06/20/14 9:00am
06/20/2014 9:00 AM
Riverhead Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson in February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson in February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The Riverhead Town Board voted 3-2 this week to allow Highway Superintendent George Woodson to purchase a Chevy Tahoe priced at $35,554 to use as his work vehicle, instead of a Ford Explorer that Supervisor Sean Walter says would cost $9,000 less. (more…)

11/02/13 12:00pm
11/02/2013 12:00 PM

Highway Superintendent candidates George Woodson (left) and Michael Panchak.

Salary: $84,178
Four-year term, full time

George Woodson
Hamlet: Riverhead
Occupation: Highway superintendent
Party lines: Democrat, Working Families, Independence

About him: Mr. Woodson, 52, was born and raised in Riverhead. He enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from high school in 1979. He was later hired as a laborer with the Riverhead highway department, where he rose to crew leader. He worked with the department continuously until first being elected highway superintendent in 2008. He’s also been a Riverhead Fire Department volunteer for more than 25 years and is a former chief.

His pitch: Mr. Woodson keeps a running tally of achievements from his six years in office. Among those, he lists the purchase of $3 million worth of vehicles acquired at auction for just $90,000, as well as two military snowplows that came free. He pushed for and oversaw the installation of GPS systems in town highway trucks, which helps during emergencies. He lists that he challenged and defeated the town’s practice of administrative chargebacks to the highway and other districts, resulting in almost $800,000 going back to the highway department from the general fund.

In his words: “I will continue to work hard and keep upgrading the department to the best of my ability for the residents of Riverhead and give 100 percent.”

Michael Panchak
Hamlet: Riverhead
Occupation: Owner of Eagle Asphalt Maintenance
Party: Conservative

About him: Mr. Panchak, 39, a lifelong Riverhead resident, owns Eagle Asphalt Maintenance in Riverhead and is a 17-year member of the Riverhead Fire Department. He has 23 years of experience in asphalt, concrete, drainage and excavation. He’s also served for 18 years as an independent snowplow contractor with the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

His pitch: Mr. Panchak says he understands municipal contracts, cost effectiveness and budgeting, and believes he has the knowledge at the state and county level to fully understand how to best deal with issues in a cost effective manner. He also favors contracting with private snowplow companies rather than keeping and maintaining trucks that are used only a few times each year. He was nominated by the Republican Committee but knocked from the GOP line after the party didn’t file proper paperwork in time.

His words: “I have the necessary knowledge with public works projects and experience with municipalities and the state. I will bring a quality control plan to the Riverhead highway department.”

Click here to read our endorsement for highway superintendent

07/25/13 9:43am
07/25/2013 9:43 AM

Traffic on Osborn Avenue will be closed to traffic this morning between Harrison Avenue and Pulaski Street so the Riverhead Highway Department can pave that street, according to Highway Superintendent George Woodson.

He’s hoping the work will be completed by noon.

After that, highway crews will be heading to Sound Avenue, where they will pave a stretch of that road between Fresh Pond Avenue and Gregory Way this afternoon. Mr. Woodson says that job should be done between 4 and 5 p.m.

The highway department this year received $900,000 for road paving projects, an increase from past years, when they got about $600,000, Mr. Woodson said. He said about half the money has been spent so far.

“This is the first year we’ve gotten extra money for paving,” he said.

His department has already paved the Rolling Woods area, at the north end of Roanoke Avenue, the Sylvan Drive area in Wading River, and Union and East Avenues in downtown Riverhead, Mr. Woodson said. He’s planning on doing Edwards Avenue next week.

“After that, we’ll see how much money is left, and decide what roads to do next,” Mr. Woodson said. The department did the roads in the worst condition first, he said.

The highway department put message boards up a few days in advance to warn people about the upcoming paving jobs, and they have an employee stationed at the sites to help residents of the areas being paved get in and out of their homes, Mr. Woodson said.

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05/11/13 2:00pm
05/11/2013 2:00 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members (from left) Jim Wooten, John Dunleavy, Supervisor Sean Walter, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen.

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

Riverhead Town’s Democrats and Republicans will host their candidate nominating conventions at the same time in Polish Town later this month.

