Tag Archive | "sag harbor village"

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 Yacht Yard Told to Shove Off

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Sag Harbor Village this week gave Lou Grignon, the owner of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard, 30 days to vacate a parcel of village-owned waterfront land has used for the past 20 years as a boat storage area.

The village issued the eviction notice after negotiations to reach a new lease agreement failed. The yacht yard’s 20-year lease for the property ended on May 31.

On Wednesday, Mr. Grignon, who owns the buildings adjacent to the village property he has been leasing, said the village’s decision would effectively put him out of business.

“If I don’t have room to store boats, I don’t have room to be a boatyard,” he said, adding that he typically stores about 130 boats on the property each winter.

He said he had hired attorney Dennis Downes to represent him as he seeks to stay at the site.

“Mr. Grignon had an opportunity” to sign a new lease, said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “It’s time for the village to move forward and get that property back.”

Mr. Gilbride said the village had options for the property, which could range from using it as a park, for a parking lot or a place to expand the Sag Harbor farmers market, but he said nothing had been decided yet.

Mr. Grignon said he had been paying $15,592 a year for the boat storage area in the last year of his lease. He said the village told him an appraisal found the property should be rented for $20,000 a year.

“So I put forth an offer of $20,000 a year for the first year, which is roughly a 25-percent increase,” he said. Mr. Grignon added that he sought a 10-year lease with a 10-year option to renew with annual increases of 2.3 percent.

“That was right on par with cost-of-living increases and everything,” Mr. Grignon said. “Not to mention that we just went through the worst recession in history.”

The village countered with an offer for a five-year lease, with the first year at $22,500 and annual increases of 5 percent, he said.

“This is a dollar and cents issue,” he continued. “For them to raise the rent 33 percent and then 5 percent more a year doesn’t make sense. We’d have to power wash a lot of boats to make it work.”

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

Mr. Grignon said the site had been used as boatyard dating to 1797 and is the only boatyard outside the Sag Harbor-North Haven Bridge.

Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait said the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan requires that the village try to maintain water-related uses and businesses. He said it would not be suitable for parking because that is not a waterfront use and it is too far from the business district.

“This village is a maritime village. The last thing you want to get rid of is the boatyard,” said Dr. Tom Halton, a committee member at Monday’s meeting.

“What’s in the best interest of the people of Sag Harbor?” asked Mr. Grignon. “Do they need more parking or do they want a boatyard?”

Sag Harbor Traffic Calming at Standstill

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An aerial map of Sag Harbor Village highlights key intersections being explored for improvement under a traffic calming initiative spearheaded by Serve Sag Harbor. Photo courtesy of Serve Sag Harbor

By Stephen J. Kotz

Plans for a series of traffic calming measures in Sag Harbor Village remained stalled, with the Village Board on Tuesday, again declining to give the green light for a pilot project proposed by two civic organizations, Save Sag Harbor and Serve Sag Harbor.

“We’re not going to do any of that without a professional telling the village it’s a good or it’s a bad thing,” Mayor Brian Gilbride said of plans to use large planters as part of the traffic calming designs at various intersections in the village. “Personally, I don’t think it’s a good thing.”

That appeared to signal a reversal from May when the mayor told traffic calming proponents that they could begin fundraising efforts to pay for the pilot program—a move they interpreted as tantamount to an informal approval. When the board met earlier this month, fire and ambulance volunteers expressed concern that efforts to slow down traffic would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to respond to calls.

Mr. Gilbride said he wanted to wait until Dunn Engineering, which the village solicited for the work just this week, has an opportunity to weigh in on the appropriateness of the designs.

“At this point, I’m going to be cautious and protect the village,” said Mr. Gilbride. “Ninety percent of the people who grab me are not in favor of putting flower pots in the road, I can tell you that.”

The mayor’s apparent change of heart spurred Susan Mead of Serve Sag Harbor, the group that plans to pay for the project, to urge the board to move swiftly so it could have at least a bare bones pilot program in place for the height of the summer season.

