Tag Archive | "southampton town board"

Goats to Munch Away Invasive Plants in Greenbelt

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By Gianna Volpe

It’s been nine years since the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt began their effort to transform Vineyard Field in Bridgehampton back to native grassland after it was overgrown by an invasive plant species. Now goats will join the fight in stemming the tide of the unwanted autumn olive.

Upstate New York’s Rhinebeck-based Green Goats will provide a herd of weed-eating goats next month to the South Fork to aid in the restoration of the field, which lies behind the South Fork Natural History Museum. The property is part of the greenbelt, which runs from Sag Harbor Cove to the Atlantic Ocean.

The autumn olive, a flowering plant with light silver bark, was originally planted for its beauty. It also attracts birds because its fragrant flowers become berries. But the thorny plant is also so invasive it outgrows and shades out native species, ultimately forming a an impenetrable thicket.

The FLPG believes Green Goats is an ideal choice for getting an upper hand on the autumn olive as the invasive plant reasserts itself with a vengeance during the growing season when the Friends refrain from using mowers on the field to protect the its wildlife, including snakes, turtles, and snails.

“We’re losing the battle, so we’re hoping these goats are going to help,” FLPG president Dai Dayton said of the project. “They can graze throughout the summer without hurting any animals, so we’re hoping they will put an end” to the fight against the autumn olive.

Green Goats has been providing the chewing power to eliminate unwanted plant populations throughout the state—its goats chomp up poison ivy, phragmites and other undesirable plants—for seven years now.

Mozart the goat and his band of hungry friends began their work in 2007 when they cleared out invasive plants threatening a Civil War gun battery at New York City’s Fort Wadsworth, according to the Green Goats website.

“Larry brings his goats to the location, and they munch away for the season, and then he takes them home for the winter,” Ms. Dayton said of Green Goats owner, Larry Cihanek. “The goats prefer to browse, so they’ll really go after those autumn olives. They like to eat shrubs.”

Mr. Cihanek’s four-legged weed whackers are not shy and their reputation for browsing aggressively precedes them, according to Ms. Dayton. Though some autumn olives stand 6-feet-tall, she said the animals will gang up on a single plant to get the job done.

“They stand up on their hind legs and Larry said they will actually push the plant right over and they all jump on it and eat it,” she said. “It’ll be fun to watch…. We need those big goats to get up there and defoliate the plants so they finally die.”

Mr. Cihanek’s goats should arrive at Vineyard Field in the beginning of May.

Southampton Town has already contributed $3,500 so that Mr. Cihanek’s goats begin their work on the town-owned land next month, but Ms. Dayton said that will cover only half of the cost for the six-month initiative. She is asking the public to help the cause through donations to the Friends of Long Pond Greenbelt website (longpondgreenbelt.org) and has invited all to see the project in action first-hand during an educational program called “Project Goat,” which will take place at Vineyard Field on August 16.

Southampton Town Pays Off Retirement Debt

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The Southampton Town Board on March 11 unanimously adopted a resolution that authorized the payment of nearly $2.55 million of the town’s outstanding debt to the New York State pension system.

In recent years, many municipalities have struggled to meet annual pension contributions required by the state Comptroller’s Office. In general, public pension funds, including New York’s, are still struggling to make up for steep investment losses incurred in the 2008 financial crisis, requiring local municipalities to contribute more to keep the system afloat.

In order to mitigate the budgetary impact of higher pension obligations, New York introduced an amortization process that required the prorating of an employer’s required contributions over a period of time.

Since 2010, the town has participated in the amortization program. Of the five cities and towns in Nassau County, and the 10 towns in Suffolk County, only three towns—Smithtown, Riverhead and Shelter Island—did not participate in the program.

Southampton is the first to fully repay its debt. “Because we have budgeted prudently and conservatively over the last few years, we now have the opportunity to finally pay down this costly debt, saving approximately $300,000 in interest payments,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “This is very good news for our taxpayers, and reinforces the fact that the stringent budget practices we put in place are indeed working.”

