02/28/11 11:25pm
02/28/2011 11:25 PM

Riverhead Town officials are looking into the possibility of no longer sheltering dogs in its Youngs Avenue pound and instead sending those dogs to Brookhaven Town’ municipal shelter, according to Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller, whose department oversees the local shelter.

For years, town officials have discussed the possibility of separating the animal control function from shelter operations so that the responsibility for maintaining the shelter and getting dogs adopted would not rest with the animal control officers.

The chief briefly brought up the topic of sending the town’s dogs to Brookhaven Town’s shelter in Yaphank “as a cost-saving measure” during a meeting of the town’s Animal Shelter Advisory Committee Monday.

But committee members voiced strong opposition to the proposal.

“No way,” said committee member Connie Farr. “If I lose little Fluffy and I have to go to Brookhaven to retrieve my dog and I live in Riverhead and I paid all my taxes, I would be very [angry].”

“Are we talking about just the dogs that now belong to us, and not the ones we’re picking up off the street…?” asked the committee’s chairperson, Noreen LeCann.

“We’re talking about not housing dogs,” the chief responded.

“At all?” Ms. LeCann asked.

“At all,” Chief Hegermiller said.

Dogs kept at the shelter are usually either dogs picked up as strays or dogs surrendered by their owners.

Statistics from the Riverhead Police Department indicate that in 2010, the town impounded 155 dogs. In addition, 54 dogs were surrendered and seven more were either found dead after car accidents or brought in dead by owners for cremations. The town got 105 dogs adopted and 98 dogs — including the dogs found dead in the streets — were returned to their owners, and 13 were cremated. Of the 13 cremated dogs, eight dogs had been euthanized.

Chief Hegermiller said six of those eight dogs were euthanized for health reasons, leaving only two dogs having been put down because they were deemed unadoptable by shelter officials.

The town currently has about 18 dogs in its shelter.

Committee members said the Brookhaven shelter is overcrowded itself, as evidence by a recent proposal by Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko to pay animal rescue organizations $250 for each pit bull they adopt from the town shelter. Like most municipal shelters, most of the dogs in Brookhaven’s shelter are pit bulls.

The chief said the proposed move is about consolidation, much like consolidation is talked about with school districts.

“People love dogs,” Ms. Farr said. “And to be politically correct and smart, this town would be dog friendly and they would have a nice shelter and they would have everyone happy here.”

She said the current shelter smells because it’s surrounded by a landfill, a sanitation company’s hub and the town’s deer cemetery, and that there are giant rats that come into the shelter and get killed by the dogs.

The chief said the idea of sending Riverhead’s dogs to Brookhaven’s shelter — for a price, of course — is being discussed, but that no final decision has been made.

Supervisor Sean Walter said on Friday that he hopes to have a solution to the animal shelter problems within 30 days, but he wouldn’t say what that solution might be.

“I’m working on some things and hopefully in the next month, we’ll have an answer,” he said.

He acknowledged that last Tuesday he called Rex Farr, Connie’s husband and a vocal critic of the current shelter, and asked for a 30-day grace period by which to solve the shelter problems.

Mr. Farr insisted any solution would have to include removing animal control officer Lou Coronesi, who has clashed with shelter volunteers and who recently came under fire for previous animal crime convictions and his handling of a case involving a pit bull named Bruno that was euthanized in December.

“I didn’t propose that idea,” Mr. Walter said when asked about the previously expected move Mr. Coronesi out of the shelter position and into another town position. “But we have taken appropriate actions with Lou and that’s a personnel issue and I can’t go further than that.”

“Other things probably will happen in the not-so distance future if I’m successful,” the supervisor added.

Councilman Jim Wooten, who is the Town Board’s liaison to the shelter advisory committee, said he thinks Mr. Coronesi should be moved to another position and that the town should work more cooperatively with volunteers at the shelter.

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02/28/11 6:32pm

Riverhead Town saw a 158 percent increase in Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund (CPF) revenues in January 2011 compared to January 2010.

That’s the largest percentage increase in CPF revenues among any of the five East End towns for January. Even so, Riverhead still took in less money than any town other than tiny Shelter Island.

Riverhead’s January 2011 CPF number was $310,000, up from $120,000 the previous January.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the town needs that money to pay off debt on past land purchases, made with money borrowed against future CPF revenues.

