08/30/12 4:46pm
08/30/2012 4:46 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A woman was hospitalized after a two-car crash on Route 58 Thursday afternoon

A woman suffered non life-threatening injuries after a minivan carrying her and four children struck an SUV on Route 58 in Riverhead Thursday afternoon.

The woman’s gray Dodge Grand Caravan driven was heading east on Route 58 about 3:45 p.m. when it struck a northbound black Chevy Trailblazer whose driver was trying to make a left turn onto Route 58 at Northville Turnpike, police said.

The four uninjured children in the car were taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center with the mother because there was no other guardian to take care of them, according to police; the driver of the SUV was unharmed.

Firefighters were called to the scene to redirect traffic; the road completely reopened about 4:15 p.m.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/30/12 4:00pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead teacher Shirley Hill giving out ice cream to kindergartners Wednesday at the Jamesport firehouse.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead teacher Shirley Hill giving out ice cream to kindergartners Wednesday at the Jamesport firehouse.

The Riverhead teacher union sponsored ice cream socials for kindergartners Wednesday at the Jamesport and Flanders firehouses.

“Even though kindergarten orientation was held back in June, this gives the children and their parents another opportunity to meet the teachers and put a face with the name before school starts,” said Phil Kent, the 10th-year principal at Aquebogue Elementary School.

“They can learn more about the school, the community and their fellow classmates,” he added.

Teachers read from the book, ‘The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing and Julie Durrell.

Each kindergartner was given a copy of the book to take home. After the event, the children enjoyed a cup of ice cream and Oreo cookies and got a chance to color some coloring book pages.

Aquebogue elementary has four kindergarten classes with about 85 students total.Riverhead Central Faculty Association officials stated in a press release that the goals of the ice cream socials are:

• To help kindergartners and their families adjust to a full school day more quickly so learning can take place.
• To let parents know that Riverhead teachers care about their children and want all of them to succeed.
• To promote reading, literacy, and learning.
• To promote a positive feeling about Riverhead schools.
• To help parents understand the importance of full day kindergarten for learning.Riley and Roanoke Avenue kindergartners were treated to an ice cream social Thursday afternoon at Riverhead fire headquarters.
The first day of school is next Wednesday.
Aquebogue teacher,

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Shirley Hill, who teaches special education in Aquebogue, reading ‘The Night Before Kindergarten.’

Jamesport Fire Department, Riverhead teacher union RCFA

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Carlos Garcia, 3, (his sister Diany is a kindergartner) Bryce Mackie and Coy Witt during coloring time Wednesday.

08/30/12 2:37pm

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Firefighters in a brush truck spray down a small brush fire in Aquebogue Thursday afternoon.

Riverhead firefighters used hoses and a brush truck to douse a fire that sparked in a field near Reeves Creek in Aquebogue Thursday afternoon.

The fire began in a high grassy area just south of Peconic Bay Boulevard about 1:40 p.m., said third assistant chief Pete Jackman.

Firefighters arrived on scene with an engine and used a hose to put out the fire. A brush truck —  a specialized vehicle used to access areas off roadways — drove into the brush as a precaution and drenched the area with water to completely extinguish the blaze.

The cause of the fire has not been determined yet, said Riverhead Fire Department Chief Anthony White.

psquire@timesreview.com

08/30/12 1:00pm

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Fire district headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

The Riverhead Fire District has inadequate procedures for hiring professional services and paid more than $780,000 to three professionals without a written agreement stating the rate of compensation, a recent New York State Comptroller advisory audit of the district found.

The state also found the district did not have enough control over remote access of the district’s data.

The audit, which examined the district for the period of Jan. 1, 2010 to Sept. 30, 2011, states the district didn’t solicit “competitive proposals” for any of the professional services that were examined. Three of those professionals were hired without a resolution or written agreement stating their rate of pay; the professionals were eventually paid $787,697, according to the audit.

Four of the remaining six professional service contracts that totaled $301,860 were paid out using agreements that included “open-ended terms.”

The lack of competitive bids for work, as well as unclear rates of pay, meant officials could not guarantee the services were “procured in the most prudent and economical manner,” according to the audit.

The Fire District is funded primarily through property taxes.

The state audit recommended the fire district use “competitive methods” to hire professional services and have written agreements for all professionals hired that includes the cost of the services.