Trustee Robby Stein said that while it was important to iron out any concerns over liability if a driver were to hit one of the planters, he said the village should move forward.

“I like the fact that this is a volunteer organization that wants to partner with the village,” he said. “There are lots of intersections in the village that could use work. Without belaboring this, I’d like to see if we could go forward with this in some way.”

“If it doesn’t work, fine,” he added. “If it does work, it’s still not permanent and then there is another discussion.”

“They couldn’t start painting while we wait for an engineer?” asked Trustee Ken O’Donnell, who has also expressed his interest in getting some kind of traffic calming program up and running this summer.

The problem with that, Ms. Mead said, is “people do not pay attention and stay within painted or colored lines.”

Trustee Ed Deyermond also expressed reservations about planters being placed in roads. “If you put a flower pot in the middle of the road, in the middle of the straightaway, that’s where you are going to have trouble,” he said.

But Mr. Deyermond said he liked revisions made to the installation proposed for the intersection of Oakland and Jermain avenues. The original plan would have directed vehicles away from the center of the street and to toward the curb, but it has been revised to keep vehicles in the center of the road and provide more space at curbside for pedestrians.

Ms. Mead assured the board that adjustments could be made on the fly but encouraged it to take action quickly.

“If we sit around and talk about this and we have an accident, we are all going to be sorry,” she said.

Mr. Gilbride cited a letter that he had received last month from a village resident bemoaning changes to a historical whaling village.

“A Range Rover traveling down the road at 45 mph—that doesn’t happen in a whaling village, either,” said Jonas Hagen, an urban planner who has worked on the traffic calming project.

“I don’t want to be a downer,” he said, “but something happened recently in Water Mill, and this is exactly the kind of thing we are trying to prevent from happening.” He was referring to the death of a 6-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a car while crossing a street in the hamlet.

Page at 63 Main

The board also met with chairmen of its regulatory boards to ostensibly discuss ways that communication could be improved to prevent one board from approving an application that runs counter to the wishes of another, but it soon turned into a discussion of changes at Page at 63 Main Street.

“My sense is the system is being gamed,” said Neil Slevin, the chairman of the planning board chairman. “Very often what is happening in these application is people are playing games. They throw up all sorts of smoke…. The objective is to make it difficult for people making decisions to see the big picture.”

Speaking of Page, Mr. Slevin pointed to the development of the site to include “The Back Page,” which is advertised as a café, on the Division Street side of the property. The planning board, he said, had not intended for the restaurant’s owners to move a Dumpster from a conforming location and install a stone patio, in an area that was shown on the original surveys accompanying the application as grass.

Those changes, he said, have expanded the restaurant’s serving area and eliminated a driveway, where delivery trucks could park. “If you look at it as it exists right now, I would say that it is clearly larger and more intense than the original application that came before the planning board,” he said.

The modification of the plan slipped through, he said, because board members were focusing on a proposal to convert the second floor of the restaurant building to an aquaponics operation.

Last week, the village Zoning Board of Appeals agreed to grant variances allowing the Dumpster to be moved. “It seemed like a simple variance application,” said ZBA chairman Anton Hagen, who said he was unaware of the Planning Board’s concerns. “I didn’t get  clear signal that there was any subterfuge,” he said.

Denise Schoen, the village attorney for the planning and zoning boards, said that the restaurant went ahead with its construction project  without a building permit and the village was prosecuting it in justice court.

On Wednesday, Gerard Wawryk, one of the restaurant’s owners, said the restaurant did not play it fast and loose. “We even got a copy of the approved survey that came in the mail” after the planning board reviewed the case, he said.

He admitted, though, that work was done without a building permit. “It took 14, 15 weeks to get a building permit,” he said. “What was I supposed to do, wait another year? If that’s how the village wants to operate, I haven’t got time for that.”

