Tag Archive | "New York State"

State Denies Grant for Local Schools Looking into School District Consolidation

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Several East End schools suffered a blow last week when they learned they had not been awarded a competitive Local Government Efficiency Grant, which would have examined the possibility of consolidating and reorganizing local school districts.

Despite this setback, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle — who had written letters of support for the grant — are determined to move forward.

“Senator LaValle and I will find another way to fund this consolidation study,” said Thiele in an interview on Monday.

In a separate interview, LaValle echoed Thiele’s comments.

“I will keep at it,” he said. “I will pursue it. I will pursue some money, as I did, outside of the competitive grant process, to get the districts to talk about how they can share services or where there is interest in an out and out consolidation.”

Thiele said that he and LaValle would probably look into a legislative grant or “other forms of funding where the legislature has direct control over the funding, not funding that the Governor controls.”

The Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Southampton, Tuckahoe, Springs, Montauk and Hampton Bays school districts, as well Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), had originally filed for the grant back in March.

The grant is part of the New York Department of State’s (DOS) Local Government Efficiency Program, which seeks to help municipalities save money and operate more efficiently through consolidations, mergers, the sharing of services and other tactics.

According to a press release from the DOS, $4 million dollars had been allocated for grant monies, and municipalities could apply for up to $200,000 in funding.

The grants, said LaValle, were “competitively scored by the Department of State, based upon the quality of the applicants’ data and endeavor.”

“From what I was told, the [local schools’] grant did not score high,” said Thiele, noting that of the 21 groups that were awarded the grant, only three were school districts.

“Assemblyman Thiele and I cannot go beyond what we did, in terms of local officials supporting their grants, because it would be unethical to use — as people would say, ‘political muscle’ — to try and affect political grants,” LaValle added.

LaValle has been a strong proponent of consolidation of South Fork school districts throughout his tenure. He said in the past, local school districts had received millions of dollars in state aid, some of which they could have used to conduct things like efficiency grant studies.

“In the past, I had secured money and they never really went forward with any consolidation — or even any efficiencies — that they could bring about by sharing services,” he said.

However, LaValle noted the decision for school consolidation is entirely up to the community.

For example, if two school districts wanted to consolidate, both school boards would have to approve of it. Then, referendums would have to be passed in both communities.

By Amanda Wyatt

Currently, the Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts have recently begun discussing the possibility of consolidating their school districts.

“It’s a local decision,” the senator said. “I try to take leadership in pushing people to either do consolidation, or at the very minimum, to share services.”

The Sag Harbor Board of Education (BOE) also remains interested in looking into consolidation and reorganization. President Theresa Samot said the BOE would probably discuss the grant at its next meeting, which was scheduled for Monday night, but was canceled in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. That meeting has yet to be rescheduled, said Samot.

“We thought [the grant] would certainly be a good first step to see what the opportunities were,” said President Theresa Samot. “The board is certainly in favor of exploring any opportunity that might be valuable to the taxpayers, as well as the students. It’s something that we’ve certainly looked into, wherever we could collaborate to save money.”

Feds Issue Disaster Declaration for New York Fishermen

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Photography by Michael Heller

On Thursday, the United States Department of Commerce declared a federal groundfish fishery disaster for New York’s fishing community after lawmakers called for action in the wake of a preliminary report that projects up to 70-percent cuts in catch limits for New England in 2013.

The cuts, to multispecies fishery such as cod and yellowtail flounder, will hard both Long Island businesses and fishermen, said lawmakers, the latter being an industry already squeezed by the catch limits and tighter regulations. Declaring a disaster allows Congress the right to appropriate funding to ease the hardships faced by New York fishermen.

The action comes after an August letter by New York Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Tim Bishop urging Department of Commerce Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank to take action.

“It is vitally important that New York is included in any disaster declaration and that our fishing communities are provided with sufficient disaster assistance to stem the adverse economic effects of potentially devastating cuts to already reduced catch limits and years of restrictive management measures,” the lawmakers wrote. “While recent reports have focused on New England states, we must emphasize the harmful impact these potential reductions will have on New York.”

“Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Bishop have fought to keep New York’s groundfishermen viable in this disaster declaration process, and have not allowed our lack of fishery council representation to silence the needs of our fishing communities,” said Bonnie Brady, Executive Director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association. “We are grateful for their voices as the bridge to disaster relief for all ground fishermen.”

The lawmakers pushed to include New York in a federal fishery disaster declaration, noting that New York’s fishing interests in New England stocks are often ignored due to its underrepresentation on the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC). Many of New York’s fish stocks are regulated by this council, which will weigh in later this year on catch limits for 2013.

Bay Scallop Restoration Program to Expand

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Working with the State of New York through funding provided by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) announced last week it will expand the Peconic Bay Scallop Restoration Project in Suffolk County.

CCE has signed a contract with the state and will move forward with the first stages of the $182,900 award it received as a part of the Governor’s Regional Council initiative — a challenge issued to regions throughout the state to pitch economic development concepts with the potential to earn funding based on merit.

The Peconic Bay Scallop Restoration Project focuses on restoring the bay scallop population on Long Island in an effort to protect the eco-system and generate marine-related economic activity.

