11/30/11 10:48pm
11/30/2011 10:48 PM

The 23rd annual Big Duck Christmas Lighting was held Wednesday night at the Big Duck Ranch in Flanders.

This year also marks the 80th anniversary of the Long Island-landmark on Route 24.

The Riverhead Middle School show choir, under the direction of Nadine Greenberg, sang traditional holiday songs with the lyrics changed to reflect and honor the Big Duck and being in Flanders. Some of the titles were: “Down the Highway and on a Big Truck” and “Big Duck Christmas.”

The final song was ‘Big Duck, the White Winged Waterfowl’ sang to the tune of “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.”

Santa arrived by an escort of Flanders Fire Department volunteers.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS | Riverhead Middle School choir singers belt out traditional holiday songs, but with Big Duck-themed lyrics.

11/30/11 10:43pm

If the McGann-Mercy Monarchs need inspiration, they can always look back to 2001-02. The Monarchs stumbled through a 2-16 season, only to come back the next year and win the county championship.

Mercy coach Mike Clauberg knows it’s a different set of circumstances this year as the Monarchs begin a new season after posting a 1-17 record a year ago. Most notably is how the Monarchs have continually climbed into higher leagues and classifications, pitting them against stiff competition.

This year, their third in a row in the competitive League VII, the Monarchs will play as a Class B school for the first time since the ’80s, Clauberg estimated, adding that they’re the smallest B school in the state after the enrollment numbers were adjusted for this year.

It’s a tough road, one that doesn’t get any easier in the non-league schedule when the Monarchs play big schools like Lindenhurst.

“We don’t mind being the underdog,” Clauberg said.

The Monarchs went winless in league last year and have totaled only three wins in the last two years combined. They’ll look to turn that around this year with a roster that features a lot of experience. The Monarchs lost only two players off last year’s team and return a trio of players who are in their third year on varsity.

“I have a decent nucleus this year and I’m hoping to be a little more competitive than last year,” Clauberg said.

Patrick Stepnoski returns to play forward alongside Danny Hartmann, a versatile swingman, and Joe Crosser, who will run the point.

Senior Junior Paul, a stronger defensive player and rebounder, returns along with guard Brian Willet, who had a strong game in the team’s scrimmage Tuesday night against St. John the Baptist.

A newcomer to the varsity is sophomore Nykel Reese.

The Monarchs scrimmaged against Shoreham earlier in the week before facing St. John the Baptist Tuesday. Clauberg said the team came out sloppy against the Wildcats but was much sharper against St. John the Baptist.

“My starting lineup did very well,” he said.

Mercy opens the League VII season Dec. 16 on the road at Southampton.

joew@timesreview.com

11/30/11 5:00pm
ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO  |  Shoreham-Wading River senior John Kovach is a captain for the Wildcats along with senior Robbie Bray.

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior John Kovach is a captain for the Wildcats along with senior Robbie Bray.

At times last year, the offense for Shoreham-Wading River became the Kevin Davis show. From the first game of the season when he scored 42 points against Hampton Bays, to the playoff loss against Islip when he scored 30, Davis had the ability to carry the Wildcats.

Now with Davis gone, along with the outside threat of Ryan McAlary, the Wildcats enter the 2011-12 season trying to blend together a new mix of players on offense.

“I think with us it’s going to be offensive execution,” said Shoreham coach Kevin Culhane. “We don’t have Kevin Davis to bail us out going one-on-one if we needed it.”

What the Wildcats (10-9 last year) may lack in some of the offensive power, they make up for with a tall, athletic defensive group that has the ability to create match-up problems for opponents.

The Wildcats will rely on the basics to succeed this season: defense and rebounding. And as the season progresses, the offense they hope will continue to come along.

Culhane said four of the team’s starters are at least 6-foot-3.

The top returning scorer for the Wildcats is forward John Kovach, who was an all-league player last year as a starter. Culhane said Kovach has gotten bigger and stronger this season.

Chris Mahoney is another returning forward who saw time last year. Mahoney has good size and can score off offensive rebounds. He also has the ability to hit shots from the outside.

