07/21/11 11:26am
07/21/2011 11:26 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Councilman John Dunleavy was back on the job Tuesday at the Town Board meeting.

Councilman John Dunleavy was back on the job Tuesday for the first time since he suffered a mild heart attack on June 20.

Mr. Dunleavy, who spent a week in Stony Brook University Hospital and the weeks after that recuperating at home, was present at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting and said he plans to attend all upcoming board meetings.

“I’m a little bit better,” the 70-year-old councilman said after the meeting. “I still have to go back to Stony Brook for more tests to see how much oxygen I’m getting.”

The main thing his doctors told him? Avoid stress.

“The worst thing is mental stress,” he said. “That’s five times worse than physical stress. They told me not to get upset and if I start to get upset, to just step back and stop.”

Fortunately for Mr. Dunleavy, Tuesday’s meeting was over in less than 25 minutes and had very little controversy.
“This was a nice one for you to come back to,” Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz told him afterward.

Supervisor Sean Walter publicly welcomed Mr. Dunleavy back at the start of Tuesday’s meeting.

Jitney seeks IDA help

The Hampton Jitney bus company will be seeking some tax breaks on the bus terminal and maintenance area it is proposing to build on Edwards Avenue in Calverton.

The Riverhead Town Industrial Development Agency has scheduled a public hearing on the request for Monday, Aug. 1, at 5 p.m. at Riverhead Town Hall.

Hampton Jitney wants to acquire the vacant 13.9-acre site at 253 Edwards Ave. and build a maintenance building there for repairing, fueling and washing buses, along with office space, a lobby, a car rental facility, a waiting area and a parking lot.
The company received special permit approval for the project in 2009, and got an extension on that approval earlier this year. It has yet to submit a site plan application.

The IDA application seeks exemptions from mortgage recording taxes and sales tax on materials used in the construction as well as a partial abatement on property tax increases associated with the proposed improvements.

Energy-efficient Mardi Gras

The Riverhead Business Improvement District’s upcoming Mardi Gras Festival, scheduled for Aug. 6 downtown, will have the usual mix of New Orleans-style bands, Cajun foods, stilt walkers and parades that you might associate with Mardi Gras, but according to Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, this one will also have an energy-efficient angle.

The Riverhead energy awareness committee will be present at the festival, offering residents an opportunity to get free energy audits, worth up to a $700, and “to learn how to make your home more energy-efficient in these troubling times,” Ms. Giglio said.

The stage for the event will also be powered by solar energy, she noted.

The Mardi Gras Festival is scheduled to run from 1 to 11 p.m. on Aug. 6.in the parking lot along the Peconic River.

[email protected]

06/02/11 6:47am
06/02/2011 6:47 AM

Plans for an ice skating rink in downtown Riverhead took a few steps forward last Thursday, as the Riverhead Town Board passed a resolution formally supporting an application for county grants to fund that project.

The proposed rink, which would be located near the comfort station in the Peconic Riverfront parking lot, was the idea of the Business Improvement District management association members and could be used year round, since the ice would be synthetic.

The Town Board is applying for grants through the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Program, through which officials say up to $100,000 could be obtained. The BID plans to allocate another $100,000 from its own fund reserves, according to its president, Ray Pickersgill.

Mr. Pickersgill said the BID has about $194,000 in reserve funds that were budgeted in previous years but never spent. The project’s first phase, the rink itself, would cost an estimated $200,000. The BID is planning to build a pavilion over the rink in a later, second phase.

“We can operate it ourselves with volunteers,” Mr. Pickersgill said, adding that the BID is also hoping to get advertising to fund the rink’s operating costs.

Ambulance barn getting AC for meds

After debating whether to install air conditioning in the bay area at Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters or in individual ambulances, the Town Board last Thursday finally decided to air condition the bay area.

The ambulance corps originally wanted to install AC in the bays in order to comply with state regulations that require medications to be kept at a certain temperature. But the Town Board balked at the cost and asked the corps to explore the cost of putting AC in individual ambulances. The corps originally made the request last September and came back again in March.

Corps president Ron Rowe told the Town Board May 19 that it would cost more to cool the four ambulances individually, since another refrigerator would be needed in the ambulance barn to cool medications that are not in the vehicles. The total came to about $35,000, compared to $24,000 to air condition the ambulance bay, according to the corps’ estimates.

Last Thursday, the board voted to formally seek bids to install air conditioning in the ambulance bay area. Mr. Rowe said new ambulances come equipped with air conditioning and that ambulances last about 12 years.

