10/04/14 8:00am
10/04/2014 8:00 AM
Civic Person of the Year Vince Taldone (left), Public Servant of the Year Dennis Cavanaugh and Educator of the Year Keri Stromski were honored Thursday night at the News-Review's main office in Mattituck.

Civic Person of the Year Vince Taldone (left), Public Servant of the Year Dennis Cavanaugh and Educator of the Year Keri Stromski were honored Thursday night at the News-Review’s main office in Mattituck.

Every year at this time we use this space to ask Riverhead News-Review readers to nominate candidates for our People of the Year issue. As we have for decades, we will name an educator, businessperson and overall person of the year in January.

We will also introduce three new categories: community leader (combining the former civic and public servant winners), sports person and northforker.com person of the year, honoring someone in the food, wine or tourism industry.

With their heartfelt nominations, our readers have always played perhaps the most important role in the selection process. Last year, they helped us choose a wide array of worthy recipients, from a beloved police officer to a fitness instructor operating three Main Street businesses, a teacher who takes learning to new levels, the president of an active civic organization and a young man whose battled for survival taught his peers a lesson in courage.

Who last year’s people of the year?

We’ve always prided ourselves on honoring people from diverse fields and all walks of life. We want to hear about people like the teacher who went above and beyond to help you become a better student or the business owner who never stops giving back to the community.

This town is loaded with residents who work tirelessly to make our area a better place. We always have a growing list of people who are more than qualified to earn such an honor. That list can never be too long.

We realize there are a great many people doing big things in their community who don’t seek the spotlight. As a result, the work they do is hardly noticed. That’s who we’re talking about.

Do you know such a person? Let us know.

Nominations can be mailed to Times/Review Newsgroup, P.O. Box 1500, Mattituck, NY 11952. Or you can email the editor at mwhite@timesreview.com. Faxes are OK, too; our fax number is 631-298-3287. Or just give us a call at 631-298-3200 and ask for Michael White at extension 152.

Tell us why this person or group is deserving — and please be sure to give us your phone number so we can follow up. All correspondence will be kept confidential, so the people nominated don’t even have to know you are singling them out. Nominations should be submitted by Dec. 1.

We plan to announce our People of the Year in the Jan. 8, 2015, edition.

09/27/14 8:00am
09/27/2014 8:00 AM
(Credit: Carrie Miller)

(Credit: Carrie Miller)

At last check, private property owners have every right to remove illegally parked cars from their premises. And when that private property owner happens to be a nonprofit educational center hoping to better attract families from across the county, it should be encouraged to do so and not scolded by those who just happened to miss — or more likely, dismiss — the tow-away signs. (more…)

09/19/14 5:00am
09/19/2014 5:00 AM
Andrew Hubner of Shoreham-Wading River High School, physics teacher Andrew Kolchin, Asia McElroy from Riverhead High School and former Riverhead High School student Phil Becker of Bay Shore do some experiments with Newtown's Cradle Friday at BOCES' new Regional STEM high school in Bellport. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Andrew Hubner of Shoreham-Wading River High School, physics teacher Andrew Kolchin, Asia McElroy from Riverhead High School and former Riverhead High School student Phil Becker of Bay Shore do some experiments with Newton’s Cradle Friday at BOCES’ new Regional STEM high school in Bellport. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Any regular consumer of news beyond the local level won’t find it shocking to hear that the United States has fallen behind many other developed countries in science and technology achievement.  (more…)

09/13/14 9:00am
09/13/2014 9:00 AM
Town Board members Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy, left, and Supervisor Sean Walter at last week's Town Board meeting. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Town Board members Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy, left, and Supervisor Sean Walter at last week’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

With details emerging on Riverhead Town’s 2015 fiscal situation — a grim one, to say the least — town political leaders will have to put their money where their mouths are as they work to close a $1.5 million budget gap(more…)

09/05/14 8:00am
09/05/2014 8:00 AM
Riverhead's court officers do not carry a firearm. The judges who serve the court believe that should change. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Riverhead’s court officers do not carry a firearm. The judges who serve the court believe that should change. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The men and women brought into Riverhead Town Justice Court throughout the year stand accused of a wide array of crimes.

While some are being arraigned on non-violent charges, others have allegedly robbed, killed, beaten and raped people — and often they’ve reportedly committed these types of crimes on more than one occasion.

Yet, unlike most towns, the exterior of the courtroom they enter is secured by court officers who do not carry guns.

So while the accused criminals are escorted into the court by armed police officers, those who meet them there — sometimes family members, other times associates or potential adversaries — are greeted by unarmed court officers.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Police Chief David Hegermiller say the cramped hallways leading into the courtroom are not conducive to arming officers. Justices Allen Smith and Richard Ehlers and assistant district attorney Tim McNulty disagree.

On this issue, we tend to side with the judges and prosecutor, who spend more time in the courtroom and are more in touch with its needs.

