Tag Archive | "Sagaponack"

Raising Spirits: Farm Distillery Proposed for Sagaponack

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Foster Farm in Sagaponack, which is already known for its potatoes, might someday also be known for its vodka, if Dean Foster’s vision comes to fruition.

Mr. Foster, 45, who has been running many of the day-to-day operations of the family’s farm for more than a decade, said he wants to create “an estate style, small farm distillery” that would produce “world class, small batch spirits,” that could grow to include whiskies and brandies, on a farm with a wholesale firewood operation in Sagaponack that his family bought in 2012 to protect it from development.

“I will be growing everything that is used in the making of the spirits,” Mr. Foster said this week. “Grow local. Drink local.”

He said he was drawn to the idea of starting a distillery as a way to diversify his business as well as provide a new market for his and other local farmers’ produce.

Last Thursday, Mr. Foster, accompanied by his attorney, Kieran Murphree of Bridgehampton, appeared before the Southampton Town Planning Board to outline his plans. The planning board declared the site-plan application complete and scheduled an April 10 public hearing on it.

As a start-up operation, Sagg Distillery will be equipped with a small still, capable of producing no more than 400 gallons a year, that will be housed in a garage on the site. Ms. Murphree said the small still would be used for “research and development” operations. “They need to develop recipes,” she said.

Mr. Foster told the planning board the idea of the distillery was made feasible when Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012 signed legislation that allows farms to distill up to 36,000 gallons of spirits a year. By comparison, Absolut Vodka produces about 158,000 gallons a day.

This week, Mr. Foster said he is already in discussions with a master distiller and if all goes according to plan, he will put in a larger still in an addition to a barn on the property. The barn itself, he said, would be converted into a tasting room. Those steps would require another site-plan review.

Although the operation would be largely wholesale, Mr. Foster told the board the farm distillery law allows some on-site sales from a tasting room.

The property that will be used for the distillery is on the east side of Sagg Road, just north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks. The 13-acre site is now home to Dick Leland’s firewood operation, which, Mr. Foster said, will move from the property in 2015. Large piles of firewood that are being seasoned still cover much of the property.

Mr. Foster told the planning board that neighbors he has spoken to were happy to learn that the firewood business would be leaving. “We can’t wait for the chain saws to stop,” he said they told him. But he added that he wanted to give Mr. Leland enough time to wind down his operations.

“We have firewood and firewood,” quipped planning board member Phil Keith.

Mr. Foster said his family bought the property, which was slated for a seven-lot subdivision, as well as a neighboring 12-acre piece of agricultural land after selling the development rights to other property it owned.

As the firewood operation winds down, Mr. Foster said he would begin to reclaim the soil, which, he said, could be used to grow ingredients for the distillery. Plus, he said, grain used in the distilling process could be used as livestock feed or fertilizer. “I can’t wait to get that farmland back in action,” he told the planning board.

“Terrific. This is our first distillery,” said the planning board’s chairman, Dennis Finnerty. “Once again the Fosters are pioneering.”

Sagaponack Offers to Share Bridge Renovation Costs

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By Stephen J. Kotz

It might not look like much to most people, but the low-slung bridge across Sagg Pond that connects Sagaponack and Bridgehampton is apparently worth a lot to the Sagaponack Village Board.

On February 27, Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim, accompanied by three village board members, told the Southampton Town Board the village would be willing to chip in up to $500,000 to renovate the span—provided the town abandoned plans, proposed by Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, to redesign it meeting federal standards so the town could qualify for a matching grant of a similar amount.

“We feel quite passionately that the bridge should, as much as possible, be repaired and maintained as it is,” the mayor said. He called the bridge “an important centerpiece” between the village and Bridgehampton, which got its name from an earlier span at the same site on Bridge Lane.

Mr. Louchheim said the design, first unveiled in December by Mr. Gregor at a community input meeting at which little input was sought, would result in a bridge with “industrial, galvanized steel railings” that would lead to slightly narrower lanes and a narrower pedestrian walkway and eliminates an existing curb separating foot traffic from vehicles.

