Tag Archive | "town board"

League of Women Voters Hosts Southampton Town Board Candidates Debate

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By Tessa Raebeck

In front of a packed room Thursday night, candidates for Southampton Town Board debated experience, integrity and economics. Democrats Brad Bender and Frank Zappone faced Republicans Stan Glinka and Jeff Mansfield in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons at Rogers Memorial Library.

Moderated by Carol Mellor, voter service co-chair for the league, the debate included questions asked by members of the audience, as well as by Bryan Boyhan, editor and publisher of The Sag Harbor Express, Joe Shaw, executive editor for the Press News Group, and Judy Samuelson of the league.

Noting that all the candidates would be first time town board members, Shaw asked what issue their first piece of legislation would address.

“Water quality is going to be my number one issue,” replied Bender, mentioning his endorsement from the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum. “The first thing I want to do is really take a look at how we’re going to start saving our town — how do we work regionally with state, local, federal governments to make a difference for our waterways.”

“We have dragged our feet for way too long,” he continued. “We are so far behind in the technology in this community that we should be ashamed.”

Mansfield answered that his top three issues are fiscal responsibility, code enforcement and water quality. He said he fully supports Councilwoman Christine Scalera’s septic rebate program, but that “we need to do more.”

He advocates working with the schools to plant more eelgrass and seed the bays with shellfish.

“That’s nature’s way to filter the bays,” he said. “There’s a lot of nitrogen-reducing technology available in states like Rhode Island and Maryland that have a lot of tributaries and waterways. We don’t have it approved by the county yet — we need to lobby hard.”

Glinka pointed to three things that he would “have to tackle all at once evenly,” economic redevelopment, public safety and the environment. He said it is “vitally important” to have a good relationship with town trustees.

“Many of the small businesses in this town are struggling, making it economically feasible to stay here but also to attract new businesses,” he said, adding that he would also look at further staffing the police force and code enforcement office to increase public safety.

“Although these problems are very important problems for the town, they’re not going to be impacted by a single piece of legislation,” responded Zappone, who serves as deputy supervisor for the town. He said that he and the current administration moved code enforcement into the town attorney’s office, effectively quadrupling the number of enforcement actions due to improved communication.

“My first piece of legislation,” he said, “would be to bring fire marshal and code enforcement into one public safety unit so they could work closely with the town attorney and our court system so that we can effectively prosecute and proceed to getting some compliance issues addressed throughout the town.”

Shaw posed a question from the audience asking the candidates to state their position on the proposed Tuckahoe Center supermarket and retail complex on County Road 39.

“I believe firmly in representative government,” answered Mansfield. “So my job is not to tell you what I think is best, my job is to do what you think is best and my job is to find out what that is by vetting the issue, going out to the community, finding out the pulse of the community then taking action in a cost-effective and timely manner and that’s exactly what I will do.”

Glinka referred to his experience as president of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce.

“I think communication and education are the two foremost important factors in here and making sure that we make the best decision as a group,” he said. “It’s very important to hear what you as a community wants and what the people in the town want, not what I want as town council.”

“We need updated traffic studies,” replied Zappone. “We need updated analysis of the changing demographics of the community and we also need to look at the potential merger of these two school districts [Tuckahoe and Southampton] and how that might impact the community. So there’s a lot of information to gather before we go out communicating and educating the community, which is important to do but we need the information and we need the facts collected as best we possibly can.”

Bender pointed to the numerous vacant lots that are on County Road 39 adjacent to the proposal property.

“We don’t need to build new things when we have things sitting empty,” he said. “We’ve got empty stores up and down County Road 39, we’ve got blight up and down County Road 39 and until we address these issues we have no business then building anything else in that spot.”

Acknowledging Bender’s comment, Boyhan asked the candidates what pressures the town can bring to bear on property owners who have had unsuccessful businesses or let their buildings deteriorate and what can be done to force the repurpose of those buildings.

Glinka advocated streamlining the process by which new businesses can come into Southampton.

“Sometimes we’re anti-business,” he said. “It makes it very difficult for people to come in here and set up businesses. If we could make it attractive for developers to come out here and revitalize those [old motels that have been turned into section eight housing] and make it certain that that’s what they’re going to do and bring the tourism back out here and make it affordable for people to come out here with families, I think that would start a domino effect in attracting businesses,” he maintained.

Zappone said it’s important to take advantage of the business advisory council that resides at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, as well as initiating tax relief elements.

“If businesses are going to be viable on that road,” he said of County Road 39, “something has to be done about the way traffic flows on that road.”

He advocates bringing in low volume businesses such as law offices and consulting firms and called for a regional approach to addressing blighted properties.

