to revoke it for “any or no reason at all.”

The parties will return to court on August 12.


Village Revokes Page Outdoor Dining License

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Staff members clear tables and chairs from in front of Page at 63 Main after the Sag Harbor Village Board revoked the restaurant's outdoor dining license on Friday. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

Staff members clear tables and chairs from in front of Page at 63 Main after the Sag Harbor Village Board revoked the restaurant’s outdoor dining license on Friday. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.

By Stephen J. Kotz

After a month of behind-the-scenes wrangling over unapproved renovations made at Page at 63 Main, the Sag Harbor Village Board pounced on Friday, July 18, revoking the restaurant’s license for outdoor dining on Main Street.

The village took the action even after one of the restaurant’s attorneys, Dennis Downes said losing the option to offer outdoor dining would cost the restaurant between $7,500 and $10,000 a day and even jeopardize its ability to stay in business.

In an 11th hour bid to appease the village, Mr. Downes said Page’s owners had offered to immediately shut down their Back Page café, behind the main restaurant, until zoning and fire code violations there were rectified and a site-plan issued for the property.

Mr. Downes conceded that mistakes had been made, but said the restaurant had been held up during the planning process and had to do the work before approvals were in hand to be ready for the summer season.

“Without those seats, there is a lot of money being lost,” he said of the outdoor dining. “It could be the difference between being able to stay alive in the winter where there are less people out here.”

But the board would not be swayed. “We’re here talking because when there was a suspension… the right thing would have been to remove the tables and chairs and let’s get to the bottom of this,” Mayor Brian Gilbride said.

He referred to an action taken by building inspector Tim Platt, who had cited the business for doing the renovation work with neither a site plan approval nor a building permit and had ordered it to suspend its outdoor dining service until the charges were sorted out. Instead, he said, the restaurant’s owners “thumbed their nose” at the village.

The board’s action clearly got the restaurant owners’ attention. A few minutes after it revoked the license, and Page’s owners and managers left the Municipal Building grumbling among themselves, waiters and busboys were scurrying about, clearing the tables and chairs from in front of the restaurant before the evening’s dinner rush.

On Tuesday, Mr. Downes, and Tom Horn, another attorney for the restaurant, were in Sag Harbor Village Justice Court for an initial appearance on the restaurant’s behalf. Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni said she would have to recuse herself from hearing the case because of a relationship with one of the restaurant’s owners and adjourned the case until August.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Mr. Horn, who said he had only had time to quickly review the charges against the restaurant, nonetheless expressed confidence it would prevail in court. “I think the charges are technically flawed and actually flawed,” Mr. Horn said, “and I say that based on my 11 years’ experience as a fire marshal.” Before becoming an attorney, Mr. Horn was a fire marshal for East Hampton Town.

The restaurant’s saga took another turn on Tuesday night when Mr. Downes, and Gerard Wawryk, one of its owners, appeared before the Planning Board, trying to straighten out the confusion over the restaurant’s renovation project, which was undertaken this spring.

The key issues revolved around changes to the proposed site plan for the dining area now known as the Back Page Café. At a June 26 village board meeting, then-planning board chairman Neil Slevin said the restaurant had done work that planners had not intended.

That included moving without permission the location of an enclosure that would allow it to keep its dumpsters refrigerated as well as the replacement of a grass waiting area with a bluestone patio.

One of the village’s attorneys, Denise Schoen, said that the wooden Dumpster building, which had been placed next to a fence beside Murph’s Backstreet Tavern and connected to the electric service, posed a fire hazard, a charge the restaurant’s owners denied.

Ms. Schoen added that the Back Page had originally been presented as a waiting area, where restaurant patrons could enjoy a drink or hors d’oeuvres while waiting for a table inside, but had, in fact, been turned into an outdoor expansion of the restaurant.

Mr. Downes has said the planning board approved the changes when it accepted a new survey of the site last winter, but board members said it was an oversight.

Despite the disagreement, planning board members were amenable to tweaking the site plan for the Back Page and said they would okay the bluestone patio even though it would exceed the allowable lot coverage because it was served by sufficient drainage.

But planners said they would not allow the dumpster enclosure to remain in its current location because it effectively eliminated the restaurant’s driveway and prevented delivery trucks from backing in off the street, forcing them to instead block one lane of traffic on Division Street.