Southampton Town Board Says Yes to Political Limits but No to Fleming’s Committee Member Ban

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday unanimously adopted an amendment to its ethics code that seeks to balance the number of political party members who can serve at any one time on the planning, zoning or conservation boards.

The proposal, introduced by Councilwoman Christine Scalera and Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, just two weeks ago, with the backing of Councilmen Brad Bender and Stan Glinka, replaced a measure long championed by Councilwoman Bridget Fleming that sought to ban members of political party committees from serving on the town’s land-use boards.

Ms. Fleming’s resolution died on the vine, as she was unable to muster any support from the rest of the board to even bring it to a vote. She later tried to amend the Scalera-Throne-Holst measure to include language banning committee members, but that too died for lack of a second to her motion.

On Tuesday, Ms. Fleming, who sought the committee member ban twice last year, said she was disappointed her effort to end what she said was a widespread perception that political insiders dominate the process in Southampton had failed, but she joined the other board members in approving their alternative measure.

Under the ethics change, no more than three members of any one political party will be allowed to serve on any of the seven member land-use boards at any one time. On boards that have more than that number of members from a single party, the town board will be required to seek balance as it appoints new members every year.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence it will be effective,” said Ms. Fleming, who argued that it would limit the political involvement of regular citizens more than prevent any conflicts of interest. “While it put me in a tough spot to vote for it, it is ethics reform and it will move the ball forward.”

She added that she was not happy that Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Bender who had previously offered support for the committee ban abandoned her.

“I’m still disappointed Anna switched her vote,” Ms. Fleming added, “and certainly, Brad had pledged his support in the past.”

After a public hearing, at which little support for the Scalera-Throne-Holst measure was offered, with some speakers saying Ms. Fleming’s resolution was better and still others saying both were bad ideas, board members engaged in a little sparring.

“This prohibition on committee membership is a conflict-of-interest control,” Ms. Fleming said of her own measure, “it’s not about political balancing.”

The Scalera-Throne-Holst amendment would place “a much greater restriction on folks’ political participation,” she said, because once a quota of members from a given party was named to a land-use board, “others from that party would be barred from serving.”

Her measure, she argued, has a “rational basis that is based on the circle of influence that comes when committee members nominate candidates for the town board who are then charged with turning around and appointing members of the boards.”

“I feel I have made my position clear on a number of occasions,” countered Ms. Throne-Holst. “I am not comfortable under any circumstances, curtailing anyone’s rights of association or activity or involvement in anything civic, and being active in a political party is just that.”

The supervisor added that it was the responsibility of the town board to monitor the performance of the people it appoints to the boards and step in if there is any sign of wrongdoing. She also argued that someone who was prone to unethical behavior would not be able to so easily change their stripes.

“I do not believe that asking someone to resign their membership on a political committee will in fact translate into a change of behavior,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Ms. Scalera reiterated her opposition to Ms. Fleming’s measure, saying it was politically motivated and a violation of one’s Constitutional rights.

“The sponsor is unable to articulate any instance of what is targeted here — and let’s be clear, it’s corruption,” she said “That’s what we’re saying.”

During the hearing, John Bennett, a Southampton lawyer and former Republican committee member, attacked both measures. “I see this law as a subversion of the political process, usurping the voice of the people,” he said. “I didn’t like Ms. Fleming’s law, and I like this even less.”

John Ziccarelli of Southampton also said he opposed both measures. “Both laws politicize the independent boards themselves,” he said.

“One thing I hate is when anyone tells me I can’t serve on any board,” said Dieter Van Lehstem of North Sea. “I like the freedom and the freedom of association. As far as I know the American Constitution guarantees it.”

Julie Penny of Noyac supporting Ms. Fleming’s measure, said Southampton Town’s history was full of examples of a land-use board making decisions “that weren’t based on the facts, weren’t based on the town code, weren’t based on planning documents but were instead based on political reasons.”

But Liz McMillan of East Hampton, who said she had worked on a video with Ms. Fleming to gain support for the committee ban, said she had a change of heart after seeing the evidence. “It did not change a thing in East Hampton” or other towns that had similar legislation.

