Tag Archive | "sag harbor village board"

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.”

Sag Harbor Village Board: Ambulance Corps Looks Towards Paid Help

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By Kathryn G. Menu

For Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Ed Downes each passing year is a record breaker, as emergency service calls increase and volunteers scramble to ensure the community has an ambulance corps it not only can count on, but one it can be proud of.

And they are certainly not alone.

Since last spring, the East End Ambulance Coalition — a group of representatives from volunteer ambulance companies from Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Amagansett, East Hampton, Springs and Montauk — have been working together towards a paid first responder program, which they hope will launch in the summer of 2014.

Starting this past June, the Montauk Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners approved a pilot program for this past summer, providing for one paid EMT 24 hours a day, seven days a week through mid-September.

Many departments on Long Island, including Southampton, have moved towards having at least partially paid paramedics and first responders who work with local volunteers, improving response times as a result.

During a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting last Wednesday, trustee Ed Deyermond noted with the increase in call volumes, considering a paid emergency medical technician (EMT) is something that should be considered within Sag Harbor’s fire district.

According to Downes, the company will likely seek to work cooperatively with the East End Ambulance Coalition, which was set to meet again Friday, towards a regional paid first responder program before seeking to fund a program for Sag Harbor alone.

Downes said if implemented, the coalition would have a team of three to as many as five paid responders on duty, available to respond along with one of the coalition companies to any emergency service situation from Bridgehampton to Montauk.

“The biggest problem is funding,” said Downes of the coalition’s efforts. Working with both East Hampton and Southampton towns for funding is being considered, he added, with the coalition waiting for newly elected town boards to take office before making any formal proposals.

No matter what program is implemented, Downes said all the fire districts will still rely heavily on volunteers. Working together, for example through the implementation of a daytime duty crew — a program established by coalition companies this July — is critical, he added. Downes said he expects the daytime duty crew is something the coalition will continue next summer.

A duty crew made up a volunteers from one of the coalition companies was on call Monday through Saturday to respond to any ambulance call, along with the home company the call originated from. The program gave the all-volunteer ambulance companies a back-up team to rely on.

For Downes, and the 29 members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, while having paid first responders on-call in a regional capacity would be a welcome help as calls continue to increase, the volunteer force will always be essential.

“Everyone gives what they can and all that they can,” he said.

In other emergency service news, last Wednesday Deyermond once again brought up the need for a helipad for medevac purposes in Sag Harbor. Last month, Deyermond suggested it could be something constructed near Havens Beach. Last Wednesday, he noted it would have to support a 24 ton military helicopter.

“Maybe we can get a ballpark figure and see if this is going to fly,” said Deyermond.

The village board also passed a resolution made by Deyermond to purchase 16 new air packs for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department at a cost not to exceed more than $70,000 out of the excess budget available through the fire department, and the remainder to be funded through the village’s contingency fund.

Deyermond said the village was also looking at the cost of purchasing two new dry suits for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team.

Last month, the fire department reported that 17 of its 60 air packs had to be replaced with newer models as they were now rated as “substandard.” Two of the dive team’s three dry suits, critical for water rescues, have been in and out of repairs.

In other village news, the board introduced two new local laws last Wednesday that will be up for public hearing at its January 14 meeting.

First is a local law amending the zoning code to require a certificate of appropriateness from the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation & Architectural Review Board (ARB) for any exterior “alteration, restoration, construction, reconstruction, demolition or material change in the appearance of such a property that is visible from an adjacent street or adjacent property.” A certificate of appropriateness would not be required for interior renovations alone.

The board will also hold a public hearing for a change to the building code, requiring sediment control during the course of a building project to protect natural vegetation and topography by requiring a project-limiting fence, mesh, straw bales, or similar devices during construction and any clearing or grading of land.

“First of all, this is usually done as a matter of course in most projects anyway but this will give the building inspector the right to enforce it,” said village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

The board was also unanimous in renewing its agreement with the Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club, which will be able to continue its program at Cove Park, a small public park near Redwood Causeway.

The not-for-profit Sag Harbor Community Rowing Club has been rowing off Cove Park since its founding in 2008. In addition to competitive rowing for middle and high school students, the organization also has adult programming and camp offerings in the summer. For more information, visit rowsagharbor.org.

The board did table a request by Martin Monteith to run a sailboat charter from outside the breakwater for the 2014 summer season. Monteith was asking the board for permission to load and unload passengers from the village docks.