“Suffolk County’s marine-based businesses are vital to the overall health of our regional economy,” said Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association and Regional Council co-chair. “I applaud the efforts of the CCE and its partners to revive the bay scallop population as it will help both the environment and Long Islanders wallets. The partnership between the Council and CCE will allow us to grow our economy now while ensuring one of the area’s traditional industries not only survives, but flourishes once again.”

In 2005 Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program and Long Island University partnered with Suffolk County to create the largest scallop spawner sanctuary to restore the famous Peconic Bay Scallop. According to a press release issued last week, CCE will use the regional council funding to increase seed production, collection and planting and educate shellfish companies with field demonstrations on how to successfully grow bay scallops. Working on developing a marketing event is also planned.

“Thanks to the support of the Long Island Regional Economic Council and the Empire State Development Corp, CCE of Suffolk can continue to play a vital role in sustaining this heritage industry,” said Vito Minei, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

Weather & Age a Threat to Library Dome

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web galvanicerosion

About two weeks ago, in the technology center of the John Jermain Memorial Library on Main Street, a pipe burst around 7 p.m., regular business hours, spraying the desk of technology director Eric Cohen and pooling water speckled with bits of metal on the library floor.

Fortunately for Cohen, the library is in the final stages of earning approval to restore and expand its historic facility. In an effort to begin restoration work as quickly as possible, the library has already set up shop in its temporary home on West Water Street, where Cohen sat dry as water rained down in his former office.

The staff of the John Jermain Memorial Library is no stranger to cracks in the walls, buckets collecting water from leaks in the ceiling, the dripping keeping time while a nearby English as a Second Language class commences. Last September, in the wake of Hurricane Earl, library director Catherine Creedon’s world literally came crashing down around her, as the ceiling of an alcove window on the staircase leading to the third floor rotunda began breaking into pieces around her as she climbed the stairs, already having secured plastic sheeting around book stacks and removing valuable historic documents from the library’s history room earlier that morning.

However, following a June marked by storms and rain, the impact weather and age has had on the 101-year-old library has grown at what Creedon calls an “exponential rate.”

Walking through the library earlier this week, the evidence is jarring: plaster wet and crumbling at the slightest touch on portions of all three floors of the library building. Cohen’s office is waterlogged, albeit repaired for now, small pieces of metal that gathered in a pipe and clogged it causing it to finally erupt are strewn around the room.

“The force was enough to blow across the room,” said Creedon. “And we have staff normally working in this area.”

The alcove window that almost took down Creedon while she attempted to protect art that traditionally has hung in the third floor staircase, no longer has plaster sheathing the ceiling, and water damage is visible around the window alcove, slowly spreading. A new leak has also sprung in the dumbwaiter that used to service all three floors, the rope now a dark green color and even after a July marked by little rain slightly wet to touch.

While all of those issues are critical, and evidence of a larger problem – that the library roof will not have the drainage to protect the historic building until the library can undergo its renovation – what is most troubling for library board trustee and building and grounds committee chairman Carl Peterson is the damage the water infiltration could have on the library’s Guastavino-designed brick dome.

The John Jermain Memorial Library was designed by Augustus Allen and built in 1910. The dome was constructed by the R. Guastavino Company, which also designed famed domes in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. and at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

For the first time the dome, an architectural centerpiece of the third-floor rotunda, is showing signs of water damage on both the interior and exterior brickwork on its southern side. A white efflorescence has begun to spread across the historic bricks, evidence that moisture is creeping into the dome, which Peterson noted would be extremely costly to repair.

On Wednesday, July 20 Peterson delivered this news to the JJML board of trustees at their monthly meeting. Earlier that week, Peterson and Creedon met with the library’s architects, as well as its engineers – Building Conservation Associates – to begin to discuss how the library can aid the situation while awaiting the time it can put a new roof on the library. That aspect of the project is linked to the expansion – the new, glass and masonry library will be connected to the historic library by the roof. The full project, outside of the restoration of brickwork and limestone on the exterior of the building, which was approved by the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board, still needs Suffolk County Health Department approval for a new septic system.

In the meantime, Peterson said the team is looking at several options, including shrink-wrapping the dome, purchasing heavy plastic sheeting and securing it to the dome, building a scaffold and covering the dome or moving the roof portion of the project up in the construction timeframe.

“The jury is still out on how this will play out,” he said. “The entire membrane protecting the roof is crumbling and the drain pipes and crumbling.”

On Tuesday, Peterson said galvanic erosion is largely to blame for water infiltration throughout the building, as well as the closing of two drain pipes on the roof during JJML’s 101-year history.

Galvanic erosion occurs when two dissimilar metals are placed against each other and water is introduced into the mix. Standing on the roof of JJML on Tuesday afternoon, Peterson explained that throughout the library’s history smaller pipes have been fitted into larger pipe holes during repairs, leading to less drainage on the roof, but also the galvanic erosion.

While a stop-gap measure has yet to be decided on, on Tuesday, Creedon said her main focus was gaining approvals from the Suffolk County Health Department, which will meet with the library for a formal review of their application on August 18, as well as final approval from the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees.

As Creedon prepared to leave for a meeting of library directors on the impact a proposed two-percent property tax cap could have on local libraries, a perfectly sunny day gave way to dark clouds and wind, and the rain began to pound against the roof of John Jermain Memorial Library once more.