“We have had no progress trying to have a dialogue with the highway superintendent on this,” Mr. Louchheim said. He added that Mr. Gregor had told village officials the design specifications were required for the town to qualify for the federal grant money.

Mr. Gregor did not return calls seeking comment, but in his official capacity as highway superintendent he has the authority to oversee design plans, with the town board limited to choosing to fund or not fund projects he wants to pursue.

Before coming to the town board, village officials had mulled annexing the 35-foot section of the bridge that lands on the Bridgehampton side, but Mr. Louchheim said such a procedure “would be messy.” Instead, he said, the village had decided the easiest route would be for it to “step in and take the place of the federal government and provide matching funds for this project.”

The village, he added, “would agree, effective immediately to fund 50-50 any repairs, maintenance, or capital improvements to the bridge that both boards agree to for now and in the future.”

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who had obtained the federal funding for the town, had assured her that the town, which has already earmarked $500,000 of its own money for the project, would be able to apply the federal grant money to another transportation-related infrastructure project elsewhere.

She pressed Mr. Louchheim to agree that the village would pay for any additional design work that would be required as part of the new project. Such an agreement might make the project “more palatable” for taxpayers elsewhere in town, she said.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming also endorsed the scaled back plan, saying that pedestrian use of the bridge, whether for fishing, crabbing, walking or biking should be preserved. She also said the town should consider seeking landmark status for the bridge and asked Sally Spanburgh, chairwoman of the town’s Landmarks and Historic District Board, to look into that possibility.

Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, who on February 24, voted to support Sagaponack in its efforts, also attended last week’s meeting.

Mr. Louchheim urged the town to act quickly before work is begun on the bridge. “I think what we are proposing would be a better outcome,” Mr. Louchheim said, “certainly on how people feel on both sides of the pond. We would make the taxpayers whole on the cost of this project. Plus you’d have the option of using that funding for another town project.”

Madoo Conservancy Hosts an Expert on Exterior Design

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almodington_bench

By Stephen J. Kotz

 

However difficult it is to believe, this winter of discontent will come to an end in just two weeks. Soon thoughts will turn to storing the snowblower and pulling out the garden furniture from the shed in anticipation of another season of barbecuing, relaxing among the summer blooms, or watching the fireflies as darkness falls.

For those looking for a head start to summer, the Madoo Conservancy in Sagponack will present John Danzer, a man who has probably forgotten more about garden furniture than most of us will ever know, who will give an illustrated talk, “Garden Furniture: The Whole Story” starting at noon on Sunday.

“I’ll talk about how landscapes are changing and how our view of landscapes are changing. I’ll talk about placement. I’ll talk about materials selection,” said Mr. Danzer, the ideas firing out in all directions during a telephone interview from his office in Garrison, New York.

“There will be plenty of history in it,” he said, noting that he’ll touch on perhaps the earliest garden furniture of all—medieval “turf benches,” which were basically raised garden beds in which one could sit surrounded by herbs and medicinal plants to help ward off the plague, small pox or whatever else ailed you. Mr. Danzer said he’ll talk about modern design as well, how “the plastic chair is such a marvel of engineering and shows how egalitarian design has become.”

“The third section is really about trends and the meaning of landscape, of the social history of sitting outside, shading, the new fabrics,” he added.

It should be apparent that Mr. Danzer wears many hats. Besides being a garden furniture historian and a collector—he scours auctions for early Windsor chairs, Jeffersonian benches, Adirondack chairs and other finds—he is an award winning designer whose Taconic chair won the 1994 Roscoe Award as the Best American Chair, the first time a garden chair had been honored. He is also a manufacturer who through his company, Munder-Stiles, which he founded in 1991, will make to order furniture from among nearly 160 different designs.

If that is not enough, Mr. Danzer obtained a copyright over the term “exterior decorator,” which describes another aspect of his varied business life: doing for a client’s patio what an interior decorator does for their living room.