On Tuesday, Mr. Wawryk offered to remove the dumpster building and replace it with two smaller enclosures that would be set back on either side of the driveway farther from Division Street to provide space for delivery trucks.

Planners said they would send a memo supporting the changes to the village Zoning Board of Appeals, which has held off on a decision on the restaurant’s application for variances, pending a resolution of the site plan issues.

At last week’s special meeting, when the board informed Page’s owners that it was considering revoking the restaurant’s outdoor dining privilege, Mr. Downes tried at first to argue that it was “a was “a valuable property right” that the village could not revoke without “due process.”

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. called those charges “ludicrous,” adding that the village only charged $100 for a license and said if outdoor seats were as valuable as Mr. Downes said they were, the village should be charging more. “It’s a privilege to use public property for a private use,” Mr. Thiele said.

Sag Harbor Village Board Revokes Page at 63 Main Outdoor Dining License

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Waiters remove chairs from Page at 63 Main Friday afternoon after the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees revoked the restaurant’s outdoor dining license. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees on Friday, July 18, revoked the outdoor dining license of Page at 63 Main restaurant. The village board took the action, Mayor Brian Gilbride said, primarily because of ongoing code compliance issues with the restaurant’s new Back Page café, which opened earlier this year.

It did so after attorney Dennis Downes—who told the board the outdoor dining on Main Street earned the restaurant between $7,500 and $10,000 a day—said its owners would shut down the Back Page café immediately until zoning code violations were resolved and a site plan was issued if the village would allow it to keep its outdoor dining license.

Minutes after the village issued its order, at about 5 p.m., waiters were busy removing the tables and chairs that had graced the front of the restaurant next door to the Municipal Building.

The restaurant found itself in hot water when village officials said it made improvements to the property without first obtaining building permits. Village officials also said the restaurant created an outdoor dining area with a slate patio, when the village Planning Board had intended for it to be used simply as a waiting area for patrons who wanted to dine in the main restaurant.

Village officials also said a refrigerated Dumpster enclosure that was built behind the Back Page posed a fire hazard because it was wired for electricity, a charge the restaurant’s representatives denied.

The village also charged that Page did not remove the same number of seats from inside the restaurant as it offered outside, as it had agreed to do when applying for the license.

Last week, the village building inspector suspended the Main Street dining license, pending the restaurant’s appearance next week in village Justice Court. In the meantime, said Mayor Gilbride, the restaurant’s owners “thumbed their nose” at the village.

“We’re here talking because when there was a suspension… the right thing would have been to remove the tables and chairs and let’s get to the bottom of this,” the mayor said.

Mr. Downes sought to prevent the village board from taking action, saying the outdoor dining right was “a valuable property right” that the village could not revoke without “due process.”

Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. called those charges “ludicrous,” adding that the village only charged $100 for a license and said if outdoor seats were as valuable as Mr. Downes said they were, the village should be charging more. “It’s a privilege to use public property for a private use,” Mr. Thiele said.

Mr. Downes conceded that mistake had been made, but said the restaurant had been held up during the planning process and had to do the work to be ready for the summer season.

“Without those seats, there is a lot of money being lost,” said Mr. Downes of the outdoor dining. “It could be the difference between being able to stay alive in the winter where there are less people out here.”

Traffic Calming Inching Forward in Sag Harbor

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By Stephen J. Kotz

An effort to make Sag Harbor’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists inched forward Tuesday when Mayor Brian Gilbride told members of a group that has promoted and offered to underwrite new traffic calming measures that they should continue their fundraising efforts as they await formal village approval—approval he reiterated could come as early as next month.

Susan Mead of the organization Serve Sag Harbor, which has offered to pay for the work, told the village board, that her group has selected four intersections—Main and Glover streets, Main and John streets, Jermain and Oakland avenues, and Jermain and Atlantic avenues—for a pilot program that would make use of painted pavement and planters to test the effectiveness of the designs.

The group had originally wanted to make Main Street at the John Jermain Library a top priority, but had chosen to hold off there because of ongoing construction, she told the board.

Ms. Mead said the total cost of the project, including design work, painting and planters, and in-kind donations would come to about $25,000.