But to meet the debt burden, Mr. Walter said, “We need to very quickly get up to earning $3.5 million a year in revenue. If we don’t, we’re in trouble.”

For the past three years, the town hasn’t met that goal, collecting $2.29 million in 2010, $1.62 million in 2009 and $2.77 million in 2008, according to statistics provided by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

However, the town was able to keep up with interest payments by using a $19.3 million CPF reserve fund accumulated from prior years, when the economy was good and the town collected far more in annual CPF revenues than it does now, according to town finance administrator Bill Rothaar.

At the start of 2010, the town had $99 million in debt on purchases leveraged against future CPF earnings, and about $19 million in reserve funds from past CPF earnings, Mr. Rothaar said. The total debt is now down to $87 million, and CPF reserves now stand at $19.3 million.

Riverhead brought in far more CPF revenue from 2003 to 2007, when the economy and the real estate market were strong. It received $4.33 million in 2007, $6.1 million in 2006, $5.55 million in 2005 and $4.16 million in 2004.

“We need the CPF to start raining money or we’re going to have to find funds someplace else to pay the debt,” Mr. Walter said. “But, we’re okay for now.”

Assemblyman Thiele said this week that the five East End towns together took in $6.4 million in CPF revenues during January 2011 — the highly monthly total for the fund since May 2008. He said there were slightly fewer transactions this January than last, but that sales prices were higher.

“It would appear that the revenue increase continues to be driven by activity at the high end of the real estate market,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release.

The CPF money comes from a 2 percent real estate transfer tax, paid by the buyer, in each of the five East End towns. The revenues are administered independently in each town to fund the preservation of open space and farmland and cover some related administrative costs.

Since the fund was first implemented in 1999, after voters in each town approved it, Riverhead has earned almost $39 million from the CPF, less than any other East End town except Shelter Island, and far less than the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, which have collected more than $380 million and $180 million, respectively, during that same period.
Riverhead has used its CPF money to preserve more than 1,700 acres of open space and farmland.

The $3.5 million per year figure the supervisor referred to is the revenue Riverhead must average between 2009 and 2030, when the CPF tax expires, to pay off its debt, according to Mr. Rothaar. He said Tuesday that updated figures show the average needed per year is actually $3.4 million.

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02/28/11 6:28pm
SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop publicly opposed steep cuts in a federal spending plan passed by the House of Representatives last Saturday which could force Brookhaven National Laboratory to cut a third of its work force and close two cutting edge facilities.

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop publicly opposed steep cuts in a federal spending plan passed by the House of Representatives last Saturday which could force Brookhaven National Laboratory to cut a third of its work force and close two cutting edge facilities.

Congressman Tim Bishop opposes steep cuts in a federal spending plan passed by the House of Representatives last Saturday that he said could force Brookhaven National Laboratory to cut a third of its work force.

he plan strips $1.1 billion from the federal Department of Energy’s Office of Science and about $890 million from its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The cuts could force BNL to lay off 950 full-time employees and shut down the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) and the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), according Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton).

Physicists use the RHIC facility to study what the universe may have looked like moments after its creation. And the NSLS is one of the world’s most heavily used scientific facilities, drawing 2,100 researchers from across the country, according to Mr. Bishop.

“I believe that we are facing a crisis in respect to two things,” Mr. Bishop said at a press conference in Ridge Monday that included scientists and elected officials. One is “the future of Brookhaven National Lab, or certainly its vitality, and, secondly, what ought to be a commitment to the advancement of science and research,” he said.

Tony Lanzirotti, a research scientist for the University of Chicago, lives in Wading River and conducts research at Brookhaven Lab’s NSLS. At the press conference, he said the spending cuts will be felt far and wide.

“It’s not just the 1,000 BNL employees that are impacted,” he said. “You can essentially double that in terms of all the other scientists that are brought here from universities [and] other industry groups. Essentially, our research stops.”

Mr. Bishop said the spending cuts send “a terribly depressing message about the commitment that this nation has to remaining on the cutting edge in terms of scientific research.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko said at the press conference the cuts will hurt the economy and unemployment rates in Brookhaven Town.

“The lab has taken a leadership role when it comes to … building an innovation-based economy, commercializing the research that’s taken place at this lab,” Mr. Lesko said. “I think that research is our future.”

