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Community groups want town to publish agendas sooner

05/24/2016 11:39 AM |

CAC agenda

A group of North Fork civic and environmental organizations are pushing for Riverhead Town to publish the agendas for an array of meetings on Riverhead Town’s website sooner and more frequently.

The hope is that agendas will be posted at least a week in advance. Supervisor Sean Walter said he supports that idea, though not that far in advance.

The town currently posts agendas on its website for Town Board work sessions and regular meetings as well as Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings. Regular Town Board meeting agendas are usually posted the day of the meeting. Work session agendas are posted a day ahead and planning and zoning agendas are often posted a week in advance.

But other town advisory committees don’t online agendas at all. These include advisory committees on topics such as agriculture, open space, East Creek, farmland preservation, landmarks preservation, the downtown parking district, recreation, senior citizens, traffic/safety and veterans.

The Architectural Review Board and the Conservation Advisory Council are listed under the “agendas” section of the town website, but haven’t posted a single agenda so far this year.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District and Industrial Development Agency have their own websites. The IDA does post agendas online; the BID does not.

A May 17 letter requesting the upgraded agendas was signed by leaders of the Group for the East End, Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, Northville Beach Civic Association, North Fork Environmental Council, Jamesport East Property Owners Association and Save Main Road.

They are calling on the Town Board to enact a resolution requiring that every town agency and committee post an agenda for its public meetings on the town website at least seven days before the meeting and address only business listed on that agenda.

“It has become commonplace for town agencies, departments and committees not to disclose agendas for public meetings until a few hours before the meetings commence,” the letter states. “Occasionally more notice is provided, but there are also instances where agendas are handed out as sessions get underway.

“This squelches public participation in town affairs and is highly undemocratic.”

Mr. Walter, whose office sets the Town Board agenda, said he supports the idea but said finalizing Town Board agendas seven days in advance can’t be done.

“We can’t do seven days because it would stall town business,” he said. “That would mean the work session on Thursday couldn’t be the fodder for regular meetings on Tuesday. We can adopt a resolution requiring it to be available two days in advance, maybe.”

There are no rules in New York State requiring government boards to have agendas, let alone requiring that they be posted online, according to Kristin O’Neill, assistant director of the state committee on open government.

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Photo: A screenshot of Riverhead Town’s website taken last week shows no published agendas are listed this year for the Conservation Advisory Council.

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