In a written response to the state from the district’s chairman, Dennis Hamill, he said that the district is not required to put out competitive bids under General Municipal Law, and said the board “routinely” monitors the costs of the services, using rate schedules.

Many of the professional services must be completed in a short period of time, Mr. Hamill added.

“The nature of these services are such that they do not readily lend themselves to competitive procurement procedures,” Mr. Hamill wrote. “The Board is confident that professional services were obtained to provide the knowledge and skill needed in each instance at a fair price.”

In a response to the district’s letter, the state said that rate schedules “do not constitute or replace” written agreements.

The audit also stated the Board of Commissioners does not have a policy to “monitor or control remote access,” which allows certain service provider and managers to access the district’s computer system through the Internet.

According to the study, the holes in monitoring and controlling remote access could allow data to be manipulated and “could lead to the loss of important [financial] data and cause serious interruption to the District’s operations.”

The audit suggests the board should create a “comprehensive computer use policy” to protect their data from tampering, and better define who can access the district’s system.

Mr. Hamill wrote that the district has established a procedure to “closely monitor and limit” remote access, and will obtain access logs of who uses the system.

The district is not bound to follow the audit’s recommendations, comptroller’s office spokesman Brian Butry said, adding that the audit serves to bring potential issues to light.

It is up to each audited party to respond to the findings, he said.

“These are just recommendations,” Mr. Butry said “These audits are advisory in nature.”

psquire@timesreview.com

08/30/12 12:55pm

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Two people were hospitalized after four cars crashed on Middle Country Road in Calverton Thursday morning.

Two people, including a pregnant woman, were hospitalized Thursday afternoon after four vehicles crashed on Middle Country Road in Calverton, police said.

The crash occurred about 11:50 a.m. when a driver “took his eyes off the road” and slammed into the back of another vehicle stopped in traffic near Windy Acres farm stand, police at the scene said. The rear-end collision caused the car to crash into another vehicle, which then hit another vehicle, which hit another. Four cars in total were involved in the accident, police said.

A driver of one of the cars was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center with minor neck and back injuries, while a pregnant passenger in another vehicle was hospitalized for observation after the accident, police said.

An officer at the scene interviewed the driver who started the crash and determined he had not been texting when the accident occurred. Police issued no tickets or citations as a result of the incident.

About half an hour later, two vehicles collided at the intersection of Route 58 and Harrison Avenue. No one was seriously injured in the accident, with both drivers walking outside of their cars after the crash.

One of the drivers at the scene complained of neck pain.

The accident caused traffic delays along Old Country Road.

08/30/12 11:16am
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Debt service on Riverhead Town's failed reclamation project is costing taxpayers $450,000 next year in debt payments.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Debt service on Riverhead Town’s failed reclamation project is costing taxpayers $450,000 next year in debt payments.

The Riverhead Town Board is set to start hammering out a spending plan for 2013.

And that process will once again start off with a $2.6 million “structural deficit,” according to Supervisor Sean Walter, who is required to present a tentative town budget for 2013 by the end of September.

As with previous years, the deficit stems not from overspending the current budget, but with the fact that this year’s budget uses $2.6 million in surplus funds to lower taxes.

But Mr. Walter, who had been critical of previous administrations for their use of surplus funds to lower taxes, said in an interview that he will likely have to apply another $2.6 million in surplus, also called fund balance, to lower taxes in the 2013 budget.

The town must pay about $450,000 in landfill debt next year.

The debt from the landfill will heavily impact the next few town budgets, he said.

The town ran into cost overruns at its town landfill when it tried to do a landfill “reclamation” while closing the landfill, instead of the customary capping of the landfill. The reclamation, which involves excavating garbage and recyclable material from the pit and either selling them or taking them elsewhere, ended up costing way more than the town had anticipated.

Another big increase in the upcoming budget is from employee salary increases that are mandated as a result of already signed contracts with employee unions, Mr. Walter said.

That number adds about $500,000 more to the budget, he said.

“Between the salary increases and the landfill debt, you’ve got a million dollar increase,” Mr. Walter said.

Also, department heads’ requests for funding in the 2013 budget, if approved, would total another $500,000, he added.

