09/13/13 3:30pm
09/13/2013 3:30 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | County Executive Steve Bellone (center) with Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen (from left); Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski; Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment; and town Councilman John Dunleavy at the town’s sewer plant Monday.

Riverhead Town is in line to receive $8.09 million from Suffolk County to help ease the pain of funding state and federally mandated upgrades to its main sewer treatment plant near Indian Island County Park, which are expected to cost up to $22 million.

The plant, built in 1937, has already been upgraded twice, most recently in 2000, to meet previous state Department of Environmental Conservation requirements, said Supervisor Sean Walter.

The deadline for completing these additional required upgrades is January 2014 but the town is expected to apply for an extension.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced at a press conference Monday that Riverhead Town — which must now upgrade both the level of treatment it provides and the capacity the plant can handle — had been unanimously recommended by the county’s sewer infrastructure committee to receive the award.

About $28 million in grants and loans were announced Monday, with Riverhead grabbing the lion’s share. The money comes from the county’s voter-approved 1/4 percent sales tax, which is used for environmental programs.

“These are projects that have gone though the process and have been approved, the engineering is done. They are ready to go,” Mr. Bellone said, describing Riverhead’s project and others slated to receive grant money as “shovel-ready.”

In addition to the grant, Riverhead’s sewer upgrade also qualified for $4 million in county loans.

Mr. Bellone also said that the privately developed 19-unit apartment project at downtown Riverhead’s former Woolworth building had qualified for $800,000 in grants.

The county had about $33 million left over in the sewer stabilization portion of its voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax program, which is used for drinking and surface water protection. County officials decided to use that money on sewer upgrade projects, Mr. Bellone said. Only about $8 million will remain in the fund, Mr. Bellone said.

“That’s why it was important for Riverhead to get in on this, because it’s not going to be available next year,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), whose district spans the North Fork.

The awards still need to be approved by the county Legislature, Mr. Bellone said, and a bill that would allocate the money is being introduced today, Thursday. The Legislature will then vote at its Oct. 8 meeting.

Riverhead is seeking to upgrade the capacity of its sewer plant on Riverside Drive from 1.2 million gallons per day to 1.4 million.

The town is also looking to upgrade its ability to remove nitrogen from the treated effluent that is discharged into the bay by about 75 percent, officials said.

Riverhead sewer district superintendent Michael Reichel said the Town has about $10 million available through the district’s remaining fund balance and state grants. The county’s $8 million grant would leave the town about $4 million short of the total it needs to upgrade the facility.

Mr. Reichel said the town has submitted to take out a $4 million low-interest loan through the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation.

“We’ve made applications to them,” he said. “We’ve cleared their hurdles for financing.”

Mr. Walter — who did not attend Monday’s event due to a family emergency — later said he was “grateful” to the county executive for clearing the funding.

“You’re going to see us move very quickly now,” Mr. Walter said. “We hope to have the bid specifications issued by the next [Town Board] meeting or the first meeting in October and we hope to award a contract for this job early next year.”

Mr. Krupski noted that the town has all its permits in place to start the work.

“This is shovel-ready money,” he said. “It’s brick and mortar, it’s not for planning or ‘Someday I’d like to do something; I have a dream.’ This is real money that’s going to have a real impact today. And that’s important.”

The town also has approval to use the effluent from its sewage treatment plant as fertilizer for the county golf course next door, Mr. Krupski added.

“They just have to hook into the existing irrigation system,” he said.

Riverhead also will be looking for grant money to offset the cost of upgrading its Calverton sewer plant, which expected to cost another $20 million, Mr. Walter said.

For that project, the town has applied for grants from a different program, the state’s Regional Economic Development Council.

“We didn’t want to be competing with ourselves,” Mr. Walter said.


05/24/13 4:18pm
05/24/2013 4:18 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | County Executive Steve Bellone announces the homeless sex offender trailers will close within the next three days.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | County Executive Steve Bellone announces the homeless sex offender trailers will close within the next three days.

The Suffolk County trailers in Riverside and Westhampton that housed homeless sex offenders for the past six years will be shut down by the end of Memorial Day weekend, government officials and civic leaders from Suffolk County, Riverhead and Southampton announced Friday afternoon.

“It may be Memorial Day, but it feels like Christmas,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst at a press conference in Riverhead Town Hall.

County Supervisor Steve Bellone said Suffolk County police now have the resources available to speed up clearing out the trailers. About a dozen sex offenders have been removed over the past few months, while the remaining 26 sex offenders left in the trailers will be moved to government-run shelters across the county by the end of the weekend, he said.

No shelter will hold more than one sex offender, and none of the sex offenders will be placed into shelters with children, Mr. Bellone said.

“This six-year nightmare in these communities is finally coming to an end,” said County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who had long been an opponent of the trailers

The sex offender trailers were first brought to Riverside and Westhampton in 2007, and were originally supposed to rotate through the Suffolk County towns every three weeks. But the trailers never moved, causing residents and government officials alike near the trailers to protest.