Steve Halsey, a Republican committeeman and former town board member from Bridgehampton, also spoke against both measures. When he was on the board, he said, it was difficult to find people to serve on land-use boards. “The board had to reach out to attempt to fill spaces,” he said. “Not everyone wants to immerse themselves in government.”

He urged the board to “pick the best person if they are a Republican, Democrat or a Communist. If they don’t do their job….  Remove that person.”

Mr. Halsey said being a committee member is not all it’s cracked up to be. “What it does is cost a lot of money,” he said. “I get to go to the same parties, see the same people and eat the same horrible hors d’oeuvres.”

With “Painful Awareness” of Federal Inefficiency, Southampton Town Leaders are Sworn in Monday

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Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, new Councilman Stan Glinka, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, new Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Christine Scalera at the first organizational meeting of the town board's new term Monday.

Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, new Councilman Stan Glinka, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, new Councilman Brad Bender and Councilwoman Christine Scalera at the first organizational meeting of the town board’s new term Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

The leaders of the Town of Southampton trumpeted collaboration across party lines Monday as town officials, including new councilmen Brad Bender and Stanley Glinka, were officially sworn in to office.

The meeting room at Southampton Town Hall was filled to capacity with over 70 friends, family and staff members in attendance, with still others watching through a live video stream in an adjacent room.

Representatives from the Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Council were in attendance, as were county and state officials. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman sat in the third row while Congressman Tim Bishop presided over the event.

Following a procession with bagpipes, Father Michael Vetrano of the Basilica of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary opened the annual ceremony with a simple prayer, “God help us,” asking that the elected officials have the “courage and integrity to always stand up for the truth.”

After being sworn in, Bender waited for Glinka and the pair — a Democrat and Republican, respectively — made consecutive and similar speeches.

“I think,” said Bender, “we’re turning a new page here in the Town of Southampton. I think we’re going to do a lot of good things for the town.”

Glinka thanked his friends, family and co-workers at Bridgehampton National Bank, where he serves as vice president, and said he looked forward to working for Southampton, his hometown.

New Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is sworn in by Justice Deborah Kooperstein Monday.

New Southampton Town Councilman Stan Glinka is sworn in by Justice Deborah Kooperstein Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

In a longer speech than those given by her colleagues, re-elected Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst — an Independence Party member — emphasized the commitment to collaboration in coming years and outlined several areas where the new board is hopeful it will instill progress through a bi-partisan effort.

“I know we all recognize how privileged we are,” said Throne-Holst, “to not only live and work in this wonderful town, but to have been bestowed the even larger privilege — rather, the trust — to serve and safeguard what makes our town so special and that is, most of all, the wonderful people and constituents who make our community and our precious environment.”

“I think,” continued Throne-Holst, “we all share a painful awareness of the conspicuous and poor example of gridlock, partisan and narrow-minded government that has plagued our country over the last several years and where true public service has been too often stymied.”

The supervisor said the history and tradition of American government was “built by healthy discourse” and “joint commitment to serving the people.”

She said with this legacy in mind, members of the new town board have met and discussed a joint vision on how to best serve Southampton residents moving forward.

Throne-Holst outlined five areas of priority the town board has already decided on for 2014: water quality; affordable housing; police, public safety and code enforcement; addressing the needs of “aging and increasingly inefficient” infrastructure (a list she said is “dizzyingly long”); and having conversations with neighboring governments to “explore efficiency and cost savings to possible shared services, joint projects, emergency management,” among other initiatives.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst addresses the crowd at Southampton Town Hall Monday.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst addresses the crowd at Southampton Town Hall Monday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Throne-Holst said Larry Cantwell, the newly elected East Hampton Town supervisor, has already expressed his interest in such a “two town initiative.”

Throne-Holst underscored the new town government has “a commitment to representing in a cohesive and productive way where we will strive to exemplify government the way we believe it should be.”

“We have together,” she added, “stated a commitment to working together to see our goals move forward, with each of us focusing on several specific projects or areas as part of seeing them all done.”

Throne-Holst asked for the public’s involvement in outlining goals and moving forward, as well as holding the elected officials accountable in their commitment to put party and individual interests aside.