The Republican convention will be held at 7 p.m. May 23 in Polish Hall on Marcy Avenue, according to committee chairman John Galla. The Democrats will be at the VFW hall on Parkway Street, where it intersects with Hamilton Avenue, according to Democratic chair Marge Acevedo.

“It’s like the Yankees and Mets having home games on the same night,” Mr. Galla said.

The Repubicans hold all five Town Board seats but those incumbents are being challenged from within. Councilman James Wooten and town assessor Mason Haas are both challenging incumbent Sean Walter for the supervisor nomination, and incumbent council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio are being challenged by Anthony Coates, who has been an advisor to Mr. Walter. Mr. Coates has publicly supported Mr. Dunleavy, while criticizing Ms. Giglio.

The Democrats, meanwhile, have not released the names of any of the people they’ve screened, although some names have leaked out. In the supervisor race, Ann Cotten-Degrasse, the current president of the Riverhead Board of Education and a retired teacher and union president, has confirmed that she has screened for the position. Former Riverhead school board president Angela DeVito has already set up a campaign committee for her supervisor run.

In other town races, incumbent Democratic Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson is up for reelection this fall, and the Republicans have screened Mike Panchak, who owns an asphalt company. He and Mr. Woodson are members of the Riverhead Fire Department.

The only other town seat up for reelection is the assessor seat currently held by Republican Laverne Tennenberg.

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04/17/13 1:00pm
04/17/2013 1:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Salt barns used by the Riverhead highway department. The GOP is set to screen one candidate for highway superintendent.

Riverhead Republicans plan to screen one candidate for highway superintendent, in addition to the Town Board seats, according to Republican chairman John Galla.

Mike Panchak of Riverhead is so far the only candidate seeking to screen for the party’s highway superintendent nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Mr. Panchak owns Eagle Asphalt Maintenance in Riverhead, and he is also a first lieutenant in the Riverhead Fire Department.

Mr. Panchak could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Republicans plan to screen prospective candidates for town offices tonight at the Hyatt Hotel on East Main Street, but have yet to set a date to nominate their choices, Mr. Galla said.

If nominated, Mr. Panchak would challenge incumbent Democrat George “Gio” Woodson, who has held the position since 2008.

Mr. Woodson, a former highway department employee, was elected to a two-year term in 2007 and was reelected to a four-year term in 2009. Riverhead voters voted to increase the term of the highway superintendent from two years to four in a 2009 proposition.

The only other town position up for reelection this fall is for assessor, where incumbent Republican Laverne Tennenburg is seeking reelection and doesn’t appear to have any challengers for the Republican nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Ms. Tennenburg was first elected in 1989, and has been the chair of the town Board of Assessors since 1997.

The Republicans plan to screen incumbent Sean Walter, Councilman Jim Wooten and Assessor Mason Haas for supervisor, Mr. Galla said. In addition, they plan to screen incumbents John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio for council, along with challenger Anthony Coates.

Greg Fischer, a registered Democrat, has asked to screen with both parties for a Town Board seat, although he has not specified if he’s seeking the supervisor post or a council seat.

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03/07/13 12:00pm
03/07/2013 12:00 PM
Town Board budget, state audit

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Town Board during last year’s budget talks.

Riverhead Town’s “structural deficit” of $3.2 million could grow by another $1 million to $3 million as a result of the recommendations of a recent New York State comptroller’s audit of the town’s administrative chargebacks, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

That’s because the audit from state Comptroller Thomas DeNapoli’s office is telling the town the method by which it obtained nearly $3 million in administrative payments to the the town general fund from other town departments is not “adequate” and needs to be revised.

The town has submitted a corrective action plan that would bring in about $1 million less in administrative chargebacks to the general fund, Mr. Walter said.

But even if the comptroller approves that plan, which it has yet to respond to, “the town general fund is another $1 million short,” Mr. Walter said, because it anticipated receipt of those funds. If the comptroller doesn’t approve that plan, the town budget will be another $2.98 million short, since it cannot continue to use the current plan, which anticipates that much in administrative chargebacks to the general fund, he said.

The town for many years has charged other town taxing districts like the highway district, water district, sewer, garbage and others an “administrative chargeback” of 14.2 percent of their budget from the previous completed year, which would actually be two years ago, since the budget is devised in November.

