Tag Archive | "supervisor linda kabot"

Honoring Graboski

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web Graboski Love Fest

Nancy Graboski was overwhelmed Tuesday evening — but in a good way.

The Southampton Town councilwoman, who will not be seeking re-election this year, was lauded by peers and members of the Noyac Civic Council on Tuesday during the council’s regular monthly meeting.

“If the intention was to make me feel special, you’ve succeeded,” Graboski told the audience of about 30, which also included a guest appearance by former Southampton Supervisor Linda Kabot.

The councilwoman, who hails from Bridgehampton, was praised in particular for her efforts on behalf of the local farmers and her work on establishing a comprehensive guide for town residents on hurricane preparedness.

“During this past hurricane, we got a pat on the back,” said current town supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “much to the thanks of Nancy and her efforts.”

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. — himself a former Southampton Town supervisor — noted it was important to thank people for the public service they do.

“The east side of the town has always been well served by you, as both a member of the planning board and the town board, especially when addressing agricultural issues from the point of view of the farmer,” said Thiele. “When you got Nancy Graboski, you got what she thought was going to be right for the community — and sometimes that got her in trouble with her own party.”

Kabot, too, lauded Graboski’s “independent mindedness,” and ticked off a list of issues Graboski had tackled, including Dark Skies legislation, traffic safety, speed limits and land preservation, among others.

“Thank you Nancy for being my friend,” said Kabot before announcing there will be a retirement party for Graboski on November, 10 at Oakland’s Restaurant in Hampton Bays.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting was Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman who gave the members an overview of issues he’s addressing, including a proposed 5-cent fee on plastic bags used in grocery stores and supermarkets in an effort to deter their use. Revenue would go to fund environmental programs.

“Let me know what you think,” Schneiderman said when taking a straw poll in the room. Of those voting, 11 were in favor of the legislation, and 13 opposed (three of whom felt the law did not go far enough).

Locally, Schneiderman said the county was just about to break ground on a $600,000, 2-mile long sidewalk along the turnpike, from Main Street, Bridgehampton, to Scuttle Hole Rd.

The legislator also said the county has just formed a committee with the Village of Sag Harbor to discuss the future of Long Wharf — which the county owns but the village maintains and collects revenues from.

The wharf costs the county about $100,000 a year, and Schneiderman said he is considering ways to cover that expense, including creating a fundraising group — the Friends of Long Wharf.

“The ideas I know I don’t like are paid parking and selling the naming rights,” he said.

Noyac Center Off the Table As Town Faces Finances

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For nearly five years, Noyac community members had been petitioning Southampton Town for a community center, and in November 2008, it looked like the hamlet was one step closer to getting their wish. Town supervisor Linda Kabot visited the Noyac Civic Council in late November and told the group the town was receptive to the idea of erecting a new center on a parcel of land adjacent to Trout Pond. The town had even scheduled funding for the project as part of the 2011 budget.

  Only five months have passed since the meeting, but in that time, a host of fiscal blunders in Southampton Town have come to light — leaving the town strapped for cash and unable to complete many of the projects it had hoped to accomplish, including a new Noyac Community Center.

  “There was great discussion on the board about the Noyac Center, about creating a brand new facility, but in these times it certainly doesn’t seem prudent,” deputy supervisor Bill Jones reported during an interview last week. “There is basically no surplus. The plan for capital projects for 2009 has slowed to a trickle unless there is a great need or if there is an issue of public safety.”

  Jones added that this bare bones approach to funding capital projects would likely continue through the next couple of years. Supervisor Kabot said the projects which will take precedence now include roadwork, necessary building improvements and drainage, while other projects like playground and community centers will be put on the back burner until the town’s coffers are healthy and plump once again.

  As 2009 approaches the mid-year mark, it seems the Town of Southampton is experiencing a perfect storm of financial troubles. The town continues to reconcile the hidden I.O.U.s from the capital fund to the general fund from 2004 through 2006, but is also burdened by $19 million in authorized — but unissued — bonds, which must be issued at some point. In order for Southampton to go out to bond, the financial statements of the town must be completely accurate, which is only possible after the town’s financial records are fully reconciled. In addition to these worries, the town is also facing a $2 million revenue shortfall from mortgage taxes and the possibility of decreased property assessments for the next tax year, both of which are due to the ailing economy.