“Hold our feet to the fire,” she said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with her children, Nick, Sebastian, Karess and Max (from left to right). (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst with her children, Nick, Sebastian, Karess and Max (left to right). (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Also taking the oath of office Monday were four Southampton Town Trustees, incumbents William Pell IV and Eric Schultz, who were sworn in together by Justice Steven Lynch, as were newcomers Scott Horowitz and Raymond Overton. Trustee Edward Warner, Jr. could not attend the ceremony but took his oath beforehand.

Entering her third term as town clerk, Sundy Schermeyer, accompanied by her grandfather, who turned 95 on Saturday, was sworn in by Councilwoman Christine Scalera.

Southampton Town Justices Deborah Kooperstein and Barbara Wilson also took the oath of office Monday and re-elected Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor was sworn in to his second term.

“We’re no supermen or superwomen,” Gregor said to the room of elected officials, “we’re just men and women — part of our community that want to help it.”

“I love the people of Southampton,” he continued, “because they have no problem telling me what they think at any time…To our fellow elected officials, we’re all stuck with each other, so maybe we oughta [sic] try to make it work.”

Southampton Town Council: It’s Bender & Glinka, Unofficially

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Southampton Town Council candidates Brad Bender, Frank Zappone, Stan Glinka and Jeff Mansfield

Southampton Town Council candidates Brad Bender, Frank Zappone, Stan Glinka and Jeff Mansfield

By Kathryn G. Menu

While the results have yet to be made official by the Suffolk County Board of Elections (BOE), according to Southampton Town Democratic Party chairman Gordon Herr, it appears that Independence Party member Brad Bender and Republican Stan Glinka have held on to their Election Day leads and will join the Southampton Town Board in January.

On Wednesday morning, an official with Suffolk County BOE chairman Anita Katz’s office declined comment on the race stating official results would not be available until later this week.

However, Herr said the counting of 879 absentee ballots was completed last Wednesday and that Bender and Glinka have secured seats on the town board.

Bender and Glinka bested Bridgehampton resident Jeff Mansfield and Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone in the town board race.

“I am so very thankful to my friends, family, co-workers, colleagues, everyone who was so generous and encouraging during the campaign,” said Glinka, the town board race’s top vote getter, in a statement on Wednesday. “But more importantly I am thankful to the voters of this great town, my hometown of Southampton, for endorsing me with their vote. I look forward to continuing to listen to all the people and to working on finding balanced solutions to many crucial issues at hand.”

“As I committed to be your full time representative, I am currently winding down my workload and finishing off projects that are in progress,” said Bender, who is in the construction field. “I am excited about this next chapter in my life as a public servant. Working for you the taxpayers to solve problems and protect our community.”

Southampton Town Council Race Still Too Close to Call

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Heller_LWV Supervisor Debate 10-24-13_7624_LR

By Tessa Raebeck

Over a week after the election, the Southampton Town Council race remains too close to call, with 879 absentee ballots left to be counted, officials said Wednesday morning.

According to the office of Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner Anita Katz, counting of the absentee ballots is underway and will not be finished until as late as the beginning of next week.

No matter who wins the two open seats, each of the four candidates would be joining the town board for the first time. Stan Glinka, of Hampton Bays, and Jeffrey Mansfield, of Bridgehampton, ran together on the Republican Party line, facing challengers Brad Bender, of Northport, and Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, of Southampton, who ran on the Democratic and Independence party lines.

According to the unofficial results released by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, with 42 of 42 districts reporting on election night last Tuesday, Glinka led the town council race with 5,857 votes, or 25.85 percent of tallied ballots. Bender is in second place, with 5,746 votes, or 25.36 percent.

If the absentee ballots do not significantly alter the results, Bender and Glinka will join the town board come January.

With 5,603 votes, or 24.73 percent, Mansfield trails Bender by just 143 votes. Behind Mansfield by 158 votes, Zappone earned 5,445 votes, or 24.03 percent.

In addition to the town council race, the official outcome of the race for five town trustee positions also hangs in the balance until absentee ballots are counted.