Trustees Want to Squeeze in More Parking Spaces

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A boat on a trailer, taking up more than two spaces, was stored in the Sag Harbor long-term parking lot on Bridge Street recently. Photo by Ken O’Donnell. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

As summer approaches, parking spaces in Sag Harbor Village become about as esay to find as an affordable rental. Cars wait for spaces to open on Main Street, forcing traffic to back up for a block or more. Or they circle various municipal lots in a futile search for an opening, while traffic control officers, their chalk sticks and ticket books at the ready, wait.

Sag Harbor Village Trustee Robby Stein, whose office looks out from above the Yoga Shanti over the main municipal lot behind Meadow and Bridge streets, said about two years ago, he began ruminating on ways to increase the number of parking spaces in the limited area available in the business district.

Recently, he joined forces with Trustee Ken O’Donnell to examine whether the long-term lot, sometimes called the Gas Ball lot, could be turned over to a private parking company that would post an attendant there and try to maximize parking by charging a $5 fee for 24-hour parking.

“If we’re not aware of it today, everyone will be aware of it in two weeks when the kids get out of school that the village has a parking problem,” Mr. O’Donnell said this week.

Mr. Stein said the two trustees spoke to Advance Parking, which manages parking lots and runs event parking, and it suggested leaving one row of the gas ball lot for resident 24-hour parking and allowing it to “stack” cars into spaces as a way to maximize the number of cars that could be fit in.

Mr. Stein said the company thinks it could squeeze another 40 to 60 vehicles into the lot, and because it would turn over $1 for every $5 it earns, the village could earn “several thousands of dollars a week” at the peak season.

“I pass the gas ball every day on my way to work,” said Mr. O’Donnell, and it is not being properly used.” He reported seeing an RV parked in the lot for months last winter, and more recently photographed a boat on a trailer that had been left there.

But the plan, which the trustees brought before the village board on June 10, received a lukewarm reception at best, with Mayor Brian Gilbride saying the village would have to write up an official request for proposals before it could even begin thinking about implementing the idea.

Then, he said, it would have to clear the idea with National Grid, which leases the property for a pittance to the village on a year-to-year basis.

Nada Barry, a regular at board meetings and an owner of the Wharf Shop toy store on Main Street, said the proposal would cause a nightmare for employees who struggle as it is to find parking.

“I like them thinking out of the box,” she said on Wednesday, “but I don’t think that’s the solution.”

Although the trustees raised the idea of providing village businesses with a set number of parking passes, Ms. Barry said that would not be feasible for a business like hers that has a large staff of part-time employees coming and going.

Besides, she said, she doubted the village would make much money out of the arrangement.

What the village should do, she said, is better spread the gravel and mark the individual spaces in the gas ball lot, which would make it a more efficient use of space.

Mr. Stein said he is not giving up on the idea and was waiting for village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. to find out from National Grid what it would think of the village turning the lot into a revenue generator.

“It’s just one idea,” he said, adding that “Sag Harbor has always had a parking problem” and he was not ready to throw in the towel.

In the meantime, he said, he would continue to search for ways to maximize parking in the village lot, including the lot outside his window. By rearranging the configuration, to allow separate stalls for small cars and motorcycles, Mr. Stein said he believed another 40 spaces could be found in that lot

Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees Closing the Books

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees will meet at 9 a.m. next Thursday, May 29, for its annual end of the fiscal year meeting. The board will also consider any other items that must be addressed in a timely fashion at the meeting, which takes place on the second floor of the Municipal Building on Main Street.

The North Haven Village Board of Trustees will hold its own meeting to close the books on the 2013-14 year at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28, at North Haven Village Hall on Ferry Road.

School and Village at Odds Over Who is Responsible for Traffic Safety at Pierson

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Concerned community members watched Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols present possible solutions Tuesday evening.

Concerned community members watched Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols present possible solutions Tuesday evening. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Some 20 concerned parents and traffic calming proponents joined village officials and Police Chief Tom Fabiano in a traffic safety workshop hosted by the Sag Harbor Board of Education Tuesday night.

