By Stephen J. Kotz
One of the few large spending increases proposed in this year’s bare-to-the-bones budget for Sag Harbor Village, was a line item to allocate $63,500 to hire an administrator to oversee the operations of the all-volunteer Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps and provide the village with a paid first responder.
“These guys are doing a lot of runs, there is a lot going on and their calls are just increasing,” Mayor Brian Gilbride said last winter. “I would say there is a willingness on my part to make this happen. We have an older population now.”
But last month, the village board, noting the position had yet to be filled, agreed to remove the item from the budget. It did so officially on Tuesday night, decreasing the budget by $63,500, while separately adding $62,085 to help cover the cost of the new police contract, which was set by an arbitration panel last summer.
On Wednesday, Mr. Gilbride said a number of factors contributed to the decision to eliminate the ambulance position from this year’s budget.
For starters, an effort for fire departments and ambulance corps east of Southampton Village to work cooperatively and hire paid first responders has fallen by the wayside,” he said. Instead, Montauk, Amagansett and East Hampton have all hired part-time first responders.
The mayor added that while the village sought to hire an EMT first responder, the board of the ambulance corps wanted a more highly trained AEMT.
On top of that, the mayor added, the village learned last summer that if it added the paid responder position to the budget, it would have put some of the smaller outlying fire districts which contract with the village for fire and ambulance service, over the state’s 2-percent tax levy cap.
Trustee Ed Deyermond added that the village would have run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act if it hired a paid responder while the rest of the ambulance corps toiled as volunteers. “It got very complex as to how this was going to work,” he said.
But he said something needs to be done. “The ambulance corps is overworked. There has to be some kind of solution,” he said on Wednesday. “We have to go back to the drawing board. Maybe part-time is the way to go.”
“It didn’t really get off the ground this time,” said Ed Downes, the ambulance corps president, who added that efforts would continue to provide some type of paid first responder.
Mr. Downes said the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps to date this year has already responded to nearly 800 calls, which works out to nearly three calls per day.
Support for Bag Ban
The board, which has so far been silent on the growing call for a region-wide ban on plastic shopping bags, joined the discussion on Tuesday and asked Fred W. Thiele Jr., its attorney, to draft a notice of public hearing on the issue.
Mr. Gilbride said that Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst pressed for regional action, perhaps by Earth Day, next April, at a recent meeting of the East End Mayors and Supervisors Association. East Hampton Town is moving forward with a hearing on a ban and both East Hampton and Southampton villages have already banned the bags, ubiquitous at check-out counters across the country.
Mr. Gilbride said both East Hampton Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. and Southampton Mayor Mark Epley “spoke well of it,” but he added “Riverhead is dead against it.” The mayor noted that the types of bags that are typically used for fruits and vegetables would still be allowed under a ban.
“I support it, I support the concept,” said Trustee Ed Deyermond, who added “it’s going to affect 90 percent of the stores downtown” and that the village needs to reach out to the business community.
He also called on a greater effort to recycle plastics, and said that the dumpster used to collect recyclable plastics at the Southampton Town’s Sag Harbor transfer station are always full to the brim.
Mr. Thiele said that similar bans have brought legal challenges—not from local shopkeepers—but trade groups representing the plastics industry.
Mr. Thiele also told the board that a move by the New York State Legislature to allow New York City to reduce speed limits from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour as well as reduce speed limits to 20-mph where traffic calming measures are not feasible, gives new life to a long-stalled village effort to explore a 20-mph limit in much of the village’s historic district.
Trustee Sandra Schroeder said she would like the village to reduce the speed limit as Route 114 enters the village from East Hampton Town. Mr. Thiele noted that the county will be placing speed cameras in school zones and that Route 114, or Hampton Street, would be a good place for one. He added that fines generated from the cameras would stay in the village because it has its own justice court. He advised the board to send a “home rule” message to the state requesting permission for the reduced speed limits in January.
In other action, the board approved by a 4-1 vote, with Mr. Deyermond dissenting, a request from the new owners of the former Espresso Market on Division and Henry streets to erect a chain link fence around the property, blocking the street, through Thanksgiving while exterior demolition work is being done. Mr. Deyermond said he feared allowing the sidewalk to be blocked would become a precedent for similar construction project.
The board also heard from Lou Grignon, the owner of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, who was ordered in August to vacate a parcel he had leased from the village for 20 years for boat storage. Last month, Mr. Grignon told the Harbor Committee the eviction meant that many boat owners were being forced to scramble to find new places to store their vessels. The Harbor Committee, in turn, wrote the village board, all but urging the board to work with Mr. Grignon.
But when Mr. Grignon asked the board if it had read the committee’s letter, he was met with silence.
Boat owner Trevor Barry also spoke, saying he owned one of the last boats remaining on the village parcel Mr. Grignon used to lease, asked if the village would rent him space for the winter because he had nowhere else to store his boat. The board declined his request.
Rob Florio, a Water Mill resident, asked the board if the negotiations with Mr. Grignon were definitely over, to which Mr. Gilbride replied the last offer of a lease had been rejected by Mr. Grignon. When Mr. Florio asked the mayor if the village had found a new leasee, he was told it had not yet done so.