12/05/14 6:00am
12/05/2014 6:00 AM
East Street in Jamesport, a private road. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

East Street in Jamesport, a private road. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

Town Board members say they plan to unveil a list later this month that will outline which private roads in Riverhead Town will get minimal highway services and which won’t receive any.

It makes sense to get the list together before the first storm of the season hits, but there’s a glaring hole in their plan: They have no system in place on how to accurately poll the residents who live on these roads in order to figure out who wants the town’s help and who does not. (more…)

11/07/14 11:00am
11/07/2014 11:00 AM

 

Congressman-elect Lee Zeldin addresses his supporters at the Suffolk County GOP gala at Emporium in Patchogue Tuesday. (Credit: John Griffin)

Congressman-elect Lee Zeldin addresses his supporters at the Suffolk County GOP gala at Emporium in Patchogue Tuesday. (Credit: John Griffin)

“Every election is like a job interview,” Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky and likely Senate majority leader, said in his acceptance speech Tuesday. This year, Democrats weren’t hired for lots of jobs.

Notably for East Enders, Lee Zeldin knocked off six-term incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop in the 1st Congressional District race. (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.

08/22/14 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.

06/13/14 7:00am
06/13/2014 7:00 AM
Dave Colone, Chairman of Suffolk County Planning Commissioner; Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Bob Delucca, President and CEO of the Group for the East End, County Executive Steve Bellone, Dick Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Deputy Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. (Courtesy photo)

Dave Colone, Chairman of Suffolk County Planning Commissioner; Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Bob Delucca, President and CEO of the Group for the East End, County Executive Steve Bellone, Dick Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Deputy Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. (Courtesy photo)

Not once, but twice, this newspaper has wagged its finger at Suffolk County government for dipping into its Drinking Water Protection Program without just cause, using the voter-approved preservation dollars to balance its general fund books.

Environmental groups responded to the county’s actions with litigation(more…)

05/15/14 6:00am
05/15/2014 6:00 AM
The former Long Island Beagle Club off Edwards Avenue in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The former Long Island Beagle Club off Edwards Avenue in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

On Tuesday, Suffolk County legislators gave a nonprofit organization approval to use the vacant Long Island Beagle Club on Edwards Avenue, which the county purchased in 2012 for nearly $9 million. At first glance, it It seems to be a logical, mutually beneficial agreement — making use of vacant buildings and giving space to a nonprofit that needs it.

Questions remain, however, about whether it’s the best deal for the county and community.

Long Island ABATE — American Bikers for Awareness, Training & Education — approached the county directly for permission to operate at the property. And under the agreement, the property will be improved and maintained by the nonprofit, and be made open to the public. While members of the county and ABATE are both on board, it’s hard to tell if anyone else is.

Nobody else was ever brought into the loop.

Motorcycle noise can be a serious quality-of-life problem. And although Edwards Avenue is well-known as a busy road, the fact that no one reached out to the Greater Calverton Civic Association indicates a lack of consideration for the nearby Village Green neighborhoods, which will be affected. The fact that environmental groups that lobbied the county to preserve the parcel — using reserved Drinking Water Protection Program money — were not informed doesn’t seem right either. If they hadn’t banged the drum to buy the land in the first place, it wouldn’t be available today for anyone to lease. And while it’s nearly impossible to make everyone aware of everything that’s going on at the county level, the courtesy of a simple phone call or email to individuals who are sure to have a vested interest in certain matters should be expected.

It appears that ABATE has done everything by the book in getting the proper approvals to lease the former Beagle Club property. It’s the book itself — or the lack thereof — that’s troubling.

Nothing appears to have been done behind closed doors; the Suffolk County Parks Board of Trustees, the Legislature’s parks and recreation committee and the Legislature itself all voted on the measure, and the county executive still must sign it. But why wasn’t there some sort of request for proposals or bidding process? The county studies enough concepts to determine what is best for taxpayers. It should examine more thoroughly the question of whether a certain organization looking to lease county lands or buildings is best suited for the space.

If an open RFP to lease the former Beagle Club had been advertised, any number of other worthy organizations looking for space might at least have known the property was available.