Bender referenced his involvement in the Riverside Economic Development Committee and spoke of working together with the International Development Association (IDA) and the Regional Economic Development Council to help small businesses and also ensure they can help themselves.

“The last thing that small business owners need is senseless regulation from the government,” replied Mansfield. “I’m a capitalist. I believe in free markets, I believe in competition. I think if government isn’t helping small business it needs to step aside.”

Mansfield called for the small business office to return to town hall and emphasized listening to small business owners.

Referencing the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Boyhan asked the candidates whether the town is prepared for another major storm and what can be done to improve the town’s response to such an event. All of the candidates applauded the work of the town employees and officials in response to Sandy.

Referring to the fatal traffic accident that stopped traffic on County Road 39 for nine hours July 25, Mansfield said, “There’s still work to be done and we’re vulnerable to a big evacuation. I think we can do a better job of warning our citizens and making sure they can get out if they need to get out.”

Glinka said he would definitely work on “ensuring if we did have to evacuate the area, how would we do this in a timely, safe manner.”

“Our demographic area — it’s very unique and I think we have to approach it in such a way,” he continued. “I think just enhancing and working with what the current administration has in place already, I think we can only improve upon it. And also working with community members and civic organizations and public safety areas and getting their input as well.”

Zappone thanked the other candidates for the recognition of a job well done.

“Yes, we are better prepared,” he said, adding that, with the help of consultants, the chief of police, fire marshals and the fire chief, the administration has completely revised and rewritten its emergency operational procedures and is in the final stages of preparing a hazard mitigation plan that “will give us a better opportunity to be resilient in the case of a storm.”

Bender called for the completion of the Flanders Nutrition Site, which he said is supposed to be a command center.

“If we do have one of these major storms that’s going to make us move off our shore, where are we going to go?” he asked. “What are we going to do? We have a command center that’s not complete, we could finish that.”

Residents of Southampton Town will be able to vote for two of the four town board candidates in the general election November 5.

GOP Picks Nuzzi To Lead its Ticket

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By Claire Walla

Sending shock waves through the Town of Southampton, the town’s GOP Party announced last Wednesday, May 18 that headlining its Republican roster for town board elections this coming November will be current councilman Chris Nuzzi who the party has tapped as its candidate for supervisor.

Nuzzi, who as of press time had not responded to several phone calls, had allegedly stated the week prior to the GOP announcement that he had no plans to run against incumbent supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (an Independent backed by the Democratic Party). However, a week ago, Southampton Town GOP Chair Ernie Wruck publicly announced Nuzzi had received his party’s nomination.

Nuzzi is reportedly still deciding whether or not he wants to run.

However, as far as Wruck is concerned, “He’s the candidate.”

“The acceptance process seems to be somewhat of a misnomer,” Wruck said. The Republican Party completed a petition to add Nuzzi’s name to the ballot, Wruck explained.

“He has not declined,” Wruck continued. “We are moving forward with Chris [Nuzzi] as our candidate.”

As to what the party might be up against should Nuzzi back out of the race, Wruck said there’s a legal process involved with replacing a candidate, “but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Firmly joining the Republican Party ticket are two newcomers seeking two open council seats: retired Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Bill Hughes and former Southampton Town Assistant Attorney Christine Preston Scalera.

Bill Hughes

Though he would be a newcomer to the board, Bill Hughes is not a stranger to Southampton Town politics — he ran and lost in a special election last year against current Town Board Member Bridget Fleming (Dem.).

Hughes said he’s running again this year because “I know I can make a difference.”

Hughes lives in Hampton Bays, where he’s been for over 30 years, but he said working for the Southampton Town Police force for 29 years has given him a extensive knowledge of the entire town.

Though he retired back in 2000, Hughes has remained active in the community, volunteering with the Boy Scouts of America, Knights of Columbus and Friends of the 106th Rescue Group.

“Sometimes it is the unlikely politician that might work the best in public service,” he concluded. “I’m 60 years old, I’m not looking to advance my own political career. I like to listen, work for others and form a consensus. I’m a candidate who can do that full-time.”

Christine Preston Scalera

Now a resident of Water Mill, Preston Scalera has spent nearly 20 years as a municipal attorney on Long Island, serving as a deputy attorney for Nassau County and Oyster Bay, and then (from 2003 to 2006) as assistant town attorney in Southampton.

“I’m excited about having been nominated,” she said, adding that she looks forward to the opportunity to serve in the town in which she lives.

“I like to think I would bring a new perspective to the board, with a balanced approach and a respect for others’ opinions,” she added.

Though Preston Scalera said the Republican Party will reveal more about its campaign “as it evolves,” she added that after watching the way some of this year’s town board meetings have progressed, one of her goals would be to keep the board’s attention focused on the pressing issues.

