Tag Archive | "Trustee Ed Deyermond"

Sag Harbor Approves Bay Street Gala, But Frets Over Parking

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The annual Bay Street Theater gala on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.


By Stephen J. Kotz

Although there was an inch or two of fresh snow on the ground, the Sag Harbor Village Board was looking ahead to July on Friday morning when it met to review the request of Bay Street Theater and the Sag Harbor Center for the Arts to once again hold its summer benefit on Long Wharf on July 11.

The board, which had tabled the discussion from its December meeting, gave the green light for the cultural organization’s annual gala, provided it submit an acceptable parking plan to the village board and reduce the size of its party tent to allow emergency vehicles to gain access to the pier.

Although board members had bandied about the idea of charging Bay Street a fee of as much as $20,000 to hold the gala, they did not pursue that idea, noting the center’s importance to the village’s cultural life.

“Bay Street brings a lot to Sag Harbor,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “I don’t think this was an effort to deny you, it was an attempt to work through some complaints.”

Those complaints came mostly from merchants and restaurant owners, he said, who have complained that the annual cocktail party and dinner on the wharf is now using up much of the available public parking in the business district, effectively curtailing their own opportunities to make money.

One of those business owners is Trustee Ken O’Donnell, who owns La Superica restaurant.

“My concern is the parking,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “The parking didn’t work last year.” Mr. O’Donnell said with the Bay Street gala removing 80 spaces on Long Wharf and the owners of 1,3,5 Ferry Road, which has a lot next to the North Haven Bridge, closing it to public access, there would be about 140 fewer spaces available.

Another problem, Trustee Ed Deyermond said, is that the setup for the gala now begins on Thursday and the tent is not removed until Sunday, extending the parking shortage over four days during the short summer season.

Mr. Deyermond said he would support the issuance of a permit for the gala, but stressed to Tracy Mitchell, Bay Street’s executive director, “you have to  show some real initiative in parking” this year or the future of the event will be jeopardized.

Ms. Mitchell, who said Bay Street nets about $200,000 from the annual gala, added it would consider canceling its Saturday night theater performance this year to ease up on the parking crunch and would also seek once again to use the parking lot behind St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, although she acknowledged it is next to impossible to force people to park several blocks from the site.

“I don’t see someone parking at St. Andrew’s in a gown and hoofing it to Main Street,” added Mr. O’Donnell.

Mr. Gilbride suggested that Bay Street explore using Havens Beach and providing a shuttle service between it and the theater the evening of the gala. He said that a similar arrangement had worked when a major fundraiser was held at the Watchcase condominiums last year.


Traffic Calming Inching Forward in Sag Harbor

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By Stephen J. Kotz

An effort to make Sag Harbor’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists inched forward Tuesday when Mayor Brian Gilbride told members of a group that has promoted and offered to underwrite new traffic calming measures that they should continue their fundraising efforts as they await formal village approval—approval he reiterated could come as early as next month.

Susan Mead of the organization Serve Sag Harbor, which has offered to pay for the work, told the village board, that her group has selected four intersections—Main and Glover streets, Main and John streets, Jermain and Oakland avenues, and Jermain and Atlantic avenues—for a pilot program that would make use of painted pavement and planters to test the effectiveness of the designs.

The group had originally wanted to make Main Street at the John Jermain Library a top priority, but had chosen to hold off there because of ongoing construction, she told the board.

Ms. Mead said the total cost of the project, including design work, painting and planters, and in-kind donations would come to about $25,000.

Last month, when Michael King, a planning consultant for the group, made a presentation of eight potential intersections for the pilot program, the board indicated it would most likely be ready to give its formal approval at its June meeting. On Tuesday, Mayor Gilbride said before the village formally signed off on the four intersections, he wanted the fire department, police and highway department to offer their input.

“I’m sure there is going to be some pilot project started and completed this summer,” Mr. Gilbride said on Wednesday, adding that a decision on whether to make them permanent is a long way off and depends on their reception by village residents. “I’ll be interested in seeing what the response is,” he added.

Of the four proposed intersections designs, the one that generated the greatest concern among board members was the one that called for a substantial narrowing and tightening of the sweeping corner of Jermain Avenue at Atlantic Avenue and Clinton Street in front of Pierson High School.

“Good luck with that one,” quipped Trustee Ed Deyermond apparently in reference to the heavy traffic there at the start and end of the school day.

“This is just an observation, but you are going to have a problem there,” added Mayor Gilbride. “This is a pretty aggressive plan.”

“It is an aggressive plan,” replied Jonas Hagen, an urban planner who has been working on the project, “but it is pilot and it can be changed.”

Mr. Hagen, who is the son of village ZBA chairman Anton Hagen, said that the school corner was of special concern because of the presence of school children and “vehicles going around that corner at a very high speed.”

“I don’t want to moralize, but I think we know how high the stakes are,” said Mr. Hagen, adding that unless the village takes action to safeguard its streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, a tragedy is waiting to happen.

Before the board even began its discussion of the traffic calming project, Bayard Fenwick, who lives on Madison Street, near its problematic intersection with Jermain Avenue, called for action there during the public comment period.

“There are literally almost fistfights,” said Mr. Fenwick. “I can only imagine it’s going to get worse.” Mr. Fenwick, who offered to allow the village to mount monitoring cameras on his house, said that many drivers are apparently not aware that the intersection is a four-way stop. Matters are made worse, he added, because large trucks continue to use Jermain Avenue as a shortcut through the village and a large number of landscape trucks pulling long trailers further complicate things.