If the results hold, incumbents Bill Pell (8,933 votes), Eric Shultz (8,746 votes) and Ed Warner, Jr. (7,161 votes), members of the Independence, Democrat and Republican parties, respectively, will have secured the top three spots. The remaining two spots would go to Republicans Scott Horowitz (6,399 votes) and Ray Overton (5,436 votes).

New Southampton Town Board Member Focuses on Environment

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By Claire Walla


Last Friday marked the four-week point for new Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera. The Republican from Water Mill defeated Independent Party member Brad Bender in a tight race last November for an open seat on the town board.

So, what’s it been like to be at town hall for one month? The Express sat down with the councilwoman to find out.

“I know it’s only been four weeks, but it feels like it’s been four months!” exclaimed Preston Scalera who said she felt almost fully integrated into the fabric of town hall pretty early on.

As the former deputy attorney for Southampton Town and a former councilwoman in Oyster Bay, Preston Scalera said she came into town hall with certain strengths, which she said she’s already put into action.

“My background is planning and zoning,” she noted. “I would very often help people through the myriad of legislation [surrounding such things as building permits], and help them deal with different people in different departments.”

Thus, she is already assisting Councilman Chris Nuzzi in his effort to create a project development council for the town.

According to Preston Scalera, this would be a resource for residents, particularly small business owners, who are in the midst of planning or building projects. The council would advise applicants how to best complete all necessary documentation with the town in the most efficient way possible, to avoid redundancies and superfluous material.

But beyond town hall operations, the councilwoman has already demonstrated a keen interest in environmental issues, and is spearheading the effort to build an educational campaign around the town’s use of plastic bags.

“I’ve been working on that diligently,” she said. “The challenging part of that is trying to get the food industry and the other business entities, and the town’s sustainability committee all on the same page.”

While Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst had pushed efforts to adopt legislation that would effectively ban all single-use plastic bags in the town of Southampton — as has already been done in Southampton Village — Preston Scalera said there are too many interests at stake, which is why she’s helping to promote an education campaign instead.

“I think that an all-out ban, legislation, is the easy way out,” she continued. Getting people to change their habits and stop throwing away plastic bags “takes more thinking outside-the-box. You have to balance the very real goal of protecting our natural resources and minimizing the impact on the business community.”

At this point, Preston Scalera called legislation a “quick fix.” But, she said if education efforts don’t seem to work, then the town might revisit legislation.

In the same vein, Preston Scalera is also beginning to draft legislation that would create a water mitigation fund, which she said would be general enough to apply to both freshwater and coastal mitigation projects.

“It could be used for a whole host of things, like upgrades to septic systems or even projects the [Southampton Town] Trustees are working on,” Preston Scalera said of the proposed fund.

“I also want to change the code so that it would be a town-wide benefit under PDD [Planned Development District] law,” she added. In this way, any construction project that falls under PDD jurisdiction would be able to put money toward water mitigation as a “community benefit,” just like low-income housing and pine barrens restoration.

Most recently, Preston Scalera also said that she completed the rather customary cycle for new board members of official “getting to know you” conversations with town hall department heads. She expects to review their written feedback — details on plans or studies in the works, and upcoming capital projects — in the coming days.

“I want to see where there may be room for us [town board members] to step in and help, or what may need to be put on the backburner,” she explained. “Just as we’ve streamlined staffs, we have to help them run [their departments] efficiently.

“The most challenging thing is constantly looking for that balance,” she continued. “Given our economic constraints, this means [streamlining the town’s workflow] and still getting residents the services they need.”

Hiring Underscores Infighting at Southampton Town Hall

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By Claire Walla

When the 2011 Southampton Town budget was passed last month, it came down to three votes. And when Russell Kratoville was hired last week, it came down to three votes and —depending on who you talk to — little else.
The incident stirred public outcry, bringing a flock of citizens to town hall on Tuesday, November 30, to protest Kratoville’s appointment to the job of general services manager. The job, which had been eliminated in town supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s tentative budget, was restored by the board’s Republican majority —Nancy Graboski, Jim Malone and Chris Nuzzi — when they voted to pass the budget November 20, effectively adding a six-figure job back into the town budget.

Nuzzi defended the appointment, saying “The more I see [the changing faces at town hall], the more I see the serious need for some sort of stability at town hall to provide continuity in service.”