The school board asked village officials and community members to join it in a discussion “to collaboratively address traffic safety and congestion in and around the school parking lots and campus,” according to a release sent by district clerk Mary Adamczyk.

But once the meeting began, school officials said the discussion would focus solely on how to best alleviate the safety concerns surrounding pick-up and drop-off at Pierson Middle/High School, which parents and board members alike said was dangerous.

Officials from the school and the village, as well as several community members who attended, proposed many ideas, both as quick fixes and long-term solutions, but not one measure was implemented or even agreed on by the end of the two-hour meeting.

Calling the situation “a bit of a mess,” Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said the problem occurs between about 7:12 and 7:28 a.m. and again at the end of the day, from roughly 2:25 to 2:40 p.m.

Mr. Nichols proposed a few ways he thinks the village could aid the school district in addressing the problem. The first would be to make Division Street a one-way northbound street for 15 or 20 minutes in the morning and again for 15 or 20 minutes in the afternoon to reduce the flow of traffic. The second would be for the village to provide “some sort of crossing guard” to help direct traffic during those times.

“My understanding is that’s problematic for budget reasons,” Mr. Nichols said. “So, I don’t want to put anybody on the spot with regard to that. I do think that when you go to most schools, there is a crossing guard at the facility.”

There is a village-appointed crossing guard at the Sag Harbor Elementary School during pick-up and drop-off times.

“When we work with the village and we work with the community,” said Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent, “there’s a synergy and there are more powerful possibilities. We very much want to hear from the village. Have you heard of some of these issues?”

“Since our last meeting we had a few weeks ago,” replied Chief Tom Fabiano, “I believe we discussed the possibility of making Division Street one-way. I thought I was pretty clear about the fact that I didn’t see that as an option.”

The village has an unofficial ban on creating any more one-way streets, Trustee Ed Deyermond said, adding that recent attempts, such as on Elizabeth Street and Clinton Street, are “not working.”

“What you’re asking for is for the village to cede liability to the school for that street,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”

The crossing guard option seemed more feasible.

School board member Sandi Kruel said as a school district, the fact there is not a school crossing guard on the property when kids are in school “to me is unacceptable.”

“If we can figure out in our budget to rearrange, then I think that’s the least you guys could do to look at your budget,” she said to Chief Fabiano.

Chief Fabiano said he has been discussing the possibility with elementary school crossing guard Kathy Carlozzi of having her aiding Pierson occasionally. Ms.  Carlozzi also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“You can’t just put one person out there,” Chief Fabiano said, “you can’t put Kathy out there. You need a couple people out there to monitor this.”

The chief said he has asked “time and time again” for the school district to have extra personnel to monitor drop-off and pick-up, “but does it happen? No.”

School security guard John Ali is currently the only person officially manning drop-off and pick-up, although Mr. Nichols said he steps in during  warmer weather and Chief Fabiano said he helps out when he can.

“Would a crossing guard help there? Possibly. I would have to discuss it with the board next September,” Chief Fabiano said.

Mr. Deyermond said crossing guards “in this particular fiscal budget year are problematic. I don’t see us adding any crossing guards.”

The village officials in attendance agreed that while there are things the village could do, the school should also enact measures to alleviate the congestion.

“I’ve been saying this for the past 14 years that I’ve been chief. Why can’t we have a drop-off for cars on one side and the buses on the other side?” Chief Fabiano asked, referring to the parking lots at Jermain Avenue and Division Street.

“We also brought up the idea of the buses and here’s where the parents have to step in,” he added. “We’re looking at buses and they’re 75 percent empty, according to your numbers. To me, that’s a big issue. We’re spending a lot of money on buses and no one’s riding them. everyone’s dropping kids off at school.”

“This is a generic problem in a lot of schools,” Trustee Robby Stein said of the congestion, adding, “You have to get more kids on the school buses.”

On Wednesday, school business administrator John O’Keefe said, “Bus utilization varies depending on the time of year, weather, etc., but typically runs 30 to 45 percent for the five primary routes.”

