Letters: Fire calls, irritating columnists and wind turbines

02/02/2012 4:00 AM |

RIVERHEAD

RFD annual report

During 2011, Riverhead Fire Department responded to a total of 1,091 alarms. This total was four fewer than the previous year. Of this total, 84 were structure fires, 82 carbon monoxide alarms, 41 alarms for reports of gas odor and 25 vehicle fires. Over half of the alarms were for automatic alarms.

The dedicated volunteers in our department spent 10,346 hours responding to these alarms. Members also participated in about 15,000 hours of training, drills, meetings, work details, and other activities to maintain their proficiency in keeping lives and property safe in our community. Fire safety training for the children in all our schools and at the annual open house is an important component of our community education program. In 2011, RFD volunteers dedicated 902 hours to this program and over 2,500 children received this important training in our elementary schools.

As chief of the Riverhead Fire Department, I would like to thank the community for your continued support. Our 180 volunteers live and work in our community and it is important that many businesses allow their employees to respond when called to protect lives and property.

Thank you again for your continued support.

Nicholas Luparella
Chief, Riverhead Fire Department

CENTER MORICHES

With our future in mind

Your Jan. 19 editorial pointed out that the current property tax system is often confusing, complex and frustrating and is awash in inequities. Obviously this is something our state legislators need to address.

I commend you for discerning that under the current property tax system, development raises property taxes. To quote your editorial, “More people means more government… More children mean bigger, more expensive schools”.

With that knowledge, municipal planning and zoning takes on an even greater importance. Land use decisions affect the future of communities and the taxes they pay.

In western Suffolk, property taxes tend to be higher and communities more densely developed than eastern Suffolk. We now have an opportunity as we plan our future, to look west and then to look east and make some key decisions about what type of community we want to live in and how much in property taxes we want to pay.

Ed Romaine
Suffolk County legislator, 1st District

BAITING HOLLOW

Don’t ignore the facts

I can no longer characterize the News-Review as that classy hometown newspaper that I was once proud to read.

Within the last year or two, this paper has taken on a decisively biased flavor against public workers. I state “flavor” because it took a reader’s critical eye to recognize the little jabs that were embedded in the tone of the articles. More recently, this paper started to reveal its tilt by publishing hateful letters on a weekly basis, but it was still tolerable and I never imagined that it would cross the line into yellow journalism. But there it was in last week’s paper, a full-page column smearing New York’s public workers, a proverbial kick in the gut to those who educate our community’s children.

Grant Parpan’s article was the most unfair, poorly written piece of “journalism” to ever set print in the News-Review. His rant lacked control and it was stylistically a mess. The resources cited were outdated and the information mostly anecdotal. The author fancies himself an insider on educational matters, but sitting at board meetings for six years doesn’t make one an expert on education; it makes one an expert at sitting at meetings. Furthermore, the anger inherent in the piece only served to muddle the thesis. Was Mr. Parpan actually basing an entire article on his angst about proposed extra-curricular cuts? Quite a flimsy point at a time when reduced state aid forces class sizes to swell so much that individual student attention becomes impossible. Quite flimsy indeed when the state cries poor yet uses millions of taxpayers’ dollars for corporate contracts with test makers (and then bars the public from viewing said tests). Mr. Parpan’s most glaring error was an ethical one. He chose to bury the truth and ignore facts. He chose not to offer an opposing viewpoint, and turned a blind eye to all of the wage freezes, concessions, and givebacks teachers already agreed to. He painted a picture of what he thought readers would want to see, rather than presenting them with information they deserve to know.

I can’t help but wonder that if the young author maligned those he will entrust his future children to, will he do the same to all the public servants he will come to rely on for safety and services? There are a whole lot of folks standing in silent solidarity waiting to see.

Catherine Carella-Dean

Editor’s note: Ms. Carella-Dean is a teacher in the Middle Country School District.

JAMESPORT

Are we stupid?

With school pensions that are in excess of $100,000 a year and rising at an ever-increasing rate, I have to wonder if Long Island homeowners have been lied to all these years when we’ve been told money in school budgets is “for the children,” when in fact the money seems to go mainly to ever-increasing salaries, fringe benefits and pensions. Maybe we, the homeowners and voters, should keep in mind a saying from years ago that applies even more today: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” And to my way of thinking, we are the suckers.

