01/20/14 7:00am
01/20/2014 7:00 AM

Riverhead Town officials are hoping to get more money out of the leases the town has with cellphone companies with antennas on top of water towers.

A company called Bench Strength Partners says it can examine lease agreements the town has to determine if the town should be making more from them.

According to Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, every time a cell company upgrades its equipment on a town facility, it is supposed to notify the town, and the town, according to its contracts, should be paid more.

 “We are not getting our fair share of the fees for these devices,” Ms. Giglio said at a work session earlier this month, where the issue was discussed.

The town’s 2014 budget anticipates $655,000 in revenue from leases on town water towers.

Bench Strength Partners, which contributed to Ms. Giglio’s re-election campaign last year, only gets paid only if it generates more money for the town, according to deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti.

If Bench Strength negotiates up to 20 percent more than $655,000, the town doesn’t have to pay anything. If the town makes between 20 and 30 percent more, BSP gets 15 percent of the increase. If the town makes between 30 and 40 percent more, BSP gets 20 percent of the increase. If the town makes 40 to 50 percent more, BSP gets 25 percent of that, and if the town makes 50 percent more or higher, BSP gets 30 percent, according to Ms. Prudenti.

Any money the town makes as a result of contracting with Bench Strength would go to the water district, which issues the leases to cellphone companies, according to Supervisor Sean Walter. However, since the water district is in debt to the general fund, the town general fund will benefit, according to the supervisor.

tgannon@timesreview

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01/17/14 10:00am
01/17/2014 10:00 AM
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

The tax bill on Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio’s Baiting Hollow home increased by 43 percent for 2014 — amounting to a $5,200 increase due in part to a $2,300 payment owed on a previously untaxed finished basement and second-floor addition. The bill bump comes months after a contentious Republican primary for her council seat, during which news surfaced that the home improvements lacked proper town approvals.

The $2,300 represented an increased assessment for the current and prior tax years, based on those improvements, which is all the town can collect from Ms. Giglio and her husband, Mike, said Riverhead Assessor Laverne Tennenberg.

Even though the improvements, a second-story addition to the house and a finished basement, went unassessed for several years, the town by law can only go back one year in recouping unpaid taxes. Nevertheless, Ms. Giglio said, she and her husband will voluntarily pay the rest of the back taxes owed on those improvements, a figure Ms. Tennenberg estimated at about $15,000.

It was revealed during last year’s primary that the Giglios had failed to pay taxes on additions to the property dating back several years. However, because the town is only legally allowed to collect back taxes a year after they were due, the rest will come in the form of a donated gift to the town.

“Under the law, she has no obligation to pay that,” Ms. Tennenberg said. “We can only legally go back one year, on anybody.”

But Ms. Giglio says the couple will begin making gifts this year, spreading the payments over several years once the amount owed is pinned down. She said, however, that she believes the total will be lower than $15,000.

“I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard,” Ms. Giglio said in an interview Tuesday.

The additions to the home, and the fact that Ms. Giglio hadn’t received certificates of occupancy for them or paid property tax on them, came to light last summer during the town election campaign, in which Ms. Giglio ran in both a Republican primary and in the general election to retain her council seat. GOP primary candidate Anthony Coates — who ultimately finished third in a field of three candidates — had called for her resignation at the time.

“That was stuff we hadn’t picked up,” Ms. Tennenberg said of the oversights.

The additions were never figured into the Giglios’ assessment but that fact didn’t come to light until after March 1, which is the cutoff date for determining what property improvements will be assessed. The assessors then had to petition the town’s Board of Assessment Review in September to add those items to the Giglios’ assessment, Mr. Tennenberg said.

Normally, it’s the property owners, not town assessors, who appear before the Board of Assessment Review, which is independent of the assessors. But the assessors have the option to appear, Ms. Tennenberg said. Ms. Giglio could have challenged the additional assessment at that hearing, but chose not to.

Board of Assessment Review hearings usually deal with homeowners trying to lower tax bills.

The Giglios’ exact property bill for 2014 is $17,222, up from $12,051 in 2013. They are being made to pay back $2,317, which represents taxes from the previous year. New assessments are typically triggered by building permits. The finished basement, completed around 2009, was permitted in 2013 and the second-story addition first received a building permit in 2009, records show.