Mr. Deyermond said if the entrances at the Montauk Avenue parking lot behind the school and the Jermain Avenue parking lot on its northern side were open longer for students to use and the school publicized that those entrances should be used, some of the traffic could be redirected from Division Street. Several members of the audience nodded in agreement.

“I would like to see what the school is going to do and what Larry [Salvesen, district architect] can do with the possibility of shifting all this congestion from one spot,” Chief Fabiano said. “To say, hey we designed the school and we don’t have place for drop-off…I don’t think it’s too fair to the village to say, ‘You just make it a one-way.’ That’s not the answer.”

“It is our responsibility, yes, but it’s also the responsibility of the school to start doing something,” he said.

“With a little bit of luck, we can get that crossing guard out there relatively soon, I think,” said Dr. Bonuso. “And when I say soon, I don’t mean next week or necessarily next month.”

The school board agreed to discuss the issue further to see whether there were immediate steps that could be taken. It will discuss the plans for the new parking lots at Pierson at its next regular meeting on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierson library.

Before Cuts, Sag Harbor Village Mulls 7 Percent Increase in Draft 2014-15 Budget

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees received a draft budget for 2014-15 at its first budget work session on February 19, with department heads requesting an overall 7-percent spending increase over last year. On Tuesday, Mayor Brian Gilbride said he would like to see the spending increase reduced to less than 1.48 percent before the budget is adopted in order to ensure it falls below a state-mandated 2-percent property tax levy cap.

With all department wish lists factored into the first draft, the 2014-15 budget proposed $8.84 million in spending, an increase of $580,170 over the $8.78 million budget adopted last year.

One of the biggest increases proposed would be for the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps, which is requesting $80,942 for an ambulance administrator, which Mayor Gilbride said Tuesday would essentially be a paid first responder position for the currently all-volunteer emergency service provider. Mayor Gilbride said he was not opposed to the concept, particularly given the demographics of Sag Harbor.

“These guys are doing a lot of runs, there is a lot going on and their calls are just increasing,” he said. “I would say there is a willingness on my part to make this happen. We have an older population now.”

There is also an ambulance line item for $45,724 for radio dispatch services. In total, the ambulance budget is proposed to increase from $223,725 to $387,484, a 51-percent increase in spending.

The Sag Harbor Fire Department’s budget also shows a spending increase of $120,173, which is 30 percent over last year. The majority of that is $70,000 the department is paying back to the village’s general fund to cover the cost of replacing 17 of the department’s 60 air packs. An additional $7,000 is requested for 2014-15 to be placed in an air pack reserve account to cover the cost of replacing that equipment in the future. Workers’ compensation and disability insurance is also expected to increase, by $8,455, and the department is also requesting an additional $10,000 for equipment over last year’s approved $30,000 earmark for equipment.

Village treasurer Eileen Tuohy said that expenses related to the fire department and ambulance corps are not funded solely by the village, but throughout the fire district which includes unincorporated portions of East Hampton, Noyac, Bay Point and North Haven Village.

The Sag Harbor Village Police Department’s budget requests  an additional $109,915 in full-time personnel expenses, although the department’s part-time personnel budget would decline by $800 from the 2013-14 budget. Last year, $51,400 was approved for part-time personnel with $28,035 spent to date in a budget that must see the department through June.

An increase of $2,000 to $5,000 is also projected for false arrest insurance, and radio dispatch service expenses are expected to climb from $49,348 to $51,321.

The village’s Harbors and Docks department is requesting a $10,000, or 5-percent, increase over its 2013-14 budget of $220,700, primarily to increase part-time personnel and also to cover the cost of charge card fees. The highway department has asked for a 7-percent increase, from $503,955 to $537,486. That includes an increase of $14,181 for full-time personnel, $10,000 for part-time personnel, and an additional $10,000 for snow removal supplies.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Gilbride said he would like to see drainage improvements, in particular catch basins for drainage improvements considered a priority for 2014-15. He added that he would like to see a septic system rebate program considered for waterfront homes in Sag Harbor, similar to a successful initiative launched in Southampton Town.