Thomas W. Smith

GREENPORT

Column was off base

If Grant Parpan wants teachers to pay private sector rates for health care, he should be advocating for teachers to be paid on par with their private sector counterparts.

The Economic Policy Institute found in its report, The Teaching Penalty, that teachers are compensated 14 percent less than their counterparts with similar education and work experience. Moreover, this study found that teacher salaries have only grown a paltry 0.8 percent compared with the 11 percent growth for all college graduates since 1990.

If Mr. Parpan did a little research about teacher contract negotiations here on the North Fork, he would have learned (from a Julie Lane story published on Aug. 25, 2011) that Greenport teachers agreed to a salary freeze in 2012-13. And unless he’s been living under a rock, he must also be aware of the massive teacher layoffs that have increased class sizes and reduced budgets in every one of our local districts.

Mr. Parpan uses Mt. Sinai as his shining example of fiscal responsibility. Mt. Sinai’s $100K savings from increased teacher health care contributions averaged out to roughly $30 per household per year — ironically similar to the cost of an annual subscription to

The Suffolk Times — in tax savings for the estimated 3,339 households.

Sure, $30 helps. But if we are serious about reducing our taxpayer burden, we could look a little deeper than teacher compensation to find truly wasteful spending in schools, government and public services that could provide more than $30 a year in taxpayer savings.

Moreover, folks concerned about rising taxes in a struggling economy might benefit from taking a longer view of the issue. The Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University (cbcse.org) found that if we increase our investment in public schools to prevent dropouts, we could save the American public $45 million per year in taxes, or about $127,000 for each student who graduates instead of dropping out. High school dropouts are much more likely to end up in prisons, on welfare or on Medicaid.

We are all concerned about the very poor performance of American students in mathematics and science compared with students from nations like Japan, China, Singapore, Finland and Denmark. Those nations compensate their teachers on par with, or better than, similarly educated professionals.

A true fiscal conservative should be advocating that we raise teacher compensation so we can recruit and retain the best possible educators to our public schools. An educated citizenry reduces dependence on taxpayer-funded programs.

The editorial pages provide an opportunity for The Times to share creative ideas and compelling research that launches a conversation about how to improve our community while reducing excess costs. Lazy journalism and emotional rants at the expense of one particular group of public servants might stir the pot and sell some papers, but they do nothing to help us figure out how we can do more with less in difficult economic conditions.

Doug Roberts

SOUTHOLD

Reject this project

Kudos to the well-reasoned Guest Spot by Larry Simms in last week’s News-Review (“Town Board’s vote will shape Jamesport’s future), which argued against any special permits for the proposed Village at Jamesport development. There are already too many empty storefronts all over the North Fork. I agree that further blind building of more will make the situation worse. There is nothing “special” about the Village at Jamesport proposal.

John Rooney

MATTITUCK

What’s the benefit?

Are there really any advantages to a wind turbine? I unknowingly thought so until I had to quickly educate myself when I heard the Suffolk County Water Authority intended to place one at perhaps my favorite place on earth, Laurel Lake and the adjacent preserve.

What surfaced from my research were government studies, newspaper stories and scientific data that covered installations gone awry from Maine to California, as well as all over Europe. Wind turbines can create serious issues depending on where they are situated. It’s all about location, location, location.

The most basic issue here is SCWA’s inappropriate choice for the placement of a wind turbine in an area that is a clean water source for the North Fork and Suffolk. The area is a heavily wooded, pristine preserve bordered by residences and also home to all manner of plants, birds and wildlife.

I am concerned about the health hazards from noise, vibrations and infrasound that can cause neurological problems, sleep deprivation, visual disturbances and even developmental issues in children one mile away. Data also suggests that there is a very real threat of fire from a malfunction of the turbine itself and a highly increased risk of fire from lightning strikes.

A fire atop a 150-foot turbine complicated and fueled by 200 pounds of hydraulic fluid cannot be handled by the local fire department, which lacks the foam and equipment to reach that height. The fire would easily spread and jump across the canopy of trees, engulfing the preserve and endangering homes on Laurel Lake, The Cottages, Laurel Links and the Estates, and maybe even as far as Farmveu.