The plan to shut down the shelters is part of the Community Protection Act passed by the county legislature earlier this year. Mr. Bellone said the plan represents “the toughest monitoring and enforcement program in the country,” adding that Suffolk County police, who will monitor the sex offenders using GPS technology and daily reports, will hold discussions with town police departments on the East End to determine how they will keep track of the offenders.

Riverhead police chief David Hegermiller could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Bellone said the county may use a voucher system to keep track of some of the sex offenders, depending on how much of a threat the police department thinks they represent. But he said the increased monitoring of the county’s other sex offenders — which number over 1,000 — will make the entire county safer.

Eight sex offenders have already been arrested for violations, he said.

“We saw that this act, which has been implemented now over the past couple of weeks, has already borne fruit,” Mr. Bellone said. “This is the kind of thing you’ll see more frequently.”

Brad Bender, the former president of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association, said the trailers were moved thanks to the support from the community and from town and county politicians who pushed for the trailers to be closed.

“It’s finally, finally come to an end,” he said. “We’ll know it’s over when we see their taillights in the dark. [The trailers] came in under the cover of darkness and now we’ll see them leave under the cover of darkness. It’s great.”


02/27/13 4:03pm
02/27/2013 4:03 PM
Riverhead's top DWI cop

COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead Town Police Officer Timothy Murphy (center) is honored Tuesday with (L-R) Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller.

Riverhead Town Police Officer Timothy Murphy was honored once more as one of Suffolk County’s top cops in DWI arrests.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone honored Mr. Murphy along with 23 others officers in a ceremony Tuesday morning for making the most driving while intoxicated arrests throughout Suffolk County. He made 104 DWI arrests last year, said Police Chief David Hegermiller.

“Officer Murphy consistently ranks in the top for DWI arrests in the entire county of Suffolk,” Chief Hegermiller said. “There is no doubt that his diligent efforts in removing drunks drivers from our streets saves lives.”

Officer Murphy was also honored in 2010 when he made the most DWI arrests of any officer in Suffolk County with 86, Suffolk County Police said.

“He’s been here 10 or 11 years now and he’s consistently leading a lot of categories in driving while intoxicated arrests, for 10 years straight,” said Riverhead Police Lieutenant David Lessard.

Mr. Murphy was a New York City police officer for close to nine years before coming to Riverhead, Lt. Lessard said.

“DWI arrests are important to Suffolk County, and they are important to the town of Riverhead,” Mr. Murphy said. “I am just doing what my job is.

“It’s such an unfortunate thing when a DWI affects someone’s life. Tragic losses are so hard to deal with.”

Mr. Murphy said DWI offences seem to be a prevalent thing in Riverhead.

“I wish there were no DWI arrests,” he said. “You wish those numbers were down, you wish they weren’t there making the offence.”

Suffolk County police agencies made more than 5,100 DWI arrests in 2012, Mr. Bellone said.

“Suffolk County will not tolerate drunk driving on our roadways,” Mr. Bellone said. “We remain committed to arresting anyone who chooses to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car, endangering the lives of others.”

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Lt. Lessard.  “He has definitely saved countless lives, there’s no doubt about it.”


10/27/12 9:29am
10/27/2012 9:29 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | County Executive Steve Bellone

With Hurricane Sandy heading toward landfall early next week, County Executive Steve Bellone on Saturday declared a state of emergency for all of Suffolk.

The executive also ordered a mandatory evacuation of Fire Island, the thin barrier beach along the ocean shore, in Brookhaven and Islip towns. Residents there are required to leave the area by 2 p.m. Sunday.

The county opened its emergency operations center in Yaphank at 9 a.m. Friday and the center will be open throughout the weekend.

Mr. Bellone is urging all residents in low-lying and flood-prone areas to closely follow weather reports and emergency updates and to avoid making 911 calls except for life-threatening emergencies.

10/11/12 4:09pm
10/11/2012 4:09 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | In a year boaters such as these enjoying Peconic Bay on a summer evening will be required to carry proof of taking a water safety course.

County Executive Steve Bellone signed a landmark boater’s safety law Thursday, setting in motion the countdown to the law’s implementation a year from now.

The bill, “Suffolk’s Safer Waterways Act,” received unanimous support from the County Legislature on Sept. 13, would require all Suffolk residents to pass an approved boater’s safety course before operating some pleasure boats in Suffolk waters. The law, which takes effect in Oct. 2013, would not apply to rowboats, canoes or kayaks.

The law includes penalties of up to $250 for a first offense, rising to $500 for a second offense. The maximum penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to a year in jail.

Some critics questioned the law’s main provision, noting that non-resident boaters would not be required to obtain a safety certificate. The concern is that boaters with the least amount of knowledge of local waters would be exempt from the safety training requirement.

Others suggest the county may have overstepped its authority and that boating regulations are a state matter.