“Other than that I will start to work on this tonight and try and get it closer to a 1 percent increase,” he said. “And that is that. It is going to mean moving some money around the budget.”

On Tuesday, he added making improvements and repairs to Long Wharf.

“And I try to get an elevator in this building [the Municipal Building] year after year,” he added.

“But at the next meeting, I think we are going to have a clearer picture,” said Mayor Gilbride, adding he plans to sit down with department heads over the course of the next week.

The next budget work session will be held on Wednesday, March 5, at 4 p.m.

Transparency Time

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While it has been a concept bantered about since last year’s school board election season kicked off, the idea of the Sag Harbor School District joining the ranks of East Hampton and Southampton and offering recordings of its public meetings has formally been before the school board for six months now.

Merely creating recordings of public board of education meetings would be a small token to a community that in the last year has called for more transparency and openness from this board. That a debate is still ongoing, including outstanding legal questions, is inexcusable given the amount of time that has passed since this issue was first raised.

The time for action is now. The public is not asking for access to student records or personnel files—it is simply asking for access to public meetings covering the business of a publicly-funded school district for those who are unable to pay a babysitter, part with their children after work, or are simply too busy to make a Monday night meeting.

Frankly, it is not a lot to ask for. And it is certainly not unchartered waters. Both East Hampton and Southampton towns provide video recordings of their meetings to the public, via their own websites and through public access television. School board meetings are available through public access in both East Hampton and Southampton. While the Village of Sag Harbor does not provide video broadcasts of its numerous public meetings, it does have audio recordings, which are—of course—available to any resident willing to fill out a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Assuming it agreed to videotape its meetings, the school district would need to provide access to its video library in some fashion, whether through a public access channel like LTV (which also has video on demand services so residents can access any programming, at any time), SEA-TV or on their own website. But providing video access would eliminate the need for 99 percent of all FOIA requests and would also ensure an educated school community when it comes to board of education issues.

There is no need to “train” board members for their on-camera appearances, as was discussed at Monday’s meeting. In fact, there is no need to change anything about the board’s meetings. They are public now—and under state law, meetings should include discussions about almost everything revolving around the business of running the school district.

We have said it before, we will say it again—there is little that can or should be discussed behind closed doors. That videotaping opens up an opportunity for more members of the public to engage with the school district is only a positive.

It is more than a worthy investment. The board is currently discussing a budget for the 2014-2015 school year. It hosted a work session looking at technology in the school district on Monday before its regular session. That budget conversation should have included this initiative.

The tentative budget currently includes $15,500 in funding for “public information,” largely to pay for the district’s consultant agreement with Syntax Communications, a public relations firm in Bohemia the school began contracting with last year as it prepared for its $8.9 million bond referendum. With no bond referendum on the table, it begs the question of whether  some of that money might be better spent on other public information initiatives outside of public relations. Perhaps, for example, giving all district residents access to the most basic information concerning our school district: what is discussed at our school board meetings.

 

Sag Harbor’s Snowy Sidewalks Debated

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By Kathryn G. Menu

So far in 2014, Sag Harbor has recorded 33 inches of snowfall, with much of the most recent precipitation frozen in icy mounds on village sidewalks and streets as temperatures have refused to budge above freezing since February 5.

For Nada Barry, owner of the Wharf Shop on Main Street and a decades-long fixture at Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meetings, the constant snowfall is not her concern, but making sure sidewalks are kept clean in the traditionally pedestrian friendly village is.

During Tuesday night’s monthly village board meeting, Ms. Barry approached trustees for the second time this year to call on the village to enforce its own laws and begin ticketing residents and businesses that do not comply with the village code and shovel the village-owned sidewalks in front of their properties.

“Nothing is going to happen until people are fined,” said Ms. Barry. “It is the only way you are going to get this place cleaned up.”

According to Trustee Kevin Duchemin, the liaison for code enforcement in the village, nine summonses were issued after the last two snowfalls in early February. However, for Ms. Barry, that simply does not go far enough.