Jono Criscito gives the Wildcats another big man down low who has a nice touch on a mid-range jumper.

Kevin Turano will run the point for Shoreham.

“His outside shooting will be somewhat of a key for us,” Culhane said. “He handles the ball very well. And he’s improved eons from last year.”

Robbie Bray will play alongside Turano at the other guard. He’s another player who’s improved a lot, Culhane said, and at 6-3, can create havoc at the top of a zone defense with his size. Bray is a co-captain along with Kovach.

“I think in some ways defensively we might be a little better,” Culhane said. “Obviously offense, that’s going to be our challenge.”

Tim Rotanz will provide a spark off the bench. At 6-1, Rotanz has the ability to play a number of different positions.

While the team is mostly inexperienced at the varsity level, Culhane said the players put in a lot of work during the offseason to prepare for the season. And they did it with mostly multi-sport athletes.

“We played a fall league, spring league, summer camp at Stony Brook and a summer league,” Culhane said. “So we got a lot of experience that helped the guys out a lot.”

The Wildcats played their first scrimmage against McGann-Mercy with mixed results.

“Typical first scrimmage,” Culhane said. “At times we looked brilliant running the offense and times we looked like we were from Mars. I thought we played some good man-to-man defense and some good zone defense.”

The Wildcats open the non-league season Friday at Sayville. They kick off the League VI season Dec. 20 at home against Westhampton.

Culhane said he expects Amityville to be the toughest competition within the league. Mount Sinai should also be near the top of the league.

“Amityville’s the king of the hill,” Culhane said. “They’re really loaded.”

joew@timesreview.com

11/30/11 4:34pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A Maggio Sanitation truck in Riverhead.

Riverhead taxpayers in the town’s garbage district can expect to pay at least $150 less for garbage pickup in 2012, town officials said Wednesday.

Garbage district residents paid $504 for trash pickup in 2011, according to data provided by the town’s tax receiver office.

Riverhead Town submitted a request for proposals for sanitation services in September and the due date for bids was Tuesday. The town has not yet awarded the sanitation bid, but even if the contract was awarded to the highest bidder it would still save homeowners $150 a year, said deputy town supervisor Jill Lewis.

“Its going to be at least that much of a savings,” she said. Ms. Lewis did not name the companies that submitted bids.

The seven bids are currently being vetted by deputy town attorney Anne Marie Prudenti, and the contract will be awarded sometime in December, Ms. Lewis said.

The Yaphank-based Maggio Sanitation currently handles garbage pickup and disposal in Riverhead Town.

vchinese@timesreview.com

11/30/11 4:00pm

Riverhead Town successfully sold $22 million in bonds Tuesday, at an interest rate of just 3.05 percent, town officials announced.

The town was able to secure a low interest rate in part because Moody’s Investors Service upheld Riverhead Town’s Aa2 bond rating, which is the third highest rating Moody’s has for long term obligation bonds. AAA is the highest, followed by Aa1, Aa2 and Aa3. A town’s bond rating affects the interest rates it gets on loans.

“It is a true testament of the sacrifices this town has made over the past couple of years,” Supervisor Sean Walter said Wednesday.

The town budgeted for a 4 percent interest rate in 2012, which means it can spend $120,000 less from the general fund than previously thought. It will also save the highway department about $30,000, Mr. Walter said.

The bonds sold Tuesday are for various projects around town that had previously been unfunded, he said.

“Under the prior administration, numerous projects were not properly funded and, thus, the town has used tax dollars inefficiently,” Mr. Walter said. “By bonding these projects, we can better fund the day-to-day operations of town government, saving taxpayers’ money.”

The town was unable to sell bonds earlier this year until the annual audits for 2008, 2009 and 2010 were completed. All have been finished this year.

vchinese@timesreview.com

11/30/11 2:51pm

COURTESY PHOTO | Attorney General Eric Schneiderman at a press conference Wednesday announcing charges related to a statewide sting of illegal gun sales.

A Wading River man is facing charges for failing to conduct a proper background while selling an assault rifle at a gun show, according to a press release from the New York State Attorney General’s office.