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02/28/11 5:02pm

The East End Health Alliance has reached an agreement with Aetna Health Insurance on medical procedure reimbursements that avoids the alliance’s three area hospitals going out of network with the insurance company as of midnight, Monday, Feb. 28.
Patients with Aetna insurance plans were recently informed by letter they wouldn’t be covered for any emergency services at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead or Southampton Hospital as of midnight Feb. 28.

Details of the settlement won’t be available until late this week, but health alliance president and CEO Paul Connor III said a verbal agreement has been reached. Although the insurance will continue to be accepted at the hospitals, it will take a few days to read through the contract to be sure the verbal agreements are appropriately reflected, he said.

The impasse revived memories of the contractual dispute between the hospitals and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2009 when many Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield customers found themselves out of network with the three local hospitals for eight months before a new contract was signed.

The alliance is currently engaged in similar contract talks with Emblem, GHI and HIP. Mr. Connor said he expressed hope that an agreement can be reached with those companies to avoid inconveniencing patients.

02/28/11 4:38pm

Former Riverhead resident Helen Stella (Lescenski) Dombroski of New Port Richey, Fla., died Feb. 21.

Born in Riverhead to immigrants from Poland, she married Joseph Dombroski on May 3, 1941, at St. Isidore R.C. Church in Riverhead, and worked for Hazeltine Corporation, a local manufacturing company, until her retirement.

According to family, she was a dedicated wife and mother, and loved dancing and playing golf with her husband and friends.

Ms. Dombroski was predeceased by her husband in 2000, and is survived by her daughters Sandra, of Wesley Chapel, Fla., and Donna, of Boston, Mass., and Long Boat Key, Fla.; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Visiting hours were held Feb. 25 at Mclaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead. A Mass was celebrated Feb. 26 at St. Isidore R.C. Church, followed by interment at the church cemetery.

02/28/11 4:00pm

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I don’t know about that but I’m really praying that by the end of March we’ll have 60- to 70-degree days as the normal daytime temperatures. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wait a sec. Before you cross your fingers here is a bit of news that you may want to jot down first. Mark your calendar for Saturday, April 2, at 9 a.m., when the Kiwanis Club will host their seventh annual Breakfast of the Stars at Eagles Landing/Calverton Links Golf Course. This year’s “Stars” are Flanders’ own Fran Cobb (yippee, Fran!), Patrick Harris, Carl James, James Skabry, Margaret Vitale and Ann Cotton-Degrasse. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased, by March 28, by calling 463-5811.

Vendors are wanted for the Friends of The Big Duck’s annual Craft Fair/Flea Market. It is not too early to reserve your space for May 21 (Rain date: May 22) at the Big Duck Ranch in Flanders. All proceeds will go toward the restoration of Big Duck Ranch. For more information, visit bigduck.org or e-mail [email protected] for an application or any questions you may have.

The next Flanders Little League meeting will be held Tuesday, March 8, at 7 p.m. at the Dave W. Crohan Community Center. Topics of discussion will include spring season changes, their 40th anniversary opening-day ceremony, sponsors, uniforms and fundraising. It’s also the last chance to register your child for the 2011 season. The 9- through 12-year-olds will be playing travel ball this season. The 12- and 13-year-old travel team will have extended baselines and pitching distance. There is also a girls travel softball team for ages 10 through 12. All are welcome to attend and FLL hopes to see you there. Come out and support our local youth. Call 591-0444 for more information.

Goodbye and good luck to my co-worker Chris Fahrbach, who is retiring Wednesday, March 2, from Peconic Pediatrics. All of us wish you all the best! Enjoy your time with your grandchildren and family. We are going to miss you dearly.

Happy birthday to my uncle Dominick Tribuzio, who celebrates on March 12, from your wife, Felicia, your children, Tracy and Danny, your grandchildren, Madison and Sam, your son-in-law, Jeff, and all your family and friends. Dominick was the postman for McLeod’s mobile home park on Riverleigh Avenue for many years before he retired. He can still be seen there most days doing odd jobs for the residents. We hope you have a wonderful day.

Thanks to all who responded so far to RHS NJROTC’s plea for baskets and new, unused gifts for their upcoming chinese auction. For those of you who haven’t gotten around to it yet, do check your home to see if you have anything you’d like to donate. Call Joan at 631-926-4499 for more information or to have donations picked up.