In other action, at the request of Mayor Gilbride, the board will hold a hearing next month on an amendment to the village code that would allow it to establish a rebate and incentive program for residents who upgrade failing septic systems.

“In the upper cove, we are starting to see issues,” Mr. Gilbride said on Wednesday. “We are a waterfront community, and this is something I’d really like to get done.”

Mr. Gilbride said he would like to see the village commit to spending $50,000 on the program. “If it is successful, we can continue it next year,” he added.

Rebates would being limited to 50 percent of the total cost of the work with total reimbursements, depending on the extent and type of work, capped at $2,500 to $6,000, according to a draft of the new law.

Mr. Gilbride estimated that a typical septic system would cost approximately $5,000.

“I would hope people around the water might take advantage of this,” the mayor added. “I think there are some failing systems that should be replaced. I’m thinking of older systems that go back to the ’70 when they didn’t always have a septic tank.”

Village attorney Denise Schoen, who was sitting in for the board’s regular attorney, Fred W. Thiele Jr., raised the concern that residents who have applications before the Harbor Committee or ZBA, which require them to replace their sepetic systems, might try to apply for the rebates. “I’m curious if they are also going to be eligible for this—and it is going to come up,” she told the board.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gilbride said the law would be tweaked to make sure that applicants who are ordered to replace their systems as part of a larger development project would not be allowed to apply for a rebate.

Sag Harbor Mayor Criticized for Lack of Capital Spending Plan

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Former Sag Harbor Mayor Pierce Hance was ready with the questions when the village board held a public hearing on April 2 on Mayor Brian Gilbride’s proposed $8.5 million budget.

Mr. Hance, who is a financial analyst, said the mayor’s failure to have a capital plan in place would have dire consequences as the village is required down the road to undertake dock and bulkhead repairs, drainage projects and even replace fire trucks.

“We have a couple of million bucks,” said Mr. Hance, referring to the village’s fund balance and repair funds, “and I can come up with $4 million in projects. I want to know what is your capital plan?”

“I haven’t even touched on the fire trucks,” he added. “In a couple of years we are going to spend a million dollars on fire trucks.”

When Mayor Gilbride said he wanted to avoid borrowing money to cover village projects, Mr. Hance asked “How are we going to pay as you go without a rather material increase in the tax rate?”

Mr. Hance also took aim at the mayor’s operating budget, saying it did not accurately reflect where the money would come from to meet certain expenses, such as a new police contract, which is currently in arbitration.

“Then you have an estimate of the cost?” asked Mr. Hance. “I have an assumption,” replied the mayor. “So there is enough money buried in this budget to take care of this?” pressed Mr. Hance. “No, it means something I’d like to get done won’t get done and it would be reallocated,” said Mr. Gilbride. “So, one more time we borrow from Peter to pay Paul,” said Mr. Hance.

Although the board had a resolution on its agenda to close the budget hearing when it met Tuesday night, it took no action, and Mayor Gilbride said a work session would be scheduled to work out final details of the spending plan before the May 1 deadline.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gilbride defended his approach to budgeting.

“Pierce is a smart, knowledgeable guy, but he’s just throwing harpoons,” Mr. Gilbride said. “I’m a pay-as-you-go guy. I’m not a guy who borrows a lot of money. We’ve gotten a lot done in this village without a capital plan.”

Mr. Gilbride said he prefers to budget for work as needed and do only what the village can afford at any time. Despite having no plan to create a capital plan, which is essentially a priority list for major infrastructure-related projects, Mr. Gilbride said he was looking forward to installing an elevator in the Municipal Building, earmarking money to help waterfront homeowners replace aging septic systems and to undertake some drainage improvement projects, and developing parkland south of the Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The mayor said the village is still paying off some bonds that were issued when Mr. Hance was mayor. “It was cheap money back then too,” he said. “We have refinanced and saved about $170,000 in interest and I’m proud of that.”

But Mr. Hance found some support from Mr. Gilbride’s colleagues. “I think he raised a lot of questions,” said Trustee Ken O’Donnell on Wednesday.

“You don’t work your entire life to be able to buy a house. You take a mortgage,” he said. “There is good debt and there is bad debt. Bonding to repair Long Wharf I’d say is good debt. With interest rates at all-time lows, why aren’t we bonding it and using cheap money to help with the infrastructure of the village?”

Mr. O’Donnell said he had grave concerns about the mayor’s efforts to pay for an elevator in the Municipal Building and suggested rather than sinking $200,000 to $300,000 into that project, the village should find out if the third and fourth floors, which are not used now because they are not considered safe, can be renovated and rented out as office space to bring in additional revenue.

Although it is a small item, Mr. O’Donnell said he wanted to restore the $4,000 the village used to give to the Chamber of Commerce to staff its tourism kiosk at Long Wharf. “I’m looking forward to some give and take,” he said of the budget process.

Trustee Ed Deyermond also expressed misgivings about the elevator project. “If you try to run an elevator up there we have to be very careful to make sure the building is structurally sound,” he said Wednesday, adding there could be hidden costs.

“A capital budget is a key to municipal finance,” he said. “Without a capital budget you have to pay for things as you go and we’re typically talking about huge expenditures for things like road improvements, drainage and fire trucks.”

But Mr. Deyermond stopped short of saying he thought the village should have a capital plan and said he doubted the mayor would develop one, especially not this year with the deadline for adopting the budget less than a month away.

Mr. Hance was not as diplomatic. “This budget is a joke,” he said on Tuesday. “The finances of the village are a joke. On the operating side, I don’t have any confidence at all. On long term capital planning I have even less.”