An in-ground swimming pool that first received a building permit in 1999 but didn’t get a certificate of occupancy until 2013 was already being assessed, Ms. Tennenberg said.

The assessment on the Giglios’ home increased from $77,200 to $91,500, an increase of 18.5 percent. The town assesses property at about 15 percent of market value, and the property’s market value increased from $505,556 to $572,591 as a result of the improvements, records show.

The assessor said it’s common for people to avoid being assessed on improvements made to their homes, and it’s very rare that anyone voluntarily agrees to pay back taxes once they don’t have to.

Ms. Giglio said she was unsure if the Town Board would have to pass a resolution to accept the gifts.

“Nobody else in my 26-year history has ever paid back voluntarily any taxes they didn’t have to,” Ms. Tennenberg said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/21/13 2:16pm
11/21/2013 2:16 PM
An artist’s rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

An artist’s rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

The proposed “Community Benefit” overlay zone needed for First Baptist Church’s Family Community Life Center will soon be revised since it doesn’t have the support of a majority of Riverhead Town Board members in its current form.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilmen George Gabrielsen and John Dunleavy said at Thursday’s Town Board work session that they could not support the proposed zoning as currently written.

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten did support it at Thursday’s work session, where the proposed overlay zone was discussed with representatives of the church, which has proposed building 132 affordable apartment units intended as “work force housing” for the area.

RELATED STORIES

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Mr. Gabrielsen opposed the requirement in the zoning that a project have 800 feet of road frontage on a state or county road in order to qualify for the overlay zone.

First Baptist’s Northville Turnpike property has 807 feet of frontage on a county road.

“That just seems like it was site specific,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

Check out our live blog coverage

Mr. Walter said the proposal will need to be revised to meet Mr. Gabrielsen’s concerns so that a new public hearing can be held in early January.

Another change Mr. Gabrielsen proposed is a requirement for a 50-foot vegetative buffer between the project and neighboring homes, instead of the 25 feet in the proposed code.

“When you have something this dense and this high, I think neighbors have the right to a 50-foot buffer,” he said.

Ms. Giglio said the proposed 10 units per acre of residential housing is too dense, and she also feels the project should not be exempt from taxes, and should pay either taxes or payments in lieu of taxes.

Mr. Dunleavy agreed with the concerns of his fellow council members.

Mr. Walter, who has consistently supported the project, said he thinks Mr. Gabrielsen’s requests “are reasonable and they are doable,” but the tax issues raised by Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy probably cannot be addressed.

Ms. Giglio also raised the question of what other properties in town would meet the criteria of the proposed zone.

A map produced by town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree shows about five other properties.

“A couple are owned by the county, and one has an approved site plan on it, so the way I’m looking at this is that there is only one other piece of property in the town that could possibly benefit from this zoning,” Ms. Giglio said.

The proposed overlay zone, which will now be rewritten, would have allowed a community center and workforce housing on land that meets certain criteria, including having 10 or more acres of land with at least 800 feet of frontage on a county or state highway, as well as public water and sewer connections.

The proposed Family Community Life Center would include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a 25-seat theater and media center and 24-hour adult and child day care services. The proposal also includes an indoor walking track, gymnasium, fitness center and classroom space.

It would be located on the 12-acre church property on Northville Turnpike. The Rev. Charles Coverdale has said the income from the apartments is needed to subsidize the rest of the project, which would be open to the community.

The allowed number of housing units would be one per acre, but the proposed zone would allow additional units with the purchase or either transferred development rights from farms, or open space development credits from Suffolk County, which are dedicated for use in affordable housing and would be made available to such projects at no charge.

The church is hoping for the latter and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has publicly pledged support for the project.

The Family Community Life Center project, which has been in the works for more than 20 years, received overwhelming support from speakers at a Nov. 6 public hearing.

Reached for comment after the meeting, Mr. Coverdale said, “We have to go through the process. We want things to be right.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/08/13 12:00pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Republicans celebrate their victorious sweep Tuesday nignt in downtown Riverhead. From left: committee chairman Mason Haas, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy. Mr. Walter said the team tried to stay positive during the campaign. He believes that approach resonated with voters.