However, Throne-Holst disagrees, saying the position has been “proven ineffective” and adds an additional $150,000 (including benefits) to the town budget.

“It’s troubling that we would not fill lower positions in the highway and human services department, which, without a doubt, affects our service delivery,” she said.

In fact, according to a resolution adopted by the Southampton Town Board in 2000, when they voted to hire Kratoville, the town board’s Republican majority broke town policy.

That resolution, “Hiring Policy for Management and Professional Positions,” states that in order to fill a vacant position, the town must first form a selection committee made up of a town management services administrator, a department head and/or direct line supervisor, a personnel assistant, an affirmative action officer and at least one town board member. This committee, in addition to the personnel department, is responsible for advertising the position both locally and out-of-state.
Ultimately, the policy states: “The Town Board shall conduct interviews of the finalists proposed by the selection committee,” and “any member of the town board may request that a proposed candidate appear before the entire board for a second interview.”

“I was not aware of any committee formed by a majority of town board members [for the purpose of filling the general services manager position],” said the town attorney Michael Sordi.

Throne-Holst (Ind.) and councilwoman Bridget Fleming (Dem.) claim they received no word on Kratoville’s hiring as general services manager until a press release, issued on Monday, December 1 by Southampton Town Citizen Advocate Ryan Horn, declared it. This was one day prior to the board’s formal vote, which passed by a vote of three to two.

According to Nuzzi—who along with fellow Republicans Malone and Graboski voted to hire Kratoville —Throne-Holst had met with Kratoville in her office the week prior to his hiring. As for Fleming’s involvement, Nuzzi said, “I believe she received correspondence from him [Kratoville] the week before” the press release was sent out.

“I had no idea this individual [Kratoville] was in the running,” said Throne-Holst who denies having met with him as Nuzzi claims.

Nuzzi added that he was not aware of the town’s Employer Hiring Policy.
“That’s the first I’ve heard of that policy,” he said in an interview after Kratoville was hired.

However, Sordi explained that town policies are not legally binding. Because the town board created the policy, he said, with a three-vote majority the town board has the authority to side-step the details.

For some, this incident bears resemblance to the Republican strong-arming that made headlines after the recent budget debate, during which the town’s Republican trio introduced a series of last-minute resolutions to the supervisor’s tentative budget and, with little time for debate, proceeded to vote-in these changes.

According to Throne-Holst, it’s not so much the three-vote majority that’s cause for commotion, it’s the lack of transparency that concerns her. Throne-Holst said that despite repeated attempts to meet with her fellow board members, they only convene during town board meetings and work sessions, or when she is “prodding them to answer phone calls or running into them in the halls.”

When discussions take place without her or other council members’ knowledge, she added, “then it’s not majority rule so much as a hijacking of a process.”

“Five of us have been given public trust,” she explained. “And when we purposefully exclude others from being able to fulfill their duties, that is a troubling reality to consider.”

To Nuzzi, the matter is a little more simplistic.

“The bottom line is, at some point a voting majority makes a decision,” said Nuzzi. “But once a decision is made, we’ve got to coalesce around that decision and make it successful.”

Nuzzi also noted that he’s been the minority vote on a number of issues, but he’s never made a big fuss over it.

“Frankly, I don’t think a hiring decision should be the focus of continued discussion, unless that individual doesn’t seem to be working out,” he added.

Like Throne-Holst, Nuzzi expressed frustration over the way decisions have been handled at town hall, but for different reasons.

“The way I see it, it’s either her [Throne-Holst’s] way, or else,” he said. “That’s not a way to build consensus.”

Nuzzi wouldn’t say whether or not Throne-Holst was purposefully left out of the decision-making process regarding the hire of Russell Kratoville, instead, he reiterated his point that she had met with Kratoville the week before his hire.

Moving forward, Nuzzi added, “We need to work to address the bigger picture items, [like continuing to support small businesses and lowering taxes] which aren’t being addressed because politicians continue to point fingers [at one another].”

The supervisor said she is currently working on a new policy that would ensure more transparency and more institutional deliberation at town hall.
“I hope for a fresh start in January,” she said.