  In town hall, expense cuts have already been implemented across the board. The town has enacted a hiring freeze and is looking closely at part-time positions, said Jones. He added that the town hasn’t ruled out a lag payroll, in which employee wages for certain days work are deferred until employment is terminated. The supervisor has also frozen each department’s contingency fund.

  “Her [Kabot’s] message there is don’t overspend,” explained Jones. “There is no safety net.”

  Of the loss in mortgage tax revenue, Kabot said, “The taxpayer cannot absorb the difference. We must cut the expense side of the balance sheet.”

  In these situations, Kabot added that trimming spending could possibly translate to personnel cuts.

  Financial consultant Tamara Wright, who was recently appointed to the position of town comptroller, noted that decreases in revenue streams is a problem municipalities across the nation are grappling with, but unlike other municipalities Southampton Town must issue $19 million worth of authorized but unissued bonds. Both Kabot and Jones, however, noted that the town can ill afford to issue these bonds all at once. Jones said if the town issued all of the bonds and increased the tax rate up to the 5 percent tax rate cap, almost 4.4 percent of the tax increase would be set aside to pay off these bonds. Furthermore, the remaining .6 percent wouldn’t cover the expenses associated with running town hall or the town.

  “If we were to borrow all of that money in September 2009, it is like a mortgage. At some point in 2010 we would have to pay the principal on it,” explained Jones. “No way and no how would that 4.4 percent solve the problem because the town still has to continue operating into the next year.”

  Kabot remarked that it was the town’s duty to issue these bonds, which had been signed off on by previous town board administrations, and said the taxpayers will most likely have to pay back this debt over the next 30 years.

  For now, the town is focusing its efforts on reconciling the I.O.U.s from the capital fund to the tune of $10 million, of which $8.7 million is owed to the general fund.

  “We are looking at the transactions to see what was spent and then we have to analyze what was supposed to be spent in terms of budgets and authorized spending,” said Wright, who added that she has poured over thousands of resolutions for the 175 accounts, dating back to 2002, which need to be reconciled down to every penny spent. Kabot predicts the town will have a full analysis of the actual spending by Monday, June 1.

  According to Jones, the town will have certified financial reports for the audit of the 2008 budget by August. Jones expects the New York State Comptroller to come in at the end of the summer, or early fall, to conduct a risk analysis, which he predicts will prompt a full blown state audit of the town.

  In terms of the capital fund debacle, it is still unclear exactly where the fault lies, though former comptroller Charlene Kagel admitted she knew of the problem in 2007.

  Of any future legal actions, Kabot said, “It would be premature to assign culpability [right now.]”

Storm Paints Village White

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Spring is just 18 days away, but the weather outside seems to imply otherwise. On Monday, March 2, Sag Harbor village saw up to a foot of snowfall in some areas, while other areas the snow drifts were twice that amount.

Area schools from Manhattan to Montauk were cancelled, due to the snow and freezing temperatures, only reaching the high 20s Monday. 

The Sag Harbor village offices were also closed due to weather conditions. According to Mayor Greg Ferraris, the highway department is currently operating minus three workers, giving six men the full responsibility of taking care of the roads, since 8 p.m. Sunday. 

Southampton Town Hall and the Justice Courts were closed Monday as well, as Town Supervisor Linda Kabot announced a State of Snow Emergency. She also said the Highway Department had been mobilized since 8 p.m. Sunday night.

At 8 a.m. Monday Supervisor Kabot declared a Snow Emergency due to the large amount of snowfall, high winds, and perilous roadway conditions impeding access to emergency responders throughout the town. 

“Public safety officials are requiring residents to remove parked cars from Town roadways in order to allow highway crews to clear snow efficiently.  As roadway conditions remain treacherous, residents and visitors are urged to defer non-essential vehicular trips so as to allow highway crews to plow and sand,” a release from her office stated.   

At the south end of Main Street in Sag Harbor, kids were seen around noon, climbing the near 2-story snow mountain in the middle of the road, while motorists were having difficulty steering and seeing around it. 


Former Sag Harbor Trustee to serve as Deputy Supervisor

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Bill Jones, deputy mayor southampton new york

Following concerns with the capital accounts within the Town of Southampton, it was decided on Monday that Richard Blowes would step down from the position of deputy supervisor. Both Blowes and Supervisor Linda Kabot agreed that his responsibilities would be more focused on implementing upgrades to the financial management systems within the Town for improved audit capabilities.