Despite his expertise and enthusiasm, Mr. Danzer came to his vocation relatively late in life. He was the head of Standard and Poor’s London office in the late 1980s when he simply grew weary of his work in finance. A friend sent him an article about a talk by the author Leo Lionni at Cooper Union called “The Irresistible Urge to Make Things,” and Mr. Danzer up and quit his job just a few days later.

At loose ends, he took some time off, traveling the world and sending hundreds of photos back to an old childhood friend who printed them for him and a left a post-it note on the prints: “All you do is take pictures of gardens and garden furniture” it read.

The note led Mr. Danzer to his new career, which he began by immersing himself in the history of garden furniture and soon becoming a sought after lecturer on the subject before launching a career as a designer.

“I was an art history major. I kind of got swept up” in the world of finance, Mr. Danzer said. “I kind of went back to my roots. I love to design furniture.”

Today, “we  predominantly sell to high-end decorators and architects. We tend to not sell to the end user there is usually an intermediary,” he said of his business.

The furniture Munder-Skiles produces “is all built in Costa Rica, right next to one of the largest teak plantations,” he said. “I or my staff personally select the trees. We are unique in that we go from trees to chairs. We did that six and a half months ago for this season.”

“We make everything from Thomas Jefferson garden benches to very slick, ergonomic, slinky lounges,” he said.

His business continues to evolve. His mother, he joked, used to tell him, “this is the longest startup in the history of business.”

The Madoo Conservancy’s Winter Lecture Series will present garden furniture designer and historian John Danzer who will give the illustrated lecture, “Garden Furniture: The Whole Story,” at noon on Sunday, March 9, at the conservancy’s winter house. Tickets are $30 ($25 for members). Seating is limited. For more information, visit http://www.madoo.org/calendar.html#john

The Hampton Library Announces HVAC Solution

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The Board of Trustees of the Hampton Library has entered a contract with H2M Architects + Engineers to engineer a solution to fix the library’s geothermal water source heat pump systems—a heating and air conditioning system constructed as a part of the library’s $6 million expansion in 2009. The total cost of installing the geothermal system was $592,582.

That geothermal system, using an open loop system, broke down last summer. The library has been using an emergency heat system to keep its doors open throughout this winter.

According to library director Kelly Harris, the firm will soon begin work designing a new closed loop evaporative cooling tower system that will use the existing heat pump system already installed at the library. Using the water in the closed loop of an evaporative cooling tower instead of a geothermal well, said Ms. Harris, will remove the impact of iron on the system, which was what caused the system to fail in August.

Ms. Harris said she intends to send an informational brochure to residents in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack and plans to host a community meeting on the issue at a later date. For more information, visit the library website at hamptonlibrary.org.

 

 

Hopefully Forgiven at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard

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Hopefully Forgiven. Courtesy of the band.

Hopefully Forgiven. Photo courtesy of the band.

By Tessa Raebeck

Hopefully Forgiven, the local guitar duo comprised of Telly Karoussos and Brad Penuel, will play at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard this weekend as the winery continues its Candlelight Fridays series.

After gaining recognition as a solo artist, East Hampton’s Mr. Karoussos teamed up with Mr. Penuel (also known as Alabama Brad) to form Hopefully Forgiven. Their influences include Gram Parsons, the Rolling Stones in their early days and country duos like the Stanley Brothers. They play a mix of original songs and beloved covers.

The Candlelight Friday series presents live music in an intimate café setting, with no cover charge and wine, cheese and charcuterie plates available for purchase. Upcoming acts include Ludmilla on March 14, Charles Certain on March 21 and Alfredo Merat on March 28.

Hopefully Forgiven is playing on Friday, March 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the main winery, 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack. For more information, call 537-5106 or visit wolffer.com.

Certain Moves Brings Smooth Jazz to the Wölffer Estate Vineyard

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Charles Certain of the band Certain Moves. Photo courtesy of Wolffer Estate Vineyard.