Alexander Lasurdo of Zophar Mills Road is one of 10 defendants accused in a statewide investigation into the illegal sale of guns at gun shows, officials said. A spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Mr. Lasurdo sold the gun at a show held in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall in Hauppauge this September.

Beginning in March of this year, undercover officers from the Attorney General’s office purchased weapons from sellers at gun shows in Erie, Genesee, Saratoga, Schoharie, Suffolk and Washington counties.

“The 10 defendants charged today chose to sell a firearm to the undercover officer with brazen disregard for the required NICS background check,” read the press release from the AG’s office. “Typically, the undercover investigator told the seller that he had an order of protection against him and would not be able to pass a background check.”

An AG spokesperson said Mr. Lasurdo sold a Rock River AR 15 assault rifle to the undercover investigator.

NICS background checks are required for all gun purchases at gun shows throughout the state, authorities said. A person who fails an NICS background check is ineligible to purchase or possess a gun under federal law.

The AG’s office said persons prohibited under federal law from purchasing or possessing a gun include those who:

• Have been convicted of a felony

• Have been adjudicated a “mental defective” or committed to a mental institution

• Are unlawful users of or addicted to a controlled substance

• Being an alien, or living illegally or unlawfully in the U.S.

• Are subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner

• Have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence; or

• Have been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces

“The illegal sale of guns at gun shows endangers the public by giving felons, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill an open and anonymous marketplace to buy guns without a background check,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.

Other states, such as Arizona, have been criticized by gun control advocates for loose regulations at gun shows.

Mr. Lasurdo has been offered an appearance ticket on a misdemeanor charge of failure to conduct a background check at a gun show and is due in court at a later date, an AG spokesperson said.

gparpan@timesreview.com

11/30/11 12:20pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Hal Goodale with the as yet unamed baby calf.

A local farmer is asking the public to help name his newborn calf.

The baby holstein heifer was born Saturday at Goodale Farms in Aquebogue to mom Lila at 6:38 p.m. She came into the world already weighing 82 lbs. 6 oz. and 34 inches tall. She nursed from her mother for one day and is now being bottle fed her mother’s milk, four pints four times a day, said owner Hal Goodale III.

Mr. Goodale is asking people to send in names by Saturday, Dec. 3rd. Email hal@goodalefarms.com.

11/30/11 11:00am

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | School Board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse presents former Riverhead schools physician Rogelio Lao with a plaque for his 41 years of service.

The Riverhead School district has good internal controls over its general fund, extraclassroom fund and its federal funds, according to findings presented by the district’s external auditor at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Vincent Cullen of the accounting firm Cullen & Danowski LLP, which as required by law is paid by the district to perform the annual financial analysis, was on hand to discuss the audit. The analysis focused on the general fund, the extraclassroom fund —  expenses that occur through student activities outside the classroom, such as clubs  — and money the district received from the federal government.

And the process and findings reflected positively on Riverhead, Mr. Cullen said, noting that the lines of communication were open between his office and district officials throughout.
“I’m here to tell you we had full cooperation from your staff,” Mr. Cullen said.

The board also unanimously accepted the auditor’s findings.

In other school board news, the district approved the first two contracts of the voter-approved $78.3 million plan for infrastructure updates at district buildings and grounds. Those contracts are a $48,805 agreement with Soil Mechanics Drilling Corporation for soil boring and a $90,2000 agreement with L.K. McLean Associates for land surveying.

These steps are needed in order to gain site plan approval from the state Education Department. The money will be borrowed from the general fund and later reimbursed, because the project has not yet been bonded, school board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse told those in attendence.

The board also recognized Dr. Rogelio Lao for serving 41 years as district physician. Dr. Bellamy Brook of The Medical Home in Riverhead has taken over his post. A request for proposals was issued to fill the position, and though Dr. Lao said he had submitted a bid for his old job, the district decided to hire Dr. Bellamy.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said the district opted to issue the RFP in part due to recent changes in medical practices.

“We just felt we needed somebody who was younger and more up to date on practices,” Ms. Cotten-Degrasse told the News-Reveiw earlier this week.

vchinese@timesreview.com