Last month, when Michael King, a planning consultant for the group, made a presentation of eight potential intersections for the pilot program, the board indicated it would most likely be ready to give its formal approval at its June meeting. On Tuesday, Mayor Gilbride said before the village formally signed off on the four intersections, he wanted the fire department, police and highway department to offer their input.

“I’m sure there is going to be some pilot project started and completed this summer,” Mr. Gilbride said on Wednesday, adding that a decision on whether to make them permanent is a long way off and depends on their reception by village residents. “I’ll be interested in seeing what the response is,” he added.

Of the four proposed intersections designs, the one that generated the greatest concern among board members was the one that called for a substantial narrowing and tightening of the sweeping corner of Jermain Avenue at Atlantic Avenue and Clinton Street in front of Pierson High School.

“Good luck with that one,” quipped Trustee Ed Deyermond apparently in reference to the heavy traffic there at the start and end of the school day.

“This is just an observation, but you are going to have a problem there,” added Mayor Gilbride. “This is a pretty aggressive plan.”

“It is an aggressive plan,” replied Jonas Hagen, an urban planner who has been working on the project, “but it is pilot and it can be changed.”

Mr. Hagen, who is the son of village ZBA chairman Anton Hagen, said that the school corner was of special concern because of the presence of school children and “vehicles going around that corner at a very high speed.”

“I don’t want to moralize, but I think we know how high the stakes are,” said Mr. Hagen, adding that unless the village takes action to safeguard its streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, a tragedy is waiting to happen.

Before the board even began its discussion of the traffic calming project, Bayard Fenwick, who lives on Madison Street, near its problematic intersection with Jermain Avenue, called for action there during the public comment period.

“There are literally almost fistfights,” said Mr. Fenwick. “I can only imagine it’s going to get worse.” Mr. Fenwick, who offered to allow the village to mount monitoring cameras on his house, said that many drivers are apparently not aware that the intersection is a four-way stop. Matters are made worse, he added, because large trucks continue to use Jermain Avenue as a shortcut through the village and a large number of landscape trucks pulling long trailers further complicate things.

In other action, at the request of Mayor Gilbride, the board will hold a hearing next month on an amendment to the village code that would allow it to establish a rebate and incentive program for residents who upgrade failing septic systems.

“In the upper cove, we are starting to see issues,” Mr. Gilbride said on Wednesday. “We are a waterfront community, and this is something I’d really like to get done.”

Mr. Gilbride said he would like to see the village commit to spending $50,000 on the program. “If it is successful, we can continue it next year,” he added.

Rebates would being limited to 50 percent of the total cost of the work with total reimbursements, depending on the extent and type of work, capped at $2,500 to $6,000, according to a draft of the new law.

Mr. Gilbride estimated that a typical septic system would cost approximately $5,000.

“I would hope people around the water might take advantage of this,” the mayor added. “I think there are some failing systems that should be replaced. I’m thinking of older systems that go back to the ’70 when they didn’t always have a septic tank.”

Village attorney Denise Schoen, who was sitting in for the board’s regular attorney, Fred W. Thiele Jr., raised the concern that residents who have applications before the Harbor Committee or ZBA, which require them to replace their sepetic systems, might try to apply for the rebates. “I’m curious if they are also going to be eligible for this—and it is going to come up,” she told the board.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gilbride said the law would be tweaked to make sure that applicants who are ordered to replace their systems as part of a larger development project would not be allowed to apply for a rebate.

Sag Harbor Mayor Criticized for Lack of Capital Spending Plan

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Former Sag Harbor Mayor Pierce Hance was ready with the questions when the village board held a public hearing on April 2 on Mayor Brian Gilbride’s proposed $8.5 million budget.

Mr. Hance, who is a financial analyst, said the mayor’s failure to have a capital plan in place would have dire consequences as the village is required down the road to undertake dock and bulkhead repairs, drainage projects and even replace fire trucks.

“We have a couple of million bucks,” said Mr. Hance, referring to the village’s fund balance and repair funds, “and I can come up with $4 million in projects. I want to know what is your capital plan?”

“I haven’t even touched on the fire trucks,” he added. “In a couple of years we are going to spend a million dollars on fire trucks.”