The chargebacks, which total $2.98 million in the 2012 budget, are meant to account for those departments’ use of general fund services, such as the tax receiver’s office, which collects taxes for every department, or the town attorney’s office, which might advise or defend other departments, or things like payroll services.

The method of just doing a flat percentage across the board was instituted because it would be too difficult to actually determine the cost of what each department uses in general fund services, town officials have said.

As for the structural deficit, Mr. Walter said, that refers to the fact the town used $3.2 million in surplus funds to balance its 2013 budget, and the loss of the administrative chargeback funding to the general fund will make that deficit even higher. There is only about $6 million left in surplus funds, though more money is coming in from Sandy-damaged cars being stored on town land in Calverton.

“We’re $3 million behind now, we’ll be $4 million behind if the comptroller agrees with this [corrective action], and if they don’t agree, we’re more than $6 million behind,” Mr. Walter said.

But the use of chargebacks in the town has also been controversial, as town highway Superintendent George Woodson, Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill and others have complained that they are being made to pay for services they don’t receive.

Mr. Walter said he had been getting conflicting advice on the issue, including advice from people at the state comptroller’s office, and so he asked the comptroller’s office last year to do a formal audit of the administrative chargebacks.

“There was so much controversy over it between the highway superintendent and various department heads,” Mr. Walter said. “I really pressed the comptroller, because the town needs an answer to this.”

That audit was made public this week, and the results weren’t pretty.

“This is not an adequate method of allocation because it assumes that the entire budgets of the town’s cost centers [taxing districts] were devoted to services provided to the other receiving funds,” the audit states.

“In addition, it assumes that each of the receiving funds received equal shares of the services from each cost center.”

The audit states that “the methods that town officials used for calculating administrative cost allocations were not based on the actual services being provided. Instead, town officials calculated this allocation as a flat percentage of the total budget based on actual expenditures in the administrative cost cost centers for the last complete year.”

The comptroller said the town couldn’t charge back administrative costs to the highway department, which has the same tax base, and couldn’t charge back services such as the Town Board. It also said the chargebacks have to be based on actual expenses, and not on a flat percentage.

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03/06/13 10:00am
03/06/2013 10:00 AM
Riverhead braces for storm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A highway department plow before the start of last month’s blizzard.

As another winter storm bears down on the North Fork, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for eastern Suffolk County, saying the storm could bring as much as 10 inches to the area over the next two days.

But North Fork town officials said they’ll be prepared to take on this latest nor’easter.

The storm, which is building off the Carolinas, isn’t expected to move over the Northeast like most winter storms, but the sheer size of the nor’easter means the North Fork will see some of its effects, said David Stark, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Station in Upton.

A rain/snow mix will begin Wednesday afternoon, with the precipitation changing to snow as the sun goes down, Mr. Stark said. Snow will generally be light, though there could be “occasional moments of moderate snowfall” through Thursday morning, Mr. Stark said. The storm will dump between 3 to 5 inches on the area overnight, Mr. Stark said.

Temperatures will warm up on Thursday afternoon, possibly leading to a wintery mix, but snow will move back into the area overnight into Friday, adding another couple of inches to the totals by Friday morning, he added.

Depending on the intensity of the storm, the North Fork could see as much as 10 inches over the next 48 hours, Mr. Stark said. However there’s “still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast,” which could mean the area could see less snowfall than predicted, he added.

A coastal flood warning is in effect for the North and South shore, as the storm could bring minor to moderate coastal flooding in susceptible areas, Mr. Stark said.

High winds are also a concern, with gusts near 50 mph overnight on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

By Saturday, the weather will have improved, Mr. Stark said.

“It looks like it’s going to be a very sunny weekend,” he said. “We just have to get through the next couple of days.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the town has already made preparations to clear away any snow from this storm.

“We’re ready,” he said. “[Highway superintendent] George [Woodson] has the equipment ready, the plows, the salt, we’re just waiting for it to snow,”

The town board’s work session may be cancelled due to the storm, he added.

In Southold, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the town is taking a “wait and see” approach, but are ready in case the storm does bring its worst.

“We’ve been monitoring the storm,” he said. “If it does turn into snow, [Highway superintendent] Pete [Harris] has got the guys ready to go.”

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