The threat of fire would be constant and the residents and fire department would be helpless, with no hydrants anywhere and almost no access or egress in and out of this area. All of these hazards exist, yet there is no solid evidence of a cost benefit. To make matters worse, there will be nearly two decades until a payout, maybe longer. Evidence from Europe, where they have been using windpower far longer, is showing no cost savings due to irregularities in the power grid that have to be balanced due to the vagaries of wind thrust. Even more fossil fuel is consumed to balance the grid. Gone are cost or environmental savings.

Is this a case of the emperor’s new clothes? It sure looks like it. But Laurel Lake is not the place for a test site. It is way too important to Mattituck and the entire North Fork to endanger this environmentally precious spot.

Terry Koch-Bostic

MATTITUCK

The human price

As my husband, Mark, and I first drove down Laurel Way 31 years ago we had no idea what lie ahead.

We had come in response to an ad for a house for sale on Laurel Lake. Never having heard of a lake in this area, we were stunned to discover this pristine paradise less than two hours from New York City. In fact, so overwhelming was our response, that by the end of the day, we had come to terms with the owner of the house.

Over the years we spent every weekend, from Friday to Monday, coming to our retreat, away from the hustle of the city, to where the silence enveloped us and the clean air sustained us.

We would spend hours sitting at the lake, watching the birds and enjoying the return of the kingbirds to their favorite tree, year after year, waiting for the babies to become mature enough to fly off on their own. One year, because we were unable to be there for two weeks, robins had built their nest near the door to the deck, which was our summer living room. Afraid that we would cause them to abandon their young if we were to open the door frequently, we decided not to use the deck until they had left. What a treat.

Every winter, we would await the arrival of the beautiful canvasback ducks and sit outside, bundled up, enjoying their antics. In the summer I spend hours swimming, on my back, watching the hundreds of swallows swooping over the lake, feeding on the surface insects. I once had the awesome experience of having an osprey check me out, so close I could have counted every feather.

Our kids came out whenever they could, never asking if it was OK, just feeling that it was theirs too. As a family we grew even closer having this warm, rich environment. Now our grandchildren, who are growing up having this idyllic place to call home, consider it a birthright. Thinking ahead, my granddaughter told me the other day that her children must grow up there also.

I’ve recounted our family history as it relates to Laurel Lake to emphasize what the loss of this precious environment would mean to the many residents fortunate enough to call this special place home. The erection of a wind turbine by the Suffolk County Water Authority adjacent to the Laurel Lake Preserve would bring to an end bird migration, serenity, physical well-being and a sense of peace that is becoming rare in this world.

It’s time for the SCWA to think in terms of human values and not questionable dollars and cents.

Marjorie Gross

MATTITUCK

Still a local matter

The Suffolk County Water Authority is again taking its “mandate” too far.

The SCWA is not, as they define themselves in their environmental assessment of the proposed wind turbine at Laurel Lake, a “governmental unit.” It is, as their own website states, “an independent public-benefit corporation.” As such, they have no right to bypass Southold Town review or approval processes.

There are many facets to the turbine controversy, such as the environmental impacts on the Laurel Lake Preserve and effects on wildlife, but all are trumped by the concept of home rule. Only Southold Town should have the final say what is and is not built in Southold.

The preservation of Laurel Lake, including its scenic views, wildlife and overall setting are part of Southold Town’s plan and ongoing work. It is not within the SCWA’s purview to determine whether or not the proposed turbine impacts the town’s plan or interests. If they are allowed to overrule the town’s interest, then who’s to say what they can or cannot do elsewhere?

The North Fork Environmental Council recognizes the benefits wind turbine technology has in partially addressing our world’s dependency on fossil fuels, and supports its use, but only where appropriate and where its impact on all other aspects of the environment is comprehensively assessed and minimized.

The SCWA’s own environmental assessment form notes in Part B, item 20, that the proposed project will “substantially affect non-threatened or non-endangered species.” These potential impacts, recognized by all sides, require further study and discussion.

Before any work moves ahead, a comprehensive environmental review should be undertaken and the resulting environmental impact study should serve as the basis of deciding whether this turbine can not only safely coexist with wildlife in the surrounding Laurel Lake preserve and wetlands, but also coexist with Southold Town’s plans and efforts to preserve the natural beauty of Laurel Lake and the surrounding area.

Southold residents cannot remain silent on this effort to usurp the town’s right to control what is built within its borders.