When Mayor Gilbride said he wanted to avoid borrowing money to cover village projects, Mr. Hance asked “How are we going to pay as you go without a rather material increase in the tax rate?”

Mr. Hance also took aim at the mayor’s operating budget, saying it did not accurately reflect where the money would come from to meet certain expenses, such as a new police contract, which is currently in arbitration.

“Then you have an estimate of the cost?” asked Mr. Hance. “I have an assumption,” replied the mayor. “So there is enough money buried in this budget to take care of this?” pressed Mr. Hance. “No, it means something I’d like to get done won’t get done and it would be reallocated,” said Mr. Gilbride. “So, one more time we borrow from Peter to pay Paul,” said Mr. Hance.

Although the board had a resolution on its agenda to close the budget hearing when it met Tuesday night, it took no action, and Mayor Gilbride said a work session would be scheduled to work out final details of the spending plan before the May 1 deadline.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gilbride defended his approach to budgeting.

“Pierce is a smart, knowledgeable guy, but he’s just throwing harpoons,” Mr. Gilbride said. “I’m a pay-as-you-go guy. I’m not a guy who borrows a lot of money. We’ve gotten a lot done in this village without a capital plan.”

Mr. Gilbride said he prefers to budget for work as needed and do only what the village can afford at any time. Despite having no plan to create a capital plan, which is essentially a priority list for major infrastructure-related projects, Mr. Gilbride said he was looking forward to installing an elevator in the Municipal Building, earmarking money to help waterfront homeowners replace aging septic systems and to undertake some drainage improvement projects, and developing parkland south of the Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The mayor said the village is still paying off some bonds that were issued when Mr. Hance was mayor. “It was cheap money back then too,” he said. “We have refinanced and saved about $170,000 in interest and I’m proud of that.”

But Mr. Hance found some support from Mr. Gilbride’s colleagues. “I think he raised a lot of questions,” said Trustee Ken O’Donnell on Wednesday.

“You don’t work your entire life to be able to buy a house. You take a mortgage,” he said. “There is good debt and there is bad debt. Bonding to repair Long Wharf I’d say is good debt. With interest rates at all-time lows, why aren’t we bonding it and using cheap money to help with the infrastructure of the village?”

Mr. O’Donnell said he had grave concerns about the mayor’s efforts to pay for an elevator in the Municipal Building and suggested rather than sinking $200,000 to $300,000 into that project, the village should find out if the third and fourth floors, which are not used now because they are not considered safe, can be renovated and rented out as office space to bring in additional revenue.

Although it is a small item, Mr. O’Donnell said he wanted to restore the $4,000 the village used to give to the Chamber of Commerce to staff its tourism kiosk at Long Wharf. “I’m looking forward to some give and take,” he said of the budget process.

Trustee Ed Deyermond also expressed misgivings about the elevator project. “If you try to run an elevator up there we have to be very careful to make sure the building is structurally sound,” he said Wednesday, adding there could be hidden costs.

“A capital budget is a key to municipal finance,” he said. “Without a capital budget you have to pay for things as you go and we’re typically talking about huge expenditures for things like road improvements, drainage and fire trucks.”

But Mr. Deyermond stopped short of saying he thought the village should have a capital plan and said he doubted the mayor would develop one, especially not this year with the deadline for adopting the budget less than a month away.

Mr. Hance was not as diplomatic. “This budget is a joke,” he said on Tuesday. “The finances of the village are a joke. On the operating side, I don’t have any confidence at all. On long term capital planning I have even less.”

Lots of Snow, Little Salt Make for a Long Winter in Sag Harbor

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The transition between the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, which was clear,  and Sag Harbor Main Street, which remained covered with hard packed snow on Sunday. Michael Heller photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

Sag Harbor Village Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley said he was more than ready for the February thaw that arrived Tuesday and is expected to last through the weekend—even if it is accompanied by periods of heavy rain.

The rain and warming temperatures that were expected to hit 50 degrees by Friday mean that workers will be pressed into service to clear snow and slush from the mouths of catch basins to prevent flooding and fill the seemingly hundreds of potholes that are appearing in the wake of the cold and snow.