In June 2012, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio filed a harassment complaint against Supervisor Sean Walter.

Months later, Mr. Walter put out a political hit on Ms. Giglio, which came in the form of a primary challenge from the supervisor’s friend and longtime political adviser, Anthony Coates.

During that contentious primary, Councilman John Dunleavy — perhaps sensing momentum building behind Mr. Coates — was continually found to be out campaigning without his committee-designated team, joining Mr. Coates in door-knocking efforts.

But blood is thicker than water, the saying goes, and as the outcome of the Riverhead Town elections began to crystallize before the family of Riverhead Republicans Tuesday night, judging by the hugs, kisses and high-fives — bygones were bygones. Despite their differences, the three incumbents on the Town Board had all won re-election.

Election 2013: By the numbers

“I’ve been involved in Riverhead politics for 14 years and I have never seen the Republican committee come together the way it has this summer and this fall,” Mr. Walter told a jubilant crowd of supporters at Cody’s BBQ & Grill.

Mr. Walter later said he believed the issue of in-fighting on the board was more media driven than anything.

“I think the residents didn’t focus on the fights or they wouldn’t have re-elected us,” he said. “They focused on the results, and if everybody got along all the time, I don’t think we’d have had the results that we had. We all add something to this mixture.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Assessor Laverne Tennenberg posting the election results Tuesday night.

But it wasn’t just the media. The Riverhead Democrats had been smelling Republican blood in the water for some time because of the in-fighting. Democratic challenger Angela DeVito’s campaign slogan, “Respect Riverhead,” was built on the promise she would bring courtesy and respect back to Riverhead Town Hall after four years of Mr. Walter and an all-Republican Town Board.

The voters favored staying the course.

Mr. Walter defeated Ms. DeVito with 56 percent of the vote, or 3,917 to 3,090, according to Suffolk County Board of Elections figures.

Ms. Giglio, who earned a second term, and two-term Republican Councilman John Dunleavy tallied 3,634 and 3,495 votes respectively, over Democrats Bill Bianchi, with 3,141 votes, and Millie Thomas, with 3,045, in the at-large election for two seats.

As it began to look like the election results weren’t going to break her way, Ms. DeVito — who led a team that came much closer than their Democratic counterparts in the 2009 and 2011 races for Town Board seats — told her supporters “we are still winners.”

She also said there’s still work to be done for the Democratic Party to make the sure the towns government, ruled by Republicans, is heading in the right direction and working for the people of Riverhead.

“Just because we aren’t in the driver’s seat, that doesn’t mean we can’t be passengers in the bus,” Ms. DeVito said from Democratic headquarters in a storefront behind the Riverhead Diner & Grill — and a short walk from Cody’s on East Main Street.

She then took that short walk, entering Cody’s back door and making her way through the crowd to congratulate Mr. Walter. The two candidates hugged and exchanged words as music pumped through the speakers. Ms. DeVito was also joined by campaign advisor Keisha Washington Dean.

Mr. Walter and party leaders attributed the Republican victories to a largely positive campaign.

“This town is moving in the right direction, no matter what Angela DeVito and Bill Bianchi say,” Mr. Walter said.

“I believe we’ve gotten our message across,” said Republican Committee Chairman Mason Haas, “which is that the town is moving in the right direction.”

In other town races, incumbent Republican assessor Laverne Tennenberg beat Democratic challenger Greg Fischer, 4,343 to 2,396, and Democratic highway superintendent George (Gio) Woodson beat Conservative challenger Michael Panchak by vote of 4,936 to 1,269.

Mr. Woodson and Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm are the only Democrats to hold an elected office in Riverhead Town.

A moral victory, so to speak, for Democrats in the town races came with the respectable showing of the council candidates.

The votes were much more evenly split than in the past two local elections, with Ms. Thomas, a Wading River realtor, earning 24 percent of the vote and Mr. Bianchi, a former state Assemblyman from the Bellport area, capturing 23 percent of the vote.

Ms. Giglio led the pack with 27 percent followed by Mr. Dunleavy with 26.

By comparison, in 2009, Democratic council candidate Kathy Berezny tallied 20 percent of the final vote for two seats, with 19 percent for Shirley Coverdale.