Blowes will now work solely under his other title, Town Management Services Administrator, in order to vet out the fiscal inconsistencies, which has been causing some outcry with members of the town board, in relation to capital projects and the capital budget. 

In a press release sent out from the supervisor’s office on Monday, it  stated that the board would do better without Blowes “having to wear two hats.”  

Bill Jones, the town’s Human Services Director, was appointed to the role of deputy supervisor on Monday.

Jones was born and raised in Sag Harbor where he previously served as a village trustee.  Jones also worked as Deputy Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services and as a Suffolk County Legislator. For the last five years, Jones has worked for the town of Southampton.

“My first order of business is going to be to resolve the issue with regards to the capital budget,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. He said he would like to explain the current fiscal condition for town government to the people of the Southampton. Jones also said that he would maintain his current responsibilities while taking on the requirements to fulfill the deputy supervisor position.

“I have always considered the budget to be the most important document that we publish,” Jones said, “and I want to focus on making it understandable and readable.” He also said he hopes to increase the communication between the town board members and the supervisor’s office as well as the community.

Two weeks ago, Blowes and the town board had a lengthy regular work session relating to changes to the Poxabogue Golf Course. At that work session it was revealed that the town’s checkbooks, associated with the Town’s Capital Program were not adding up to match the computerized records in the Comptroller’s Office for project authorizations provided to departmental managers — leading to a $19 million discrepancy between the two.

At the moment, in order to determine what has caused the discrepancy, the town board is taking a good look at all their capital projects and Blowes will be focusing on that.

When supervisor Kabot took her oath of office in January of 2008, one of her first moves was to nominate Blowes to the position of deputy supervisor to work closely with her. The responsibility of the deputy supervisor is to act administratively in the extended absence of the supervisor and to assist with carrying out various public relations functions. 

Bill jones is sworn in as deputy mayor


Tweak Energy Code

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In late July the town of Southampton adopted some of the strictest energy standards in both New York State and the country concerning construction of new buildings and swimming pools. However the adoption of the code carried a caveat that certain aspects still needed some “tweaking.”
At the heart of the law is the requirement that any new or substantially reconstructed dwelling reach certain Home Energy Rating Scores (HERS) based on the size of the buildings — the larger the building the higher the rating. The law also requires all new swimming pools to be heated primarily by solar electricity.
After meetings with various representatives from the business community, the town’s green committee has agreed to a number of changes in the law and a resolution sponsored by councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst established a public hearing on September 9 to consider them. Among the changes are a definition of a solar heating system, the ability for owners of swimming pools on small lots to be granted exceptions from the solar heating requirement, giving the town’s chief building inspector Michael Benincasa sole authority to decide who gets such an exception and allowing a waiver from the law for historic structures.
Another public hearing will also be held on the same date to discuss whether or not to extend the effective date of the code from October 1 to January 1, 2009. Councilwoman Nancy Graboski sponsored that resolution and when the code was originally adopted spoke out against the October 1 effective date.
We’re supporting two slightly different resolutions,” said Throne-Holst. “They’re similar in gist and the only difference is the implementation dates. [Graboski] would like to see the implementation date moved from October 1 to January 1 for all of the requirements.”
Throne-Holst’s resolution makes one exception in terms of the effective date and that has to do with builders obtaining the HERS rating. Due to the small number of HERS raters on the East End, Throne-Holst’s resolution allows a builder to hold off on obtaining the rating until the first of the year.
“That was something we did in response to both the architects and building community who were asking for a little bit of respite,” she said.
As for Graboski’s resolution, Throne-Holst said moving the implementation date to January 1 for all aspects of the law would be a bad idea on a number of levels. She said Benincasa has already told her he’s seeing a spike in applicants attempting to sneak in before the code goes into effect.
“Our concern, which has been the history here when new codes [are adopted], is that [builders and developers] scramble to get in under the radar,” said Throne-Holst.
She said if the date is extended to January 1, there’s a distinct possibility a number of large homes will be able to sneak in and forego the energy saving requirements. And it’s the large homes, according to Throne-Holst, that the town is most worried about.
She also mentioned the possibility that if the date is extended, the law would be susceptible to people seeking to “water it down” so much so it could lose its original intent.
“If this does extend to January 1, we keep ourselves open to all attempts to water this down,” she said. “In the end we could see a very good piece of legislation, that the board voted four to one to support, get watered down to where it no longer [serves its intended purpose].”
She said she understood there would always be resistance to change, but that “the intent of the law is very good” and benefits the entire community. She pointed out that the law comes on the heels of the town’s yearlong battle with the Long Island Power Authority over their new transmission line, in addition to the rising energy prices and global warming. She also pointed out that Southampton, while their law is by far the strictest, is not the first town to institute green building standards. There are eight other towns on Long Island with similar laws.