But the thaw will also give Mr. Yardley and his workers a respite from both the need for near nonstop plowing duty—and the rumble of complaints that have surfaced over perceptions that village roads have not been as well maintained this winter as Sag Harbor residents have grown accustomed to.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t disappointed in the condition of Sag Harbor’s roads,” said Sag Harbor Village Trustee Ken O’Donnell, the village board’s liaison to the public works department, this week.

“The criticism stops with me. I’m the mayor, I take full responsibility,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride, “but let’s remember we’ve had brutally cold days with lots of wind blowing” that has limited plowing crews’ ability to keep ahead of the snow. The mayor added that this winter has been one of the worst in history and pointed out that more than 40 inches of snow have fallen in multiple storms since January 1.

Mr. O’Donnell traced the problem to a simple lack of road salt. “For the past three years, the village has not bought salt,” he said. “The reason for that is that apparently the Suffolk County health department is all over the village for its salt shed and has ordered the village to bring it into compliance.”

In the past, he said, the village would simply order “40 tons of salt each year and just pay the $1,000 fine as a cost of doing business.”

Mr. O’Donnell stressed that he was not criticizing the performance of Mr. Yardley or his department but said the village was not providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs properly. He likened the situation to giving a golfer a single club and expecting him to shoot par. “They don’t give you one club and tell you to play the course. They give you multiple clubs and tell you to play the situation,” he said.

Mr. O’Donnell said he was frustrated after he signed a purchase order allowing Mr. Yardley to buy salt on January 4 before going on a two-week vacation only to learn that none was purchased.

Mr. Yardley said there was a simple reason for that. The severe winter meant that municipalities across Long Island were running short of salt, and the state limited distribution to those that had signed up with the state to purchase supplies ahead of time, he said. Governor Andrew Cuomo “had state troopers at salt depots protecting them,” he said. “That stuff was like gold.” He said the shortages have since been relieved and salt is readily available again.

With salt hard to come by earlier this winter, the village relied on the Southampton Town Highway Department, which provided it with 10 tons of a salt and sand mix, and East Hampton Town, which delivered five tons of salt to help tide it over.

Crews were spreading some of that salt and sand Tuesday night when police reported black ice forming on village streets after the temperatures dropped below freezing, he said.

Mayor Gilbride defended the job Mr. Yardley and his crew were doing, despite the severity of the winter. “As far as complaints at the highway barn and the village office, there have been few to none,” he said on Tuesday. “As far as accidents in the village, there have been none.”

Mr. Gilbride said it was true that for the past three years the village has not been buying salt, but instead has been “tweaking” what it uses on the roads, substituting salt brine and a beet juice mixture for the typical salt and sand mixture it used to rely on.

There are two reasons for the change, he said. The first is the village wants to be more environmentally friendly and reduce the amount of salt it applies to the roads, which in turn, reduces the amount of runoff. Second, he said the village wants to avoid facing fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 for each time the county cites it for illegally storing salt in its salt barn. Although it has typically only been fined once a year, he said there is no guarantee county inspectors will not stop by more frequently if they think the village is not taking its enforcement efforts seriously.

Both Mr. Gilbride and Mr. O’Donnell said the village is struggling with whether to spend the money needed to undertake the necessary repairs to bring the salt barn into conformance.

Mr. Gilbride said the said the Raynor Group, a Water Mill engineering firm, had estimated it could cost $35,000 to $40,000 to repair the barn, which the village built in the 1980s.

Among other things, the county wants the village to replace the asphalt floor with cement, increase the height of an interior dividing wall from 6 feet to 7 feet, and install an interior and exterior ramp to prevent salt spillage, according to Mr. O’Donnell.

Both Mr. Gilbride and Mr. O’Donnell said they were at a loss to explain why the county was being so strict when it comes to reviewing the condition of the village’s salt barn. Mr. O’Donnell said he had seen barns in other villages and towns that have holes in the roofs and spaces in the walls through which salt mixture spills out on the ground.

“It’s frustrating,” said Mr. Gilbride, “we spent a lot money in an effort to get our barn permitted.” He said the village might find it more cost effective to use the barn to store equipment and build a new salt barn.