The argument that the corridor where guests of the court are screened is too narrow and could lead to situations in which officers have their guns removed from them is too simplistic. These are trained peace officers who already receive firearms training and, like police officers, should be trusted never to lose possession of their gun in a dangerous situation. As long as they continue to receive proper training — and additional training where necessary — this should never be an issue.

What’s perhaps most telling in this week’s cover story about the debate over arming court officers is Mr. Walter’s statement that he plans to address safety issues in the court by relocating it to the former armory building on Route 58. While Mr. Walter desperately wants to see the relocation happen, we’re not sure he has the votes to deliver. We don’t believe a transfer is any reason not to arm court officers now — unless, of course, the supervisor believes making small adjustments to improve court safety now will cost him the political capital he’ll need to get the courts relocated later.

We believe anything that can be done to make the courts safer today is in the best interest of the public Mr. Walter is elected to represent.

08/29/14 7:00am
08/29/2014 7:00 AM
An abandoned gas station on Flanders Road just east of the Peconic Avenue circle. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

An abandoned gas station on Flanders Road just east of the Peconic Avenue circle. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Peconic Avenue has a new tenant, and locals should take notice.

Renaissance Downtowns has had a sign posted in its storefront for the past couple of months, but with a community liaison now on the ground and officially hired for the job, the for-profit company can officially get to work on charting a course for the future of Riverside.

Is it frustrating — and somewhat typical — to see another plan in the works for the beleaguered community, where making progress has for far too long been on the back burner for Southampton Town and Suffolk County leaders? Yes — but as the saying goes, nothing worth having ever came easy. And area residents have before them a great opportunity with a private company that’s financially invested in gathering public feedback — and crafting a vision for Riverside based on that information. Unlike with a government study, if the plan it ultimately develops isn’t executed, Renaissance Downtowns loses private money. Its motivations are financial, not political. That gives us hope.

However, it helps that political leaders are on board and supportive of the overall effort to lift up the area.

A public meeting will be held next month on a pedestrian bridge that could connect the hamlet with a burgeoning downtown Riverhead. A study has already been completed on the feasibility of a sewer treatment plant in Riverside, and the county seems on board to contribute funds to build one. This fall, voters townwide will go to the polls to determine if the hamlet — along with neighboring Flanders and Northampton — should get what we argue is a much-needed garbage district.

The missing link to realizing a long-term vision for Riverside is a cohesive effort from residents throughout the hamlet, not just a few politicians and civic leaders. While their support is vital, what’s paramount is feedback from those living and working there — and in downtown Riverhead — who will be most affected by long-term changes. They should stop by Renaissance Downtowns’ Peconic Avenue offices, give organizers five minutes if they drop by or, better yet, attend any upcoming meetings. Business mixers and community forums are in the works. Be there and let your thoughts be known.

08/22/14 7:00am
08/22/2014 7:00 AM

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 4.14.39 PMOver the past decade, Riverhead Town leaders in current and previous administrations have dipped into financial reserves to balance town budgets. Those funds have now run out and hard decisions have to be made in order to close a looming gap of $4 million — nearly 10 percent of the town’s general fund — next year.

Borrowing against future land sales at the Enterprise Park at Calverton — a bridge loan as it’s been called — may seem an easy way out. But the risks are great and it should be avoided. The town is already unable to meet its debt obligations on one gamble it made on future revenues: the Community Preservation Fund. It must learn from its mistakes. The idea is to pay back the bridge loan after two to three years using anticipated proceeds from selling town land at EPCAL. Aside from having to pay interest, the town’s history of selling land there speaks for itself: The last sale was 11 years ago.

Until now, Supervisor Sean Walter has candidly and unabashedly touted an all-or-nothing approach in advocating for the bridge loan: Sell the land and he’ll save taxpayers from a looming, double-digit tax increase. But if land isn’t sold, town residents face a tax increase that could be twice that much — or more over time, should the town keep taking out loans.

From a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, nothing about Mr. Walter’s plan seems conservative.

But it’s the sheer lack of creativity evidenced so far in discussions about reducing the budget gap that has been most disappointing.

Up to now, no Town Board member has proposed any detailed, out-of-the-box ideas that would plug the hole — whether by cutting, consolidating or finding new revenue sources. Considering they all approved this year’s budget, the blame lies with them just as much as with Mr. Walter.

Finding a common ground between a tax increase, cuts and limited borrowing will likely be what’s best in the end. And until the Town Board finalizes this year’s budget, nothing should be off the table.

How about 3 percent (or even 2 or 1.5 percent) cuts across all town departments? Or furloughs? What would the town’s services (and pocketbook) look like if it folded its dispatching, or even its water district or police department, into the larger Suffolk County entities? Are there any permits the town can extend to two years instead of one? Can fees be increased? Surely, with these questions and so many others as a start, that $4 million deficit can be reduced.