The Democratic council candidates fared even worse in 2011, when Marlando Williams got 16 percent of the vote and Matt Van Glad received 15 percent in an at-large race against incumbent Republicans James Wooten and George Gabrielsen for two open seats.

This election season, the Democrats also tried to capitalize on residents’ displeasure with the clearing of several properties along Route 58 to make way for commercial shopping centers. They had joined residents in a rally at the Costco Wholesale site, which was clear-cut right up to neighboring properties, and held their own press conference there, faulting the Town Board for granting an excavation permit for the project.

Mr. Dunleavy, who lives in Foxwood Village, one of the affected communities, also took heat from his neighbors during the campaign — not only for the clearing itself but for deflecting blame onto neighbors he said weren’t paying attention and attending town meetings.

He later apologized at a Town Board debate, saying no one was to blame.

On Election Day, even the election district that includes Foxwood Village voted for Republicans, including Mr. Dunleavy, according to numbers posted at Republican headquarters — though not yet available through the county — Mr. Dunleavy received 215 votes, with Ms. Giglio leading with 222 in Election District 11. Ms. Thomas earned 200 in ED11 and Mr. Bianchi, who came out on the attack against Mr. Dunleavy at the Oct. 24 debate, finished last in that district, with 196 votes.

“The few people that thought I was the sole person [responsible for the clear-cutting] for the Costco project, they were wrong, and the people that believed in me, voted for me,” Mr. Dunleavy said after the results came in and he was awarded a third four-year term.

For her part, Ms. Giglio told WRIV radio show host Bruce Tria that the election outcome could offer a renewed opportunity for the Republicans, who will now have to work together for at least another two years, the length of supervisor terms in Riverhead Town.

“We have to put things behind us and move forward,” she said, adding that she would reach out to Mr. Walter to perhaps talk over lunch.

Mr. Walter later told the News-Review he would be willing to sit with Ms. Giglio over lunch.

mwhite@timesreview.com

11/02/13 8:00am
11/02/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

TOWN COUNCIL
Four-year term, part time
Salary: $48,955

John Dunleavy
Incumbent
Hamlet: Calverton
Occupation: Retired police officer
Party lines: Republican, Conservative

About him: Mr. Dunleavy, 72, is running for a third four-year term as a town councilman. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Grumman Corporation employee who later joined the Riverhead Police Department, where he came to head the juvenile aid bureau for 15 years before retiring in 1988. He then worked in banking until 2007. Mr. Dunleavy was first elected councilman in 2006. He was born in Brooklyn and lived in Rockaway, Queens, before his family moved to East Islip. He joined the Navy in 1957.

His pitch: Mr. Dunleavy says he’s helped bring $8 million into town coffers, a number that includes $7.5 million in down payments for the Riverhead Resorts project that never happened. He helped negotiate a cell tower contract that has brought in $300,000 in fees and has saved $250,000 in salaries and benefits by heading the municipal garage, he says. He also lists two police dogs and an ATV obtained through the DA’s office, as well as a natural gas vehicle donated for senior use, as items he’s helped bring to the town at no cost.

In his words: “These are some of the examples of the work I’ve done and will continue to do if re-elected.”

 

Jodi Giglio
Incumbent
Hamlet: Baiting Hollow
Occupation: Owner of Bennett Enterprises
Party lines: Republican, Independence

About her: Ms. Giglio, 45, is running for her second four-year term as a town councilwoman. She has a business background, which includes relocating corporate executives for United Van Lines and serving as an on-site construction superintendent for a Long Island townhouse project. She owns and runs Bennett Enterprises, which assists landowners with residential and commercial applications. Ms. Giglio was born in Syosset and grew up in Wantagh and California before moving back to New York at age 19.

Her pitch: Ms. Giglio says she’s made good on several promises to the taxpayer since first running for office in 2009. Among them, she says, she’s looked out for how tax dollars are being spent while finding innovative ways to improve on quality of life in town. As a businessperson, she says her work and expertise in Town Hall are instrumental in identifying problems within the town code that can stifle businesses and job creation.

In her words: “I know that with your support, I will have even more to offer our great town.”