That’s all for this week, friends and neighbors. Please remember to drive safely and slowly and to put those cell phones down. Have a wonderful weekend and don’t forget to call or e-mail me with any news you’d like to share. Oh, I almost forgot, you can cross your fingers again. Think spring!

02/28/11 4:00pm

David Ruszkowski of Aquebogue called me last week with wishes to share in the column. First, he wanted to wish his wife a very happy anniversary on Feb. 22. No, he didn’t forget. He called me on that day, hoping it would go in last week’s column. Remember, I have a Monday morning deadline for Thursday’s column. Anyway, he told me that he and his wife, Marzena, were going to Tweed’s Restaurant to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary. I hope you both had a lovely time. In addition, David and his daughters, Olivia and Natalia, wish Marzena a very happy birthday. Marzena celebrated Feb. 26. Best wishes to all!

The Save The Grange lecture series continues on Wednesday and Friday evenings at 6:30 at Grange Hall, Sound Avenue and Church Lane in Northville: On Wednesday, March 2, “In the Garden,” presented by Florence Rewinski; Friday, March 4, “In the Backyard,” by Thea Fry; and Wednesday, March 9, “Native Habitat Landscaping,” by Suzanne Ruggles, and “The Ambassador,” by Katherine Shelp. For more information, call Jeff Frank at The Nature Lyceum at 728-0218. Donations for The Grange can be sent to First Parish Church, P.O. Box 898, Jamesport NY 11947. Checks can be made payable to First Parish Church (mark “Save the Grange Campaign” in the memo).

On Saturday, March 12, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., I will begin offering a series at Grange Hall entitled, “40 Days to Focus,” integrating nutritional cleansing, resources for healthy living and meditations for prayer. “40 Days to Focus” is a booklet I wrote that offers resources and suggestions toward balancing body, mind and spirit. It also includes 40 days of prayer meditations as well as an appendix of resources for books and websites that have encouraged me along the way. The 40 Days to Focus series will include one spiritual theme each week. The sessions will conclude with group and individual prayer and will be offered free of charge. Free-will offerings for the Save The Grange project are appreciated. Call or e-mail me for further details.

As I mentioned last week, the soup supper at Old Steeple Community Church in Aquebogue will be held Sunday, March 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children under 12. For tickets, call Lenny at 722-3580 or e-mail Donna at [email protected] Stop in to warm your heart and your body with fellowship and good food.

Also on the 13th, at 6 p.m, Living Waters Church on Shade Tree Lane in Aquebogue is hosting a “Night of Worship.” All are welcome. Call 722-4969 for more details.

02/28/11 2:01pm
SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | The Briarcliff School in Shoreham will be closed this week, since it was deemed unsafe.

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | The Briarcliff School in Shoreham will be closed this week, since it was deemed unsafe.

Classes at Briarcliff Elementary School in the Shoreham-Wading River School District have been temporarily suspended after a ceiling tile fell in the school’s gymnasium last week district officials said this week.

Students will be attending classes at other schools within the district beginning Tuesday until Friday, according to superintendent Harriet Copel. Students were off Monday and the school will likely reopen next week.

“Administration and a team of architects and structural engineers are working together to ensure that Briarcliff students, faculty and staff can safely return to Briarcliff on Monday March 7th,” the school district states on its website.

In the meantime Briarcliff students, all kindergartners and first-graders, have be sent to Miller Avenue School and Wading River Elementary School since Tuesday. Bus routes and pickup times will remain the same. Teachers met Monday to plan for instruction this week.

A complete list of where Briarcliff students will be attending classes during the week is available on the school district’s website.

Safety concerns were initially raised when a custodian noticed a ceiling tile fall in the school’s multi-purpose room, which also serves as the gym, last week when school was not in session. Upon further inspection he noticed the ceiling was bowed in that section of the building, which was built in the 1950’s. Elizabeth Sobel, a spokesperson for the district, said gym classes will likely be held outside for the remainder of the year weather permitted.

The ceiling has since been secured with wood pilings, though construction will be necessary to permanently address the situation. Construction will not begin until after the school year and the room will not reopen until the start of the 2011-12 school year, according to Ms. Sobel.

The repairs will be paid for by the school’s insurance company at no additional costs to taxpayers.

An informational session on the building was attended by 200 parents Sunday.