Tag Archive | "Mayor Brian Gilbride"

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.

Developer Says West Water Street Condos Back on Track

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East End Ventures has renewed its building permit for a long dormant condominium project on West Water Street through the Village of Sag Harbor, and according to one of the principals is getting ready to pay off millions of dollars in liens on the property filed by subcontractors over a year ago.

For Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride, no greater gift could be given than avoiding the questions from village residents about the defunct project when he goes to Schiavoni’s Market on Main Street for his coffee each morning.

However, Gilbride said on Monday night that while he hopes East End Ventures is ultimately successful in its bid to finish the luxury condominium project, until he sees actual work being completed on site, after two-and-a-half years of stasis he remains a skeptic.

Over a week ago, East End Ventures re-purchased its building permit for the 21 West Water Street condominium project, a 19-unit development with rooftop pool that already has secured approvals from the Village of Sag Harbor as well as the Suffolk County Health Department.

On Monday evening, East End Ventures principal Emil Talel said that his firm was still in negotiations with Amalgamated Bank — its long-term financer — to reopen its loan and get construction crews back on the property. Talel said he was meeting with Amalgamated Bank next week and hopes that construction would begin before the end of December.

In order to get construction started on the property, one of the first things the newest financing deal will have to contend with is the millions of dollars in liens that have been filed against the project by contractors and subcontractors who have already performed work on the property.

As of July 2010, over $3 million in liens were recorded with the Suffolk County Clerk’s office on the 21 West Water Street property by as many as 30 individuals. At the time, East End Ventures was still in negotiations to renew financing with Amalgamated Bank.

Included in those liens was a claim for $843,072 for materials and labor related to carpentry from the Mount Sinai-based JPR2 Inc. Inter-County Mechanical Corp. also has a $510,241 lien against the property, All Systems Maintenance Inc. has filed a $247,794 lien for plumbing related materials, Southampton Brick & Tile has a $94,340 lien and B&G Electrical Contractors of NY Inc. has filed a $630,274 lien against the property.

On Monday, Talel said the liens would be the first thing paid off once a deal is reached with Amalgamated Bank, or another lender. While the firm is in “good faith negotiations” with Amalgamated Bank, Talel said he has discussed with his partners the possibility of including a new lender.

Rumors have swirled throughout the Village of Sag Harbor that a new partner is getting ready to join the project, although Talel offered no specifics on any individual about to join the development team.

He did add that “the fastest way to finish this development is to do so with the existing lender.”

Three Will Run Uncontested in Sag Harbor

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Barring an aggressive write-in campaign, mayor Brian Gilbride, deputy mayor Tim Culver and trustee Ed Gregory will continue to serve on the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees after village elections on June 21, as no one handed in petitions to run against the incumbents by the May 17 deadline.

Sag Harbor Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni and acting justice Lisa Rana will also continue their positions in the newly created village justice court with no one vying to unseat the justices, who were appointed last year after the court was created.

The full slate of incumbents announced earlier this year that they would run together under the Sag Harbor Party banner, which has dominated village government throughout several administrations.

“I would have been happy to defend what we have done in the last two years,” said mayor Gilbride on Wednesday morning. “I think no one running against us shows that maybe we have made a lot of right decisions for the village over the last couple years.”

Mayor Gilbride praised trustee Gregory and said that as a member of the board with over 20 years of service behind him, the trustee brings a lot to the table in terms of institutional knowledge. He added that Culver, an attorney who worked with several members of the business community during the re-write of the village zoning code, has also been an asset for the board of trustees and someone he looks forward to working with for the next two years.

“I think this also points to the fact that we made an excellent choice for our appointed village justice in Andrea Schiavoni as well as our associate justice Lisa Rana,” he added. “The village justice court is working out well for everyone.”

Mayor Gilbride said he is looking forward to beginning to tackle stormwater runoff pollution at Havens Beach this year, as well as erosion on West Water Street after several storms last winter ate away most of the embankment next to West Water Street and threatened the roadway.

The village’s planning consultant Richard Warren has been working with engineers to develop a plan for dealing with the West Water Street erosion, said mayor Gilbride, and he hopes to have plans finalized before the fall.

While the Suffolk County Legislature is waffling over whether to give Long Wharf — technically a county road — to the village after months of saying the village needed to take ownership and financial responsibility for the wharf, mayor Gilbride said he would like to see that issue settled “one way or the other” in the next month.

“We have a few things moving along, but otherwise it will continue to be business as usual for us,” he said. “We will just keep plugging along, providing services, but trying to hold the line on expenses.”

Gilbride Takes Fight for MTA Roadbed to Governor

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Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has taken his battle to secure a sliver of waterfront property belonging to the Long Island Railroad to Governor David Paterson this week after receiving word the land would be sold to an adjacent property owner and not the village.

On August 19, Gilbride penned a letter to the governor, state senator Kenneth LaValle, state assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, asking Paterson to assist the village in acquiring a parcel of land next to village owned beachfront adjacent to the Jordan Haerter Memorial Bridge. Last week the village was told by the Metropolitan Transit Authority that it would sell the land to East End Ventures, an adjacent property owner that has long sought to develop condominiums on Sag Harbor’s waterfront.

According to a letter from MTA vice president-general counsel and secretary Catherine Rinaldi, the MTA board approved the sale of the property to East End Ventures in July at a fair market price of $82,025. Rinaldi writes that under public authority law, the MTA was required to seek fair market value for the parcel and the sale would end current litigation between the MTA and East End Ventures, which has sought adverse possession of the parcel. Rinaldi said part of the sale includes a provision that allows an easement for public access.

“The LIRR has determined that it is in the best interests to proceed with the sale of the property to the plaintiff, as authorized by the MTA Board,” writes Rinaldi in a letter received by the village on August 24. “The LIRR will be conveying the property to the plaintiff via quitclaim deed, which means the plaintiff will only be getting those interests that the LIRR has the power to convey. Importantly, the deed does not extinguish any rights that the village may have in the property, and the village’s outside counsel may still elect to assert a legal interest in the subject parcel on the village’s behalf.”

In Gilbride’s letter to Governor Paterson, the mayor asserts the village’s prior legal claim to the abandoned roadway, citing a LIRR express easement granted to the village in 1915. Gilbride notes the village has had numerous correspondences with the MTA regarding the parcel since 1996, which it was conceived adjacent beachfront already owned by the village could be turned into a park using the LIRR land.

“The MTA failed to consult the Village or take into account the clear public benefit and long term public use of the land,” writes Gilbride.

“Sag Harbor has been in for the forefront of maintaining and expanding public access to the Waterfront and is proud to be the first Village in our State to adopt a [Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan],” Gilbride continues later in the letter. “The acquisition of this parcel would continue this important tradition.”

On Tuesday Gilbride said despite the letter from the MTA, the village planned to continue this fight, noting that in addition to the board of trustees, residents and government officials alike have been reaching out to Governor Paterson to assist the village in this venture.

In related village news, the board of trustees has hired the law firm of Jaspan Schlesinger to fight a lawsuit filed against the village earlier this month by East End Ventures regarding the environmental review of the village’s new code. They claim village officials did not review the new code properly before its passage. The code drastically changes what is possible on the waterfront property East End Ventures hoped to develop into luxury condominiums.