Thiele cautioned the board that if it was going to allow the use of its dock space it would have to charge a fee.

The board asked Harbor Master Bob Bori to weigh in on the matter before making a decision.

The board also denied a request by Susan Mead of the not for profit Serve Sag Harbor to host a fundraising event on Long Wharf June 28 and June 29.

“I am happy to entertain it at a different venue or on a different day, but it’s just that this is Long Wharf we are talking about,” said board member Robby Stein.

Culver Resigns from Sag Harbor Village Board

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On Tuesday afternoon, just minutes before the Sag Harbor Village Board was scheduled to hold a special meeting in executive session, village clerk Beth Kamper was sent a letter of resignation from trustee Tim Culver.

Culver, whose wife Samantha grew up in Sag Harbor, said on Tuesday night he resigned because he and his family have decided to move permanently into a North Haven Village home they bought earlier this year.

The Culver family continues to own two additional properties in Sag Harbor Village.

The announcement comes a week after Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Milazzo questioned whether or not Culver should be allowed to sit on the village board, citing his home in North Haven and the fact it appeared as if the Culver family had settled there.

Culver recently emerged as one of the staunchest supporters of exploring the costs of police services as the contract between the Sag Harbor PBA and the village has been sent to arbitration.

According to New York State laws which affect public officials in incorporated villages, “in addition to any other legal requirements or prohibitions, no person shall be eligible to be elected or appointed as mayor, trustee or member of any board or commission, and, no person, if elected or appointed to such office, shall be eligible to continue to serve therein, who is not a citizen of the United States of America, at least 18 years of age, and a resident of the village.”

Last week, Culver said he and his family were still deciding where they intended to reside and while he had tried to resign from the board earlier this summer, he was persuaded to remain a trustee, not just by members of the village board, but also by village residents.

“Clearly I stayed as long as I have because people asked me to,” said Culver on Tuesday night. “I want to serve my community, be helpful and being on the village board has been a truly enjoyable experience.”

Culver said he does intend to stay involved in the village, noting he is still a Sag Harbor taxpayer and therefore does have a vested interest in the village. He has no intentions of seeking office in North Haven, he added.

“But we are excited about this new opportunity,” said Culver. “My kids are thrilled about the house.”

One person not excited about this change is Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

On Tuesday night, trustees Ed Gregory, Robby Stein and Kevin Duchemin accepted Culver’s resignation with Mayor Gilbride voting against the measure.

“Tim has done an excellent job for the village and his heart is here,” said Mayor Gilbride. “It’s unfortunate the way this all had to go down.”

As for how the village board will address the empty seat on the dais, Mayor Gilbride said he was unsure how that process would unfold, but would likely raise the issue at the board’s September meeting.

“If you are wondering if I will appoint someone right away, the answer is no,” said Gilbride. “I will talk about it though and make it a very open process.”

In other news, Mayor Gilbride said the attorney for the Sag Harbor PBA has approached him and that a late September meeting has been scheduled between the village and the PBA. In the meantime, the village is continuing to explore the cost of having outside police agencies provide service in Sag Harbor. A proposal has been submitted by the East Hampton Town Police Department, said Mayor Gilbride, and the village is waiting on additional proposals from the Southampton Town Police Department and the Suffolk County Sherriff’s Office.

On Tuesday night, the village board also named Joe Faraguna as the assistant dock master for Harbor Master Bob Bori. Mike Cohen was also named as an assistant labor crew leader to Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley.

$30 Million Suit Against Village Dismissed

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By Kathryn G. Menu

For close to a year and a half, the Village of Sag Harbor has had a $30 million weight on its shoulders, and this week that weight was lifted.

Before the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday night, village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. informed Mayor Brian Gilbride that a federal lawsuit seeking $30 million in damages from the village, its attorneys and consultants had been dismissed by United States Eastern District Court Judge Leonard D. Wexler.

The suit was filed in September of 2009 by East End Ventures, a company that successfully gained approval to build the 21 West Water Street condominiums, but failed to win support for a myriad of condominium plans at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road, adjacent to the Lance Corporal Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The parcel was purchased by condominium developers Michael Maidan and Emil Talel in 2005, and a year later the developers, under the limited liability company East End Ventures, began meeting with village boards about condominiums at the site, although the number of units and design of the architecture changed several times as project sponsors tried to gain both public support and board approval.