 

Bill Bianchi
Challenger
Hamlet: Riverhead
Occupation: Owner of Bianchi-Davis Greenhouses
Party lines: Democrat, Independence, Working Families

About him: Mr. Bianchi, 82, is a former Bellport resident who served as a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994. He got started in public service as a South Country School District Board of Education member and president. He then was part of a lawsuit that effectively ended the county’s Board of Supervisors in favor of a Legislature. He’s worked continually in the orchid business and co-owns orchid greenhouses off Doctors Path.

His pitch: Mr. Bianchi touts his experience in the Assembly, during which time he said it was necessary to work with both parties, and believes he can bring a certain depth of knowledge and government experience to Riverhead Town. Mr. Bianchi says he is most proud of legislation he got passed in Albany that preserves the county’s four major rivers. He was also chairman of the Assembly’s agricultural and local government committees and a member of its ways and means committee.

In his words: “I always worked well with both parties.”

 

Millie Thomas
Challenger
Hamlet: Baiting Hollow
Occupation: Owner of Landmark Realty
Party lines: Democrat, Working Families

About her: Ms. Thomas, 63, has been a licensed realtor for 21 years. She owns Landmark Realty as well as a commercial building in Wading River. She is a past president of the Long Island Board of Realtors/North Shore Chapter and secretary of the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce. She currently has 31 agents and two administrative assistants working for her company. She was born in Brooklyn and moved to Rocky Point in 1978. She moved to Baiting Hollow in 2002.

Her pitch: Ms. Thomas points to her success in navigating her real estate business through the recent economic downtown as proof she would be a good steward of the town’s finances. She says her business in Wading River not only stayed afloat but thrived during one of the worst housing markets in years. She knows how to squeeze a budget, she says, and will be fiscally responsible and accountable to taxpayers. She favors well-planned development but wants to work protect the area’s way of life.

In her words: “We should fight for revenue from large commercial developers who take from our town and should give back. We also need to make Riverhead a safer, better place through increased code enforcement.”

Read our endorsements for town council here

11/02/13 7:59am
Town council candidates Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas

Town council candidates Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas

The job of Town Council member is described as part-time, but it takes hard work and dedication for candidates to make good on those oft-repeated campaign promises to keep the town’s taxes in check while “preserving our way of life.” It takes not only time but also guts and the ability to learn all the technical aspects of what makes town government work — in order to help it work better.

Jodi Giglio and Millie Thomas have just the type of skills to be highly effective Town Council people.

Profiles: Meet the candidates for town council

Ms. Giglio, a Republican incumbent, already has four years’ experience under her belt and has proven her ability to understand the inner workings of town government. She’s also helped keep fellow GOP member and political rival Supervisor Sean Walter in check — especially in voting against Mr. Walter’s plan to hire his own political adviser, Anthony Coates, for a made-up job in 2012.

In addition, she has spearheaded an attempt to lure the Federal Aviation Administration to the town’s EPCAL site, despite pushback from the supervisor.

But as she made clear in her first run in 2009, Ms. Giglio is “business- friendly.” By trade, she is a permit expediter for developers. This could prove beneficial when it comes to recognizing when developers are trying to play the town. But when developers do exactly that — and they have; one has only to look to the Costco site along Route 58 for a recent example — one can’t help but wonder: Where was Jodi? But she makes no apologies about land-use rights, to the point that it’s hard to even imagine her as someone who will truly fight to make sure developers give back to the town just as much as they take from it.

Enter Ms. Thomas. Her résumé, like Ms. Giglio’s, includes “business owner,” but her civic involvement and the priorities of the town’s Democratic slate in general — neighborhood preservation through strict adherence to the town code — may serve to counterbalance Ms. Giglio’s business-friendly approach.

Ms. Thomas’ ability to navigate one of the worst economic downturns in the real estate market while maintaining her business, Landmark Realty, is impressive. A former president of the Long Island Board of Realtors, she said at a debate co-sponsored by the News-Review that her firm handled $27 million worth of sales last year, ranking in the top 10 percent in Suffolk County.