Mr. Yardley said village crews are continuing to mix bags of rock salt with water to create a brine he said works especially well as a pretreatment before storms but is only effective until there is 1½ inches of snow and if the temperature stays above 18 degrees. This year, he added, he has begun to apply the beet juice mixture to roads after testing it on the sidewalk in front of the Municipal Building last year.  The beet mixture continues to work down to 5 degrees.

With a budget of only $25,000 for snow removal, Mr. Yardley said he is limited in what can be done.

But Mr. O’Donnell said the village needed to do more  to assure that children get to school safely and that senior citizens are able to get in and out of town.

“Not everyone has four-wheel drive, not everyone has a pickup,” he said. “The roads, over the course of the last three years without using salt, are worse than they used to be. I think in the case of salt, you have to have it in your toolbox. There are certain things that make a municipality run and salt is one of them.”

In Sag Harbor, A Priority of Public Projects for 2014

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By Kathryn G. Menu

In its last meeting for 2013, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees met in special session Thursday afternoon to talk about a list of village projects that are coming into focus for 2014.

Repairs to Long Wharf, upgrading the Municipal Building with an elevator that would allow access to the long-vacant third and fourth floors of that Main Street building, and constructing a helipad at Havens Beach for emergency service use were three projects village board members debated Thursday.

At the close of the session, board members passed a resolution to get estimates on the cost of all three projects.

While board members agreed all three projects were worth looking at, at the start of the session, with just Mayor Brian Gilbride, Trustee Ken O’Donnell and Trustee Robby Stein in attendance, there was division on how a project like Long Wharf — a project that likely comes with a hefty price tag — should be funded.

“My feeling is we should bond it and do it all at once,” said O’Donnell.

Stein agreed, noting that village treasurer Eileen Tuohy has advised trustees interest rates are historically low, making it desirable to bond for a project of this size.

And sizable it will likely be.

While the village board will now await an updated survey detailing the repair and maintenance needs of Long Wharf, it has been several years since anything outside of annual maintenance performed by village crews has been completed on the aging facility.

In 2010, part of the impetus for Suffolk County to look to Sag Harbor Village as a means of ridding itself of ownership of Long Wharf was a report from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, outlining over $600,000 in immediate repairs necessary to keep the wharf in working order. While the transfer of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor Village — an over two-year process — did go through, neither the county nor the village ever completed that list of repairs.

In March of this year, village engineer Paul Grosser compiled a schedule of repairs over a 10-year period. The village board discussed funding those repairs — at a total cost of $1 million — with $100,000 annually earmarked annually. Last month, Tuohy suggested it might be fiscally prudent to consider bonding instead.

Gilbride, who has staunchly opposed bonding for the repairs, noted the reserve repair fund has $1.2 million and while the village has paid for the Havens Beach remediation, it is expecting close to $300,000 back from the county and the state for that water quality project.

“I think we have to get a closer handle on what Long Wharf needs,” said Gilbride.

Stein agreed.

“Once we know about the cost, then we should talk about how to pay for it,” he said. “I am not so worried about bonding. I just don’t want to do piecemeal for this project.”

A longtime goal of Gilbride has been to see the village open up the third and fourth floors of the Municipal Building through the construction of an elevator. The village currently has a lift, which provides access from the first to the second floor including the meeting room, building department and justice court for the disabled. However, noted Gilbride, that lift has begun to falter and rather than replace it, he would like the board to consider installing an elevator that would enable the village to make use of the third floor for office space and the fourth floor for storage.

“It’s a key element to getting into the third floor and moving the building department up there,” he said, noting making the fourth floor usable in terms of office space is a larger — and pricier — challenge than he would like to take on this coming year.

According to Gilbride, installing an elevator would cost the village about $165,000.

A 2012 report detailing the cost of Municipal Building repairs and upgrades, including the elevator, estimated $1.8 million in funding would be necessary, which would include sprinkler system for the third floor and the extension of fire escapes to all floors in the building.

On Thursday, the board agreed to look into the cost of just installing the elevator, sprinkler system, and fire escapes — all necessary if the village wants to legally do business on the third floor.

The board also signed off, with little debate, on having an estimate drawn up for the creation of a helipad on Havens Beach. The helipad would specifically be for emergency service providers to use in the instance where a medevac is required out of Sag Harbor.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for January 14 at 6 p.m.