In 2009, final plans for a three-story, 18-unit condo project featuring 18-accessory boat slips was before the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board when the village’s zoning code changed, drastically reducing the number of allowed condominium units on the property.

In the damages suit, and in a second Article 78 lawsuit yet to be decided, East End Ventures claimed they were led to believe the project would be exempt from the new code, similar to the approved condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

They alleged that the village’s new code was designed specifically to thwart their project and prevent East End Ventures from being able to sell the property to any buyer other than the Village of Sag Harbor. They also claim the village’s application process was flawed, not giving the company a timely and effective method of having their project reviewed — a violation of their rights under due process.

However, Judge Wexler, in his January 6 decision, notes that in order for those rights to be violated, East End Ventures must show a clear entitlement of approval for their project by the village, which they fail to do.

Moreover, Wexler adds that any issue of whether or not the village stalled the planning process for East End Ventures while re-writing its zoning code is a matter that should be decided in state court through an Article 78 proceeding, like the one East End Ventures has already filed, rather than through a federal court.

As for a second claim that East End Ventures’ equal protection rights were violated in that their project was similar to the approved 65-unit condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, Wexler states beyond the fact that the Bulova project was exempt from the new code, East End Ventures fails “to present factual allegations that would suggest a high degree of similarity between the two projects.”

While the motion to dismiss with prejudice applies to all aspects of the suit, Wexler in his decision does allow East End Ventures 30 days to replead this last aspect of their claim in an attempt to show significant similarities between the two projects.

East End Ventures also has the right to appeal Wexler’s decision, said Thiele.

“This is quite honestly not a surprise,” said Gilbride at Tuesday’s meeting. “All the advice we have had is that this was the direction the case would go. Now, I look forward to moving forward with a project on that property that is good for the village.”

“This shows the village did everything right,” added Deputy Mayor Tim Culver. “Now I would like to see us move away from litigation regarding this project and towards something positive happening down at that site.”

TASH to March on Main Street

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Next Monday, the Teacher Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) will march together with members of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union from neighboring districts on the streets of Main Street in protest of the recent teacher contract negotiations in Sag Harbor. The village board of trustees approved the permit for the TASH rally on Tuesday evening, October 13, but had a few requests for TASH President Eileen Kochanasz.

Above: Teachers picketing in front of the Sag Harbor Elementary School in January of 2009.

Sag Harbor Village Trustee Tiffany Scarlato brought up concerns, saying she felt Main Street business owners would likely be upset with the demonstration and complain to the trustees. Kochanasz assured Scarlato that teachers would personally visit the store owners ahead of time to talk with them about the rally.

“Hopefully, that takes some of the heat off of you,” said Kochanasz to the board.

Kochanasz explained the event would entail people parking in available spaces in the village. The group will then meet at the Long Wharf, walk up one side of Main Street with signs of protest in hand, march back down the other side of the street and then make their way to Pierson High School via Madison Street. Once at the high school, noted Kochanasz, participants would disperse from the area on their own and not as a group.

“If there is enough people we might walk in two groups down [Main] street simultaneously,” reported Kochanasz during a later interview.

On the permit application, Kochanasz informed the village that the rally could attract up to 300 people. TASH has invited fellow NYSUT members from all the Suffolk County schools to join in the rally. Although Kochanasz doesn’t have final tallies of how many people will show up on Monday, representatives from Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Tuckahoe, Westhampton, Riverhead, Eastport, Springs, Shelter Island and Montauk plan to attend the event. Jim Kinnier, a prominent member of TASH, also reached out to educators at schools located on the North Fork.

The group will walk on the sidewalk and not the roadway, but Kochanasz and Kinnier plan to meet with Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano to discuss the logistics of the march. A few teachers have volunteered to stand at crosswalks and help organize vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

At the trustees meeting, the board members only briefly discussed the negotiations between the teachers and school board, which have been under way for more than 20 months. Mayor Brian Gilbride noted he has already offered school superintendent Dr. John Gratto the use of the Municipal Building for any further negotiations with TASH, with Scarlato offering herself up as a mediator.

“We actually have tried that with two outside mediators,” noted Kochanasz, referencing the mediator and fact finder the district has already employed.

The board unanimously approved the permit, although Scarlato said she hopes it does not become a monthly request.

The TASH rally will begin at the Long Wharf in Sag Harbor on Monday, October 19, at 5 p.m.