Charles Certain of the band Certain Moves. Photo courtesy of Wölffer Estate Vineyard.

By Tessa Raebeck

As part of its Candlelight Fridays series, the Wölffer Estate Vineyard presents local jazz band Certain Moves. With a wide range and soulful sound, Certain Moves will play in a cozy, café setting in the Winery Tasting Room on Sagg Road in Sagaponack.

Saxophone player and vocalist Charles Certain formed Certain Moves with bandmates Bill “Bang” Gaines (keys/vocals), Wayne Hart (bass/vocals), Randy London (drums/pans) and Abdul Zuhri (guitar/vocals).

The Southampton band plays all styles of music, specializing in smooth jazz, R&B, dance and funk. Certain Moves performs regularly at Wölffer and has played gigs in New York City and across Long Island. With both songs you love and original melodies, Certain Moves is a frequent at local festivals, known for their relaxing, soulful tunes.

Throughout the fall and winter, Wölffer hosts Candlelight Fridays, evenings of wine and jazz featuring New York musicians every Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Vineyard Tasting Room, 139 Sagg Road. There is no cover charge or reservations necessary.

For more information, call 631.537.5106 or visit wolffer.

Sagaponack and Bridgehampton Residents Criticize Proposed Changes to Bridge Lane Bridge

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By Tessa Raebeck

Some 30 residents of Sagaponack and Bridgehampton came to the Bridgehampton Community Center last Wednesday night to express their concerns over a project they say will change the face of their home — the rehabilitation of the bridge that gives Bridge Lane its name.

Alex Gregor, highway superintendent for Southampton Town, hosted a public forum on the bridge restoration project, a multi-faceted restoration to improve safety. The project, residents say, has unnecessary changes that, in addition to altering the character of the bridge, will pose greater risk to the pedestrians who use it for crabbing, fishing and swimming.

“That bridge is part of our rapidly vanishing hometown,” said Marilee Foster, a Sagaponack farmer who serves on the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

Lisa Duryea Thayer, a Sagaponack Village trustee, called the project “very offensive to the character of our area.”

Built in 1923, the bridge is not new to controversy. When Suffolk County owned the bridge and attempted to demolish it and replace it with a modern steel structure in the 1980s, residents fought a five-year battle to keep it, culminating successfully in 1988.

“This whole battle,” recalled Donald Louchheim, mayor of Sagaponack Village, “was fought out for exactly the same reasons that you are giving today…now in effect, the town is reneging on the commitment that it made 25 years ago.”

Costing between $890,000 and $1 million, the project would widen the two traffic lanes, repave the roadway approaching the bridge on either side, replace the guardrails, put in drainage, replace the seawalls on either side and install leaching pools — pits that absorb liquid into the soil.

“Please believe me,” Gregor told the disgruntled crowd, “I don’t like to spend a million dollars on something unless we have to.”’

The travel lanes, currently at about 8.5 feet, need to be widened to today’s standard of 10 feet, Gregor said, which would leave no room for a sidewalk on the bridge.

“I grew up next to that bridge,” said Sagaponack resident and former mayor Bill Tillotsen. “I’ve swum off of it, I’ve jumped off of it, I’ve fished off it … the sidewalk there is inadequate but without it you’re going to create a real funnel for traffic.”

Town officials began looking into funding for this project back 2005, before Gregor was in office. In 2006, an average of about 1,200 vehicles crossed over the bridge each day, according to the town.

By the time Gregor took office in 2010, he said, the town had already bonded close to half a million dollars for the rehabilitation project.

A federal grant for $500,000 was “one of the last Congressional earmarks that [Congressman] Tim Bishop got out in 2008,” Gregor said.

By accepting the federal aid, the town is required to keep the project consistent with federal and state regulations, which mandate many of the project’s elements which residents are highly critical, such as the widened lanes and new guardrails.

Cathy Gandel, co-chair of the Bridgehampton CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee), told Gregor, “you keep talking about safety — which we all want — but what makes you think that two 10-foot lanes with that guardrail [would improve safety]? People slow down now over that bridge because it’s narrow.”