“What compelled me to get involved is, it just seems as though sometimes more time is being spent on other issues, and not what affects residents more directly,” she explained. “I look forward to a good debate on the issues that matter.”

Southampton Town Board Passes $78 Million 2010 Budget

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After a contentious budget process in the midst of an election, the Southampton Town Board adopted the final 2010 budget on Friday, November 20. Despite revisions to the fiscal plan, the board is still increasing the tax rate by a full five percent. A homeowner, with a property assessed at $500,000, will pay an additional $33 in town taxes next year, or $1.38 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In 2009, the tax rate was $1.32 for every $1,000 of property value. The overall spending for the town in 2010 remains at around $78.8 million.

Above: Supervisor-elect Anna Throne-Holst and current supervisor Linda Kabot mull over the 2010 budget plan for Southampton Town.

As a last order of major business for supervisor Linda Kabot, she presented a preliminary 2010 budget in late September. The plan was widely debated throughout town hall as it called for 48 lay offs and privatizing the animal shelter; though Kabot said she had found a way to clear the deficits in the highway and police fund.

The board received the most criticism over staffing cuts from union members and community constituents, and have since decided to maintain several positions. Overall, 37 positions were cut, but 11 of these jobs were already vacant, 10 positions were related to the animal shelter and five staff members will likely accept a retirement incentive.

The adopted 2010 budget notably reinstates the transportation and traffic safety director, a community service aide in the senior service department, the assistant director of the youth bureau, a youth counselor, and five sanitation helpers and one scale operator in the Waste Management Division. Others, however, didn’t fair as well in the final round of budget talks. The grant analyst was eliminated, as was the building projects coordinator due to a reshuffling of the department of public works. The supervisor-elect Anna Throne-Holst will realize around $90,000 in savings from eliminating two positions in the supervisor’s officer. One of these positions, that of citizen advocate, however, was simply transferred from the supervisor’s office to the council office in a measure sponsored by Kabot.

A resolution backed by councilwoman Throne-Holst, councilwoman Nancy Graboski and councilwoman Sally Pope might signal the exit of current town attorney Dan Adams in the coming year. The amendment proposed that deputy town attorney Kathleen Murray will “serve as the acting town attorney during a transition period” over the first six months of 2010.

The board was able to save several positions mainly through reducing the monies allotted for deficit reduction in the highway and e-911 fund, increasing estimates for revenues like building permit fees and raising the Cablevision franchise fee from four to five percent, among other measures.

In the 2010 budget, the town has set aside around $2.8 million to pay down past deficits. Comptroller Tamara Wright warned, “The $2.8 million does not address the capital fund IOU. This isn’t really enough money to make a big dent in your deficits … Your financial health includes your cash balance and there isn’t a great deal of room to be off in your revenue estimates.”

The capital fund deficit, estimated at around $6 million, wasn’t directly addressed in the operating budget for next year but the town board has several options in dealing with this sizable debt. Kabot lobbied to pierce the five percent tax rate cap solely to handle these deficits, not new spending; but her resolution was voted down by Throne-Holst, councilman Chris Nuzzi and Pope. The town also has the option of surplusing, or selling off, certain properties next year, another idea proposed by Kabot. Or, the town could pay the capital fund debt through deficit financing, though Kabot argued the state would then have greater oversight into the town’s finances and deficit financing could potentially weaken the town’s credit rating.

“We still don’t have the final numbers. I would leave this aside for the moment and deal with it when we have these numbers,” suggested Throne-Holst.

In other measures, the town tabled a resolution to take out a $275,000 bond for a video arraignment system, decided to fund a total of seven board members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and maintained a hiring freeze.