When asked whether or not a three-vote majority could override such a policy, the supervisor sighed.

“Yes, is the unfortunate answer to that,” she said. “But I hope at the very least it will give everyone an extra layer of pause to think twice.”

Less Than Nothing

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Southampton Town is trying to pass a budget for the coming year. This is what municipalities do in this season — look ahead, make difficult decisions, tighten or loosen belts and get on with it.

The problem is, there are members of the Southampton Town board who, while objecting to some of the proposals included in the budget, aren’t offering any concrete solutions or suggestions about what to keep and what to toss overboard. And in the end, it’s very difficult to move a budget along if all the players aren’t participating.

No one wants to see taxes go up, and no one wants to see services cut. But when you’re on a board crafting a budget, just voicing objections to one item or the other isn’t going to suffice.

If board members want to introduce a new budget item, fine, and if they want to reduce the budget they need to suggest a way to do that as well. Because come Friday, the budget by law has to get passed and they need to have this together.

We’ve been watching the budget process over in East Hampton as well in recent weeks, and even with a split board, the board seems to have negotiated a reasonable budget crafted of the kind of give and take that is required in this process. A few community service items that had been cut were added back in and they seem to have moved much closer to an endgame.

But in Southampton there seems to be a lack of clarity about what the final dénouement will be. Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst wants to add a modest tax raise into the budget in order to pay off some of the debt the town has incurred in recent years. The logic being it might be a bit painful now, but in long term will get the town out of debt earlier. Is this the right thing to do? Maybe it is if it saves the town money in interest payments in the long run. Maybe it isn’t given the difficulties residents are still facing with the floundering economy.

But this is not the kind of debate that came up with this proposal. Instead of a give and take over the pros and cons of raising taxes or not, what we heard from councilman James Malone was a staunch refusal to increase taxes. What we heard from everyone else was even less.

It reminds us a lot what was said during the recent election season. Candidates who offered heartfelt pledges to spare taxpayers the pain of parting with any more of their hard earned money, but who never ultimately came forward with any plans or details about how government would function as a result.

Don’t get us wrong, we feel it’s fine to object to the notion of raising taxes and cutting of services. But board members who object owe it to the public they serve to bring concrete alternatives to the table and engage in real and fruitful debate. This is not a campaign. It’s a working budget. So let’s have the conversation.

Toddler Park

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In response to inquiries made by Bridgehampton parents, Southampton Town councilwoman Nancy Graboski says the town board plans to construct a toddler park on a town-owned parcel on Corwith Avenue off Montauk Highway. The 1.8 acre property is adjacent to the Bridgehampton Historical Society and was purchased for $800,000 in June 2005 from the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church.

Because the land was bought with monies from the Park Fund Trust, said Graboski, there is an easement on the property which limits its sanctioned uses. The church also still maintains a right of way through the property, which connects to the church’s parking lot, at the southern end of the parcel.

One permissible use for the site is a playground. Graboski noted the town has already allocated $100,000 for this project. She hopes the project will be completed by the close of 2011 at the latest. The next step, added Graboski, is to form a committee to vet designs ideas followed by creating a design package that could be put out to bid for companies.

The plan, however, already has a snag as the Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee would like to see the toddler park placed at the Children’s Museum of the East End, which is located off the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike.

“It is an appropriate place,” said Bridgehampton CAC President Fred Cammann of the CMEE location. Cammann pointed out the museum already has bathrooms on the premises. He argued that Corwith Avenue and Montauk Highway are major thoroughfares, making the town-owned property dangerous for young children.

“You are going to end up in a situation where a kid is going to get badly hurt,” added Cammann.

CMEE Executive Director Steve Long said the museum would be open to a range of partnership ideas with the town.

“Maybe the town would purchase the land … Or it would make more sense for the museum to donate it and have the town build and maintain the park,” suggested Long. “We are trying to figure out how all of it would work.”

During an interview, Graboski said the town had set their sights on the Corwith Avenue parcel for insurance reasons. She added that the park would be within walking distance to the Main Street shops and restaurants in Bridgehampton.