“Tell the mayor and the trustees to get the cop there and write some tickets on the bridge,” Gregor responded.

Following the forum, Gandel’s husband, Earl Gandel, recalled a time in the late 1940s when international road races were held in Bridgehampton, with racers crossing over the bridge.

“We’re getting ready to change the nature of a bridge that I think a lot of people are really attached to,” Foster said. “I just feel really kicked in the face by this project because people love this place, people love the bridge.”

“I don’t think,” replied Gregor, “a 1923 bridge makes it historic, but I’m not going to insult historians in that.”

Several residents, along with Sagaponack Village’s consulting engineer Drew Brennan, asked Gregor to consider an alternative option that would make the basic repairs to the bridge without taking the federal grants that mandate the most aesthetically altering — and controversial —components of the project.

Brennan estimated that option would cost the town up to $700,000 and those in attendance asked Gregor to commit to looking into it.

“Our boards every month,” said Louchheim, “are struggling mightily to preserve as much as possible the rural and historic and scenic character of the Town of Southampton and quite frankly, the bridge is a vital part of that.”

Gregor said he and his team would consider the residents’ input and “regroup.”

“But,” he said, “I would be wrong in telling you I’m not still leaning forward.”

Linda Franke asked whether the public forum was just hosted as a gesture.

“It’s a condition and a gesture,” Gregor replied.

Split East Hampton Town Board Adopts Airport Capital Improvement Plan

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The East Hampton Town Board adopted a capital improvement plan for the East Hampton Airport during a work session Tuesday — a roadmap for $5.26 million in repairs and improvements consultants suggest be made to airport facilities over the course of the next five years.

Originally, the capital improvement plan (CIP) — unveiled just before a November 21 public hearing on the proposals — called for $10.45 million in airport repairs and projects over a five-year period. The adopted CIP was cut to $5.26 million with 15 proposed projects removed from the plan as they were not a part of the town board approved Airport Master Plan or Airport Layout Plan, both of which were vetted through environmental review.

The CIP was approved by the outgoing Republican majority of the town board. Airport liaison Dominick Stanzione, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley voted in support of the plan, with Democrats Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc voting against adopting the CIP.

East Hampton Airport manager Jim Brundige said the CIP is meant to highlight what projects are necessary at the airport. Quigley also noted that approving the CIP does not mean the board is approving any of the projects laid out in plan, or how has made a decision about how they will be funded. Rather she called the approval a “first step” in moving towards improvements at the airport first identified in the town’s airport master plan.

However, both Overby and Van Scoyoc expressed concerns about a footnote in the document that references Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding. The CIP, according to testimony given by town aviation consultant Dennis Yap at the November 21 public hearing on the plan, will be submitted to the FAA. Van Scoyoc said he was concerned submitting the plan to the FAA was the first step towards securing additional grants from that agency for airport projects.

“It’s not a necessary step for us to send it to the FAA unless we are pursuing funding from the FAA,” he said.

For several years now, a number of residents and members of the Quiet Skies Coalition have encouraged the town board not to accept FAA funding as they believe when grant assurances expire in December of 2014 the town has the ability to gain greater control of the airport, including the potential to impose curfews or restrict certain aircraft.

East End Winemakers Call 2013 Best Vintage Yet

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Grapes being picked at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. Photo by John Neely.

Grapes being picked at Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead. Photo by John Neely.

By Tessa Raebeck

As if anyone needed another reason to drink wine, the 2013 vintage is the best local winemakers on both forks have ever seen.

“It’s really spectacular,” said Roman Roth, winemaker for the Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. “You hear about these fabled vintages like ’76 and ’45 – this is one that we have.”

“The entire East End is producing great wines,” agreed winemaker Juan Micieli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead.

Winemakers were nervous last spring, when May was a particularly rainy month and June was the second wettest on record. They soon found their worry was preemptive.

“Then came the most fantastic summer,” said Roth. A heat wave in July followed by a generally dry, long summer helped the winemakers to overcome the wet spring.

