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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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Christine Scalera_7985 adjusted

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.

Seniors Protest Budget Cuts

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web recession seniors

By 11:30 a.m. on a weekday morning, the Bridgehampton Senior Center is a beehive of activity. The cooks are in the kitchen preparing lunch. With the help of a few octogenarians, the entrees and sides are dished out and steaming plates of food are lined up on a pushcart. Stella Sawicki, a Bridgehampton senior, wheels the cart through a swinging door into the cafeteria as over a dozen retirees wait for their mid-day meal. Madelaine Doran, the 82-year-old president of the center, stands at the front of the room with a microphone, leading the group in the national anthem while others work on Thanksgiving decorations at a nearby table.

Above: A senior helps serve lunch at the Bridgehampton Senior Center.

For many seniors in Sag Harbor and the surrounding community, the Bridgehampton center is an important part of their day. Southampton Town provides the lunch served at the center and maintains the building. The town, however, is proposing to lay off two positions in the senior services department next year and wishes to increase the price of the daily meal, much to the dismay of several elderly residents.

“I heard the price of lunch is going from $2.50 to $3. If I wanted a $3 lunch I could go to McDonalds,” remarked Doran who added that several seniors rely on the food provided by the town. During a later interview, town supervisor Linda Kabot noted that the fee is simply a suggested donation and isn’t a mandatory charge. However, the town is budgeting their 2010 lunch revenues based on the assumption they will receive $3 for every meal.

Over the summer, a chef was out for three weeks on medical leave. During this time, the Bridgehampton seniors were bused to the Hampton Bays center for lunch.

Kabot stated at a previous town board meeting that because of the town wide hiring freeze, the town can no longer provide backup staff for the senior center kitchen.

“What would happen if a hospital closed because they had no back-up crew?” asked Doran.

The town is proposing to cut a community service aide and a food server position within the town wide senior program next year to help defray some of the costs of running the program. During a later interview, Kabot said with the help of human services director Bill Jones, she pinpointed these positions because they would have a lesser impact on the delivery of services.

The community service aide, noted Kabot, works more as an office assistant to director of senior services Pamela Giacoia and the food server mainly prepares and serves the meals. These duties, said Kabot, could perhaps be handled by other employees within the department. She added that these two employees were close to retirement age and will most likely agree to a retirement incentive package. The town is offering to pay $500 per year of service to these employees as a way to encourage early retirement and save positions for those at the beginning or in the middle of their careers.

“The elimination of these two positions would impact service delivery,” claimed Giacoia. But as the budget is still being vetted and tweaked by the town board, she wouldn’t go into further detail. The board must file a final budget by Friday, November 20.

By removing the community service aide position, the town will save roughly $52,000 next year. The overall expenditure of the senior citizens program was reduced by around $17,000. The elimination of the food server position could also save the town close to $42,000 in 2010. The total cost of running the Southampton Town nutrition program was reduced by close to $104,000.

Despite these cuts, many area seniors still rely heavily on the centers, not only for the meals they provide, but the companionship as well.

“The center is a very nice place to come,” says Doran. “You make friends and it helps to relieve some tension.”

Cablevision Fees to Increase

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In 2010, Southampton Town residents will notice a slight increase in their Cablevision bills. The Southampton Town Board passed a law on Friday, November 13, raising the Cablevision franchise fees from 4 to 5 percent. These fees are tacked onto Cablevision customers’ monthly bills.

Due to the increase, residents subscribing to basic service will pay an additional 17 cents per month or roughly $2 annually. Customers with the family plan will pay 52 cents per month, or $6.24 per year. IO Silver subscribers should expect an increase of 76 cents per month, or a yearly increase of $9.12. Lastly, clients enrolling in the premium service, IO Gold, will pay a 91 cent raise in monthly fees, or $10.92 for the year.

Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said the town will receive $250,000 in additional revenue from this measure. Although supervisor Linda Kabot was absent on Friday, she has previously remarked that these revenues could re-instate funding for SEA-TV, youth programs and senior services.

Although councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst will officially take office in January of next year, she presided over the town board work session on Friday as supervisor LindaKabot was on vacation. The heavy rain and lousy weather no doubt kept the public at home. Only town employees, with the exception of incoming councilman Jim Malone, attended Friday’s budget hearing.

The hearings regarding the budget and piercing the five percent tax rate increase cap were adjourned until Friday, November 20. The board must file a final budget by then.

Similarly, a resolution allocating $275,000 in funding for video arraignments was tabled until this Friday’s meeting.