Kabot Wants to Create “Lock Box” For CPF

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In light of Southampton Town’s troubled finances and decreased revenues, supervisor Linda Kabot asked the town board to consider “lock boxing” money for the Community Preservation Fund (CPF). Kabot says the plan would allow the town to continue paying off the CPF’s annual debt without relying on the general fund to cover any shortfalls from decreases in transfer taxes, which is the CPF’s main revenue source.
“You would do this in your own home. If you had a mortgage and you lost your job, you would want a savings account to pay for your obligation,” explained Kabot. “We have a mortgage on the CPF program that is over $100 million.”
Over the past 10 years the town spent around $400 million on land purchases, continued Kabot, but only received $300 million in transfer tax revenue. The remainder of this expense was procured through bonding. This year the town will pay around $9 million towards the principal and interest on these bonds, though next year these payments will increase to roughly $10 million. Kabot said the town should be “judicious” when deciding whether to purchase a piece of property in the future as the town will most likely have to bond for future purchases.
“If we are getting $1 million a month in revenue that is $12 million for the year, minus $10 million which is spoken for for debt services, leaving us with $2 million if we are giving certain school districts and other eligible districts PILOTs [Payment In Lieu of Taxes],” explained Kabot. “If you’re going to be paying for land and you aren’t doing it on a pay as you go basis, you may be borrowing and that will increase your debt services.”
Based on recommendations made by former town comptroller Steve Brautigam, Kabot’s plan, which is in the form of a resolution, calls for the creation of a $1.2 million preliminary cushion fund. This money is already in CPF coffers and was transferred there at the end of 2008, when it was ascertained that the CPF fund paid too much into the town’s debt clearing fund.
CPF manager Mary Wilson said the second part of the resolution would “designate a portion of future monthly revenues” which would go into this rainy day or debt reserve fund. For the next six months of 2009, Brautigam proposed that $250,000 in CPF revenue be segregated for this fund. In 2010, the town would increase the allotted savings to $350,000 per month.
“The goal is to get up to a point where there is at least $11 million in this reserve fund or at least one year’s debt services,” said Wilson.
Current town comptroller Tamara Wright said the town’s projections of receiving around $1 million a month in revenue wasn’t conservative. She added that last month, the town received only slightly over $1 million, but in the prior months, received under $1 million.
“If we were planning conservatively, by my estimation, you would be almost $3 million short of being able to reserve adequately,” said Wright. “If the revenue streams stay where they are, paying for properties out of cash is going to be very difficult for the next 18 to 24 months.”
“The dilemma is that this is an unprecedented opportunity to stockpile open spaces at prices that aren’t going to stay at this level in our lifetime,” observed councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst. “We need to look at the bigger picture. It is estimated that for every $1 of land that is developed rather than preserved $1.30 is needed to provide services for the infrastructure that goes with that.”
Kabot said she hoped the board would come to a consensus vote at the next town board meeting on Tuesday, June 9.

Town Ends Cablevision Talks

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For months the Southampton Town Board has discussed pursuing legal action against Cablevision, each time tabling the resolution. On Tuesday afternoon, however, the board unanimously agreed to hold off on litigation and instead file a formal complaint with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) regarding their franchise agreement with the local cable provider.

“I think this accomplishes what we wanted . . . I am disappointed that Cablevision wasn’t more amenable [in offering] a second box without any restrictions. It may not be a lot of people but we want to take care of them,” said councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst during the town board meeting. In the fall of 2008, Cablevision offered free “converter boxes” to analog-only households, but the promotion ended in December. Southampton Town Attorney Dan Adams wondered why the company wouldn’t leave the offer open indefinitely, since only a fraction of their customer base is eligible for the free boxes. The boxes will be critical for allowing individuals who now rely on over the air service to receive public access channels once the system goes all digital.

“I realize that we have a generous offer, exclusive to the East End, for free boxes to analog subscribers. But that doesn’t go far enough in my view,” stated town supervisor Linda Kabot. She added that Plum TV and News Channel 12 are still available on analog format, but not the public, educational and government (PEG) channels.

“We don’t comment on how we determine which channels are migrated,” said Patrick MacElroy, the Director of Media Relations for Cablevision, on why some 45 channels are still provided on an analog service. He noted though that his company was looking to become an all-digital provider in the future, following in the footsteps of their competitors.

Previously, Joan Gilroy, the director of governmental affairs for the company, said her employer was willing to re-instate the free “converter box” offer for another 90-day period. As the board proceeds in filing a formal complaint, it appears unlikely that this offer will remain on the table.

MacElroy wouldn’t comment on this promotional offer directly but said: “For several months late last year, analog customers who wanted to continue to receive these channels were offered a free digital set top box for life. We had proposed an extension of this free box offer but were unable to come to an agreement with the Town.”

Southampton Town’s lengthy negotiations with Cablevision fit into a larger issue up for national debate.

“Does the cable company have the right to digitize access channels?” Gilroy declared at a previous meeting.

Currently, the Federal Communications Commission is weighing in on this question, said Adams. He added that the FCC closed a comment period in early April and received around 800 formal comments from municipalities across the country on the issue. Adams said he had yet to see the PSC make a verdict. As the PSC is a state organization, Adams said they would most likely defer to the FCC’s ruling. Although, he noted it is still unclear if the FCC in turn will defer this issue to the state.

Councilwoman Holst added that it would be unwise for the board to move forward with a lawsuit if the FCC ultimately votes in favor of allowing cable providers to switch public access channels from an analog format to a digital format.

“This has been dragged out for many months,” noted Councilwoman Sally Pope.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to file a formal complaint,” added Kabot. She went on to say that filing the report would “cost nothing except the postage,” which the board commented had gone up to 44 cents on Monday.