The summer was good, but the fall was better.

“What almost always makes a fine harvest – an excellent harvest – is a sunny, dry fall,” explained Larry Perrine, winemaker at Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehampton. “It doesn’t have to be hot, but it’s sunny and dry. And basically from Labor Day on, it didn’t rain. It rained the day after Labor Day and then it didn’t rain for the next seven weeks.”

The dry weather moves the ripening schedule of the fruit forward, preventing any rot. Because the fall was dry without being too hot, the tender varieties were not adversely affected. The yields were substantial and the quality superior across the board, ensuring that the 2013 vintage is excellent for whites, rosés and reds.

“All conditions were great,” said Lisa Freedman, a PR representative for Martha Clara Vineyards, “as far as weather and Mother Nature – and there were no hurricanes.”

Regions renowned for wine, such as Friuli, Italy or Bordeaux, France, have heavy rainfall during the growing season and a dry end of season. This year, the East End of Long Island got a taste of that perfect wine weather.

2010 previously held the crown as the best year in local winemakers’ memory and 2012 was also a landmark year, but it just keeps getting better, they say.

“There’s a lot of great wines up in the pipeline,” said Roth. “But it will all be topped by this 2013 – that’s for sure.”

The sun rises over the harvest at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack.

The sun rises over the harvest at Wölffer Estate Winery in Sagaponack.

Since he started making wine in 1982, Roth has seen maybe three lots (batches separated by varietal, date picked or vineyard section) “that are really special” each year.

“But this year,” he said. “We have thirty lots. The lots came in with the highest color, the deepest color, so it’s an amazing opportunity where you have lots of options for great wines.”

The first 2013 wines released will be the rosés in the early spring, followed fairly quickly by the aromatic, fresh white wines, such as sauvignon blancs. Fermented in stainless steel and bottled early, those white wines will be released by the spring or summer of 2014. Other whites fermented in oak, like Chardonnays, could take as long as 2015.

The reds take the longest, spending at least a year in the cellar. Channing Daughters is just now bottling its 2012 reds, so 2013 reds won’t be available for over a year, most likely two. At Wölffer, the top 2013 reds won’t be released until 2016. As Roth said, “good wine takes time.”

The goal of the North Fork’s Lenz Winery in Peconic is to release wine that “will be among the very best of its type, made anywhere in the world.”

Several years ago, that would have been a bold claim for a Long Island winery to make, but these days, it appears to be quite realistic.

Micieli-Martinez calls it the “Napa-fication” of Long Island’s wine industry, referring to the initial disregard of Napa Valley wines. It was believed California couldn’t compete with French and Italian wines, but today Napa Valley is considered to be one of the world’s premier wine regions.

“I think it contributes to the growing really positive perception…of the quality of Long Island wines and of New York wines in general,” Perrine said of the 2013 harvest. “It does improve steadily the reputation of the wines as being first-rate, world class wines.”

“It’s truly a special year,” the 30-year winemaker continued. “We’ll always remember.”

“It’s just perfect,” said Roth. “It’s a dream come true, basically.”

Arrest Made in Alleged Sexual Assault in Wainscott

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By Kathryn G. Menu

A Rockville Centre teen, Joseph Cardinali, was arrested by East Hampton Town Police on Sunday, November 17 and charged with aggravated sexual assault in the first degree, a felony, and assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

According to East Hampton Town Police, around 5:11 p.m. they responded to the Wainscott address of Phoenix House, a non-profit provider of substance abuse services, following a report of a victim of violence.

An 18-year-old male victim was transported to Southampton Hospital where he was admitted and underwent surgery, said police. Police said investigation indicates a wooden broom handle was used by Cardinali, 16, to penetrate the rectum of the victim.

Cardinali was subsequently arrested and charged.

An investigation is ongoing. Police ask anyone with information that may assist in this investigation contact the East Hampton Town Police Department at 537-7575. All calls will be kept confidential.