Photo: Supervisor Linda Kabot and councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst

Finance Talk Takes Backseat To Bickering

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Last Friday the Southampton Town Board met to go over the financial state of the town. While it was revealed that the town is looking at a $2.9 million-deficit in the general fund, what generated the most discussion was a last minute special meeting called by supervisor Linda Kabot.
Shortly after town attorney Kathleen Murray began briefing the board on the subject of the special meeting, councilman Chris Nuzzi asked how such a substantial discussion could just appear on a work session agenda. Kabot responded, “Because I’m the supervisor and I can put resolutions on special meeting notices.”
The meeting in question was called to adopt a public hearing on a resolution concerning vacant seats on the town board. It was essentially a carry over from earlier in the year, when the issue arose as Kabot’s town board seat was left empty after she won the supervisor spot in last November’s election.
A public hearing was held on the resolution back in February, which at that time stated the town “may” consider a special election to fill a vacant seat rather than appoint. The sticking point though was whether the town or Suffolk County would absorb the cost. Ultimately the resolution was not adopted and Republican Dan Russo was appointed to fill Kabot’s vacant seat.
“What usually happens with an item like this,” said Nuzzi, “is a phone call or a memo.”
Kabot informed Nuzzi that the subject had been discussed at a previous work session that he was unable to attend. Nuzzi then asked “which of the 2,420 work sessions” held this year was that.
Kabot explained that the decision to call the special meeting was based around time constraints. The new law, in order to appear on the ballot in this November’s election, must be adopted by September 4. She also explained that the special meeting was simply to adopt a date for a public hearing where the issue could be further vetted.
“I think the point Chris [Nuzzi] is trying to make is we’re being asked to hold a work session and immediately vote on a public hearing, which immediately eliminates a discussion among all of us,” said councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst.
“Well what kind of discussion would you like to have? That’s what work sessions are about,” said Kabot.
“In this case the work session has come with a resolution in front of us and expectation we vote on it an hour later,” responded Throne-Holst.
Kabot made it clear that there was no pressing need to set a public hearing or to even have the law on the November ballot. She said she had no problem putting it off until next year.
“I’m not going to pressure anybody to favorably vote on something,” said Kabot. “At the end of the day anything like this needs voter approval, and I was trying to meet time constraints.”
“Don’t worry so much about the headlines [in the paper],” said Nuzzi. “Worry about the issue.”
“I’m not here running around looking for headlines, and I really resent that statement,” said Kabot. “What I did not do correctly, was vet this out with the entire board.”
“The point is we need to have a formal process,” said Throne-Holst. “Frankly what should have happened, because of the timeline, is this should have been discussed months ago.”
Ultimately, the special meeting was called to order and Kabot withdrew the resolution.
As for the financial health of the town, independent auditing firm, Albrecht, Viggiano, Zureck and Company, presented the municipality’s 2007 financial statements and reported on the balances of the town’s major funds.
The town’s police fund deficit grew from $4 million to over $4.5 million at year-end 2007, the highway fund deficit grew to $669,567 at year end 2007 and the waste management enterprise fund deficit grew to over $2 million at year end 2007.
The auditors also disclosed that the town has negative fund balances in certain special districts, including the Hampton Bays Water District at approximately $215,000 as of December 31, 2007. Year End deficits in lesser amounts are also present in the Hampton Bays Public Parking District, Bridgehampton Public Parking District, Noyac Fire Protection District, and Bay Point Fire Protection District.
Kabot stated, “Working with the town board, I am committed to steering the town toward greater fiscal well-being.”
She said that over the next several weeks, she will be meeting with department heads to review the 2007 audited figures for each cost center and the current status of the 2008 budget, in order to prepare the 2009 budget with an eye towards tightening up expenses and streamlining operations.