According to the Sag Harbor Village code, it is not lawful for “any owner or occupant of land or premises adjacent to a sidewalk” to leave any snow or ice on the sidewalk longer than 24 hours after a storm has passed or ice has formed. Anyone in violation of that section of code, upon conviction, is subject to a fine not to exceed $250 or imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or both, for each and every violation issued by code enforcement.

However, as Mayor Brian Gilbride admitted at last month’s village board meeting, when quizzed by Ms. Barry, the village had not cited anyone following the January 2 storm. On Tuesday night, Ms. Barry called the nine citations “a start” and called on the village to become more proactive in enforcing its own laws. She suggested hiring someone to do the job and added that enforcing this section of the code could prove financially beneficial to the village.

“Because we cannot go on living this way,” said Ms. Barry. “It is so dangerous. So please take some action before next year.”

According to Mayor Gilbride and Trustee Duchemin, the nine summonses issued were in downtown Sag Harbor. Ms. Barry said sidewalks on the outskirts of the business district and on residential streets are also not being cleared and that those residents should also face fines.

“It’s just out of control and you are all aware of it,” she said.

Resident and Harbor Committee member Jeff Peters agreed.

Mr. Peters suggested a part-time employee could be hired in code enforcement if the manpower is currently not sufficient. He added that a village-wide letter could go out informing all residents of the code requirements as a warning. Ultimately, Mr. Peters wondered why the village itself could not take on the responsibility of plowing the sidewalks.

Mayor Gilbride said the village’s insurance company said it would be a liability issue if the public works department became responsible for plowing them.

“I think this storm it was a lot better,” he said. “But can it get better? Yes.”

Howard Street resident Mia Grosjean wondered if residents were responsible for snow pushed onto sidewalks by snowplows.

“You have to ask Nada,” joked Mayor Gilbride.

The answer was yes.

The village board passed a resolution Tuesday night authorizing Police Chief Tom Fabiano to hire Travis H. Chornoma as a part-time police officer at a rate of $23 per hour.

“Is this to replace Hughie,” asked Trustee Ken O’Donnell referring to former village police officer Hugh Caulfield, who retired from the department last year leaving nine officers and the chief on full-time staff.

“No, it is not,” said Chief Fabiano. “But if it gets approved I would like to request another meeting with everyone. I need a 10th man and I can’t wait until the summer to replace Hughie.”

While the resolution was passed, no meeting with Chief Fabiano was scheduled to discuss the future of the department and outside of Mayor Gilbride the remainder of the village board was silent on the subject.

“I have been asking for a meeting since June,” said the chief.

In other news, Sloan Schaeffer—the owner of the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street—will petition the board to hook up that property to the village wastewater treatment plant. Mr. Schaeffer is in the midst of re-developing the property for use as his private residence. On Tuesday night, his attorney Dennis Downes approached the board to see if it would consider the idea.

In order to hook up to the wastewater treatment plant, the system’s pipe would need to be extended down Madison Street roughly 100 feet, said Mr. Downes. Two additional properties would have to hook up to the plant as well, and Mr. Schaeffer has offered to pay for the extension of the line as well as the hook-up for each home. The property owners would be responsible for annual village water bills.

Board members said they were amenable to the idea as long as affected neighbors supported the plan.

Sag Harbor ZBA Work Session on Harbor Heights Project Rescheduled for January 16

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A Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) work session, originally scheduled for Friday, January 10 at 2 p.m. has been rescheduled for Thursday, January 16 at 2 p.m.

The work session will specifically cover the variance application of John Leonard, who is asking the ZBA for three variances to redevelop the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 in Sag Harbor.

The application has been before the village boards for three years and has been met with substantial opposition, including from hundreds of residents who have filed letters of protest with the ZBA and the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board during the course of the review.

The Sag Harbor ZBA must determine whether or not it will grant Leonard’s variances by its Tuesday, January 21 meeting, which will begin with a work session at 6 p.m.