It’s a shame Ms. Thomas wasn’t more vocal in touting her achievements out on the campaign trail. Unlike her fellow candidates, she failed to start a campaign fund or raise any money. While many politicians often say they’re “not a politician,” to explain away what would appear to be a lack of true dedication, with Ms. Thomas, it’s believable. Aside from her business, she’s been involved in numerous charitable endeavors, taught religious classes for a dozen years through St. Anthony’s Church in Rocky Point and has dedicated time and knowledge to the Long Island Board of Realtors, serving it as director, secretary and vice president. No one could ever accuse her of being lazy. Given her track record, there’s no reason to believe she wouldn’t bring the requisite level of dedication to improving town government.

As for Republican incumbent John Dunleavy, he should be credited for his public service to the town as a police offer and for eight years as a councilman. But he’s been too comfortable for too long maintaining a superficial knowledge of how the town works. He’s too apt to take people coming to the Town Board at their word, without the appropriate level of skepticism and research.

He’s recently said he doesn’t know how to read site plans but, after eight years in office, what’s the excuse? With respect to the clearing of vegetation to make way for the Costco, Mr. Dunleavy said early in last week’s council debates that he “did not know they were going to clear-cut the whole shopping center.”

Yet in November 2011, the News-Review ran the first of several news stories explaining that developers intended to do exactly that at the 42-acre site. The story’s headline read: “Costco plans shrink; land clearing doesn’t.”

Here’s an excerpt from that story: “The new layout presented to the town shows the northern quarter of the site — closest to the senior complex — unoccupied by buildings or other infrastructure, but it also shows this area being entirely cleared of the trees currently there, then revegetated with landscaping.”

Even if Mr. Dunleavy can’t read site plans, he can read the newspaper. His job as a Town Board member is to stay on top of issues for his constituents, and maintaining a thorough base of knowledge about issues of such importance reigns paramount.

We think it’s time he moves on.

Back on the Democratic side of the ticket, council candidate Bill Bianchi would bring 22 years’ experience as a state assemblyman to Town Hall, but he’s been unable to articulate in any detail his accomplishments in state office or exactly how that experience would translate into his Town Council work. He has said he knows how to work across party lines, but it seems that fighting within political parties poses more of a challenge for Riverhead. Mr. Bianchi’s experience in Albany, we imagine, could prove useful as the town continues to work with the state on the effort to redevelop the EPCAL land — but, so far, Mr. Walter, state Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele seem to be moving along just fine. Introducing a new personality coming out of Town Hall could disrupt that chemistry.

10/10/13 4:30pm
10/10/2013 4:30 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

When it came to issues like town finances, Route 58 planning, Town Board bickering, and redevelopment downtown and at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Republican incumbents largely saw the glass half full at a candidates forum held in Calverton Wednesday night.

The Democratic challengers? Well, they saw the glass half empty.

The Greater Calverton Civic Association and the Wading River Civic Association sponsored the event at the Riley Avenue school in Calverton. Sid Bail of the Wading River Civic Association served as moderator.

Incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter and council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio are being opposed by Democratic supervisor challenger Angela DeVito and council candidates Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas.

Mr. Dunleavy was not present, due to a previously planned vacation.

Here’s what the rest of the candidates had to say about the issues:

TOWN FINANCES 

Mr. Walter said that when he took office four years ago, the town’s annual audits were many years behind. The town was bonding items that should have been funded by the general fund, it had no budget for road paving, and taxes were rising due to the debt associated with a failed landfill reclamation project, which has accounted for more than $4 million in debt service each year, he said.

Since then, he said the town has drastically cut its spending, the audits are caught up and the town is closing in on a plan to be able to sell land at EPCAL, which he feels will provide tax relief in the future.

“The revenue streams are trending in the right direction,” he said.

But Ms. DeVito said the town has been offsetting taxes with the use of about $3 million in surplus funds each year, and that money is close to running out.

She pointed out that a recent audit states that unless the town gets a big infusion of money by 2014, this approach “will result in a catastrophic tax increase in the next few years,” she said.

Mr. Walter said the landfill debt, which was accumulated by the previous administration, is the main reason for the town’s tax increases.

Ms. Thomas disagreed with the supervisor’s assessment of town financing.

“As far as I know, the town’s broke,” she said, adding that while downtown is improving it still needs to be revitalized.

Ms. Giglio says she’s saved the town $2 million by insisting that its garbage contract be put out to bid, and she initiated a phone audit that gained the town $75,000.