The town allocated $2.6 million in surplus to this year’s budget and $2.6 million to the 2011 budget, Mr. Walter said. The town only spent about $2 million of that amount in 2011 and Mr. Walter’s hoping the town won’t spend the entire amount this year.

In the 2010 budget, which was adopted before Mr. Walter took office, the town allocated $4.7 million in fund balance to lower taxes.

The 2009 budget used $2 million in surplus funds to keep taxes from spiking.

The town began 2012 with about $11 million left in fund balance — or reserves — and that number will be reduced by however much the town spends of the $2.6 million this year, Mr. Walter said.

In addition to the spending issues, the town also must comply with the state’s 2-percent tax cap, which applies to the tax levy increase.

The landfill debt must be paid, so any cuts will have to come from other areas, Mr. Walter said.

He added that it’s too early to know if he will propose eliminating some town jobs.

An audit completed earlier this year found about $360,000 in “trust and agency accounts” that were left over from things like forfeited bonds over a 30-year period and Mr. Walter said he plans to use about $250,000 of that money on engineering to turn the old armory building on Route 58 into a new police headquarters and justice court.

There’s also another $493,000 the audit discovered in foundation permit accounts that the town is still auditing to determine if it can be claimed by the town.

If that money can be claimed, the supervisor wants to use it to update the town’s antiquated computer system, which is about 30 years old.

As for revenues, the supervisor expects the mortgage recording tax revenue, which is one of the bigger revenue items the town gets, to increase about $100,000, bringing the total to about $1 million. Meaning, the amount of those revenues the Town Board can apply to the 2013 budget will be $100,000 more than the amount the board applied to the 2012 budget.

That number is affected by the real estate market. The town got about $2 million in mortgage tax revenues in 2004, Mr. Walter said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Read more in the Sept. 6 edition of the News-Review.

The Riverhead News-Review is available on newsstands and by clicking for the E-Paper.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members (from left) Jim Wooten, John Dunleavy, Supervisor Sean Walter, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen.

08/30/12 8:00am

A Flanders man reported that an unknown man entered his unlocked house last Tuesday afternoon and demanded money as the victim sat in his kitchen.

“Give me money,” the suspect told the Point Road resident after walking through the front door, Southampton Town police said.

The victim explained that he didn’t have money on him, but then gave the man his wallet. The suspect said the man then took $40 out of the wallet and left, saying, “Call the police! Call the police!”

The victim said he didn’t immediately call police, because, “It was like a comedy.”

The suspect was wearing a black doo-rag, a blue T-shirt, red shorts, white sneakers and a black handkerchief on his face.

08/30/12 6:00am

To the Editor:

I was one of many bibliophiles who joined the email campaign to Books A Million in the hopes that our town would not be long without a bookstore after Borders closed. Every now and then we would drive by the building to see if there was any indication of some new business. Tonight, the family was so excited to see lights on and signs of construction. We drove up to see a sign in the window announcing that the building is now going to be the home of yet another shoe store.

Really? Are they kidding?

Why on earth would anyone approve another shoe store in this town? Google “Shoe Stores, Riverhead, NY”. There are over 23 places to buy shoes between the Long Island Expressway and Route 105.

Is it that the developers, who love to fly in from large metropolitan places and tell us what we need in this little burg, are not really looking at their demographic information? Do they get paid more if they can push a big box store on us? Are the existing shoe stores not filling the shoe-buying needs of the public? Are they so specialized that we require a shoe store for each type of shoe in our closets?

Riverhead would be better served by businesses we don’t currently have in abundance. How about an IKEA? We could use affordable, earth friendly, durable furniture and the nearest IKEA is in Nassau County. Why not a Bass Pro Shop? We have plenty of camping, hunting, fishing and hiking on the East End. There are indoor rock climbing facilities that would appeal to a wide variety of people; the nearest one of these is in Plainview. I’m sure there are plenty of businesses that would enhance Riverhead’s economy, especially if we stop offering outrageous tax breaks.

I would like to encourage Riverhead Town to be more judicious in the development of the business district. We have enough auto parts stores, shoe stores, box discount retail stores and mediocre chain restaurants. Let our mom-and-pop businesses thrive and invite companies to town that will complement, not compete with, them.

Laura Jacques, Riverhead

Read more Letters to the Editor in this week’s Riverhead News-Review available on newsstands or by clicking for the E-Paper.