Bill Toedter
president, North Fork Environmental Council

FARMINGDALE

Turbines are needed

The Sustainability Institute at Molloy College would like to express its support for the Suffolk County Water Authority’s proposed Southold wind turbine project to be located in Laurel.

Given the serious global problem of climate change and the need to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on foreign fuel sources, there is a need for increased use of renewable energy sources by all sectors.

Wind turbines produce clean, local, emission-free energy, thereby achieving both goals. Renewable energy also helps reduce pressure on the local electric grid, thereby reducing the need for the construction of more fossil fuel-based power plants.

There are many myths about wind, including noise, bird kills and aesthetic impacts. Baseless statements from uninformed people should not just be printed without fact-checking and also including a more well-rounded perspective. Factual information on how wind turbines operate is widely available.

A great resource is www.windworks4li.org, where you can find “myth vs. facts” information, as well as a listing of coalition members who support wind for Long Island.

Numerous land-based wind turbines are currently installed here in the United States, as well as in Europe, and wind is a fast-growing industry. The U.S. has 46,919 MW of cumulative wind capacity through the end of 2011. In fact, Half Hollow Nursery, right in Laurel, is the location for a 100kw wind turbine which was installed in 2010.

We strongly urge you and any interested parties to visit that site and use their experience as an example.

Neal Lewis, executive director

RIVERHEAD

With Teddy in mind

I read with interest George Dengel’s letter (“Dismayed, not angry,” Jan. 26), or perhaps it could better be defined as a diatribe.

I’m writing as a lifelong Democrat who has on occasion voted for a Republican candidate and a believer in the free-enterprise system with controls to see that it does not tread on the rights of the 99 percent of Americans, a category which I assume includes Mr. Dengel. Those safeguards, which are in danger of being weakened, if not removed, were first put into the system by a good Republican, Theodore Roosevelt. President Obama made it clear in his State of the Union speech that he is a staunch advocate of the principles laid forth about 100 years ago by Teddy Roosevelt. He wants to create jobs that will revive the middle class and protect the poor.

He also wants to help most Americans, including those of us on the North Fork, by putting more of a tax burden on billionaires who can best afford to pay more and less on the rest of us, who cannot. He deserves a chance to put America back on its feet after this bitter recession, which was caused in part by the past administration’s tax policy.

On another point in Mr. Dengel’s letter, I thought we were beyond the era when people were being called communists indiscriminately. I doubt that there are many communists left in the world, and no country espousing its theories other than Cuba, which is beginning to relax its dogmatism.

Steve Weinstein

RIVERHEAD

Dems will pay in 2012

The “occupy” movement has gotten much coverage by the liberal media over the past year. They have tried to put forth that they represent the majority of non-Wall Streeters. The truth is, they are about “one percent” of an extremely far left group of violent, lawless thugs. I am amazed that the Democratic party as well as our own president have embraced these thugs. These “one percenters” have wreaked havoc everywhere they have gone. The cost to the communities has been tremendous. They stress resources and leave squalor in their path. These “one percenters” do not represent Americans as most of us know them.

In 2012, the Democratic party will pay dearly for their alignment with this group. The majority of the 99 percent of non-Wall Streeters are really made up of true, honest, law-abiding Americans. As we roll toward the presidential elections, I believe the people of this country will see the difference between true American patriotism and anarchy. By all accounts, the 2012 national elections will be a turning point to this country’s future.

Questions need to be asked. Does the Democratic party really believe that these “one prcenters” represent the majority? When will the Democratic party end their affiliation and denounce their ties to this group? How much taxpayer money is going to continue to be spent to clean up their mess? How much damage needs to be done and how many people need to be hurt before  the people of this country say enough is enough? In 2012, the people of this country will have to ask themselves this question, ”Is this who’s representing me?”

Jim Breitenbach

RIVERHEAD

Flapjack event a flippin’ success

Thanks to Kathy Berezny for mentioning our flapjack fundraiser in her Riverhead community column. The Riverhead High School NJROTC would also like to thank everyone in the community who braved the snow to attend the event at Applebee’s on Jan. 21. Your support was overwhelming and the event was a huge success. We would also like to thank Applebee’s and its staff for offering this opportunity and for doing such a fantastic job.

Dana Hubbard

NJROTC parent group member

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