EPCAL

Ms. DeVito and the Democratic candidates said that while the EPCAL subdivision is close to happening, the redevelopment of EPCAL won’t bring the town any money until the land is actually sold.

“EPCAL still is pie in the sky until that first shovel goes in the ground,” Ms. DeVito said. “It could still blow up in our faces.”

Mr. Bianchi said he believes the town still needs to upgrade the sewer system and infrastructure at EPCAL, which could cost $40 million, and he says the industrial park at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton already has infrastructure and still hasn’t attracted many businesses.

Mr. Walter said he’s confident the lots at EPCAL will sell once the subdivision is approved. He said the town doesn’t need to sell all of the lots at once, since selling one or two per year will provide enough revenue to offset tax increases.

The state legislature has approved a proposal for development applications at EPCAL to be fast-tracked, so long as they meet criteria spelled out in the legislation, said Mr. Walter, who added that no other municipality in the state has such legislation.

But Ms. DeVito pointed out that the EPCAL legislation has not yet been signed into law by the governor.

TOWN BOARD BICKERING

Mr. Walter said people have criticized the all-Republican board for its infighting, but “the proof is in the pudding.” He said EPCAL, downtown and the town finances are improving under the current board, despite the fighting. The supervisor said that when Ms. Giglio first suggested trying to lure the Federal Aviation Administration’s new air traffic control center to EPCAL, he opposed it, but he says now it could be a reality.

“Don’t worry about us fighting,” he said. “It makes for good TV.”

Ms. DeVito said she’s heard from many people who don’t participate in government because “they are made to feel unwelcome and they don’t like the environment.”

Ms. Giglio, also said the board does fight a lot, but that they are a “spirited board” whose members come from diverse backgrounds. She said the board communicates with each other, debates issues and compromises.

ROUTE 58

The current condition of Route 58, where four large commercial projects have resulted in hundreds of acres of trees being cleared, was a topic where the Republicans acknowledged there were mistakes made, but vowed to correct them.

Democrats went on the attack.

“Route 58 looks like a war zone,” said Mr. Bianchi, who served 22 years in the state Assembly when he lived in Bellport. “It looks like Saudi Arabia, just a sea of sand.”

He said residents in Foxwood Village found their lives “partially destroyed” by the clearing near their homes.

“How anyone on the Town Board can allow that to happen boggles the mind,” Mr. Bianchi said. “Do you think East Hampton or Southampton would allow that to happen?”

Ms. Thomas said the town doesn’t need all the big box stores on Route 58, which are providing “minimum wage jobs” and not even increasing as much taxes as they should.

Mr. Walter and Ms. Giglio both argued that Route 58 does generate a lot of taxes for the town, and people’s tax bills would be a lot higher without that money.

Ms. DeVito said Route 58 stores are a major source of income tax revenue for Suffolk County, and the town doesn’t get any of that money. She feels the town should fight to get a bigger share of the income tax revenue it generates.

The town generates about $30 million in income tax revenue for the county, Mr. Walter said. But he feels it would be “pie in the sky” to think the county would give up that money.

As for the recent clearing on Route 58, the supervisor said the town Planning Board made a mistake and will fix it. But he said those boards are autonomous, and the Town Board can talk to them, but can’t tell them what to do.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/10/13 6:30pm
09/10/2013 6:30 PM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town Democratic Committee nominee Angela DeVito beat challenger Ann Cotten-DeGrasse by 501 to 229 votes in the primary race for the Democrats’ supervisor nod Tuesday.

In the at-large Republican race for two Town Council nominations, Jodi Gilgio was the top vote-getter with 912, followed by John Dunleavy with 878 and Anthony Coates with 484, according to the county Board of Elections.

And in the Independence Party primary for Town Council, Ms. Giglio led the three-candidate pack with 68 votes, followed by Democratic nominee Bill Bianchi with 65 and Mr. Dunleaby with 37. That was also an at-large race.

The News-Review had reporters at all the candidates’ camps and reported live from 8:30 p.m. The polls closed at 9 p.m.

Click below for the live reports, including quotes, photos and reactions from the candidates and supporters.

Riverhead voters head to the polls on primary day

Brief bios on primary candidates for town office

Republican rivals square off at primary debate

Supervisor hopefuls on how they would run town