Town to buy in bulk

The Town Board also voted last Thursday to join the Long Island Intergovernmental Relations Purchasing Council, in the hope of being able to buy things at lower prices.

The council is a collective that combines the buying power of municipalities across Long Island and allows local governments to purchase necessities at reduced cost, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“Just as homeowners take advantage of the savings at price clubs and warehouse stores, we in Riverhead will avail ourselves of the savings the council offers,” Mr. Walter said in a press release.

“This will save us a lot of money,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said last Thursday.

Any county, town, village, school district, fire district or BOCES within Nassau and Suffolk counties is eligible to join the cooperative.

[email protected]

02/15/11 1:19pm
02/15/2011 1:19 PM

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter receives a salary of more than $115,000; family medical, dental and optical benefits worth about $18,000; annual state pension contribution of about $10,000; deferred compensation of about $7,000; and a town car. Riverhead taxpayers pay for a full-time supervisor.

After his election, Mr. Walter announced he would continue to practice law at his Wading River law office while continuing to accept full-time compensation.
Mr. Walter finds this arrangement acceptable despite the fact that his budget laid off more than a dozen town employees and our town is in 2011 enduring the highest tax increase of any Long Island town. The question of greed I leave to your contemplation, but not before pointing out that Mr. Walter’s predecessor, Phil Cardinale, worked full-time for the town and returned to the town nearly $20,000 of his salary.

While Mr. Walter may be pleased by his post-election announcement that he is continuing law work in Wading River, many Riverhead residents may not be — especially after a review of Mr. Walter’s Annual Financial Disclosure and Conflict Statement for 2010.

Asked to list the names of clients “who have applications currently pending before any of the elected or appointed Boards or Committees within the Town of Riverhead, or who have had applications pending within the last twelve months,” Supervisor Walter answered: “This information for clients is covered by attorney/client privilege.”

Five months later, on June 23, 2010, Mr. Walter acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Town Ethics Board advising that the above answer was “not complete and needs to be amended.” Supervisor Walter then submitted what he termed “information which should satisfy its completion.” He listed 15 appearances he has made before the Town Board, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Justice Court, Conservation Advisory Committee, Board of Assessors and Town Attorney on behalf of clients during his supervisor term.

These 15 appearances by him were on behalf of clients whose names were redacted, or blacked out, from the 2010 Annual Financial Disclosure and Conflicts Statement document delivered in response to my recent Freedom of Information Law request.

When a town supervisor practices law a dangerous potential for conflict of interest results. To avoid this conflict, lawyers who previously served as supervisor did not simultaneously practice law.

Mr. Walter put his own personal interest over the public interest when he announced after his election that he will continue to practice law. He adds insult to injury by refusing to disclose the identity of his clients. By hiding from the public the identity of the clients he represented before Riverhead town boards and committees, Mr. Walter spits in the face of the law and good public policy.

As Riverhead residents we are left with these questions: Considering the compensation paid, aren’t we entitled to a full-time supervisor? Shouldn’t Mr. Walter have stated prior to his election his intention to continue his law practice? What possible value does Mr. Walter’s Conflict and Financial Disclosure Statement have if critical information is kept secret and hidden from the public?

When Mr. Walter proposes to change the town’s master plan or zoning laws, how can we know if it is for the benefit of his paying clients or for the benefit of town residents? How can Mr. Walter simultaneously serve two masters?

Mr. Villella is a former Riverhead supervisor and chairman of the Riverhead Democratic Committee.

12/30/10 1:11pm
12/30/2010 1:11 PM

Former Town Supervisor Bob Kozakiewicz is expected to officially be named Riverhead town attorney Tuesday at an annual salary of $106,500, which is slightly less than the current town attorney makes.

The board also may appoint another attorney, William Duffy, to a deputy attorney post at a salary of about $88,000, officials said at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

Mr. Kozakiewicz, who had been town attorney from 1996 to 1997, would replace Dawn Thomas,  the town attorney since 2000. Her 2010 salary was $109,474. She is stepping down to take a job as a law clerk for State Supreme Court Judge Ralph Gazzillo

Mr. Kozakiewicz was town supervisor for two terms, from 2000 to 2003, and was on the board that hired Ms. Thomas.

In 2010, Ms. Kozakiewicz and James Saladino, who also is the head of the town Conservative Party, were hired as part-time town attorneys at $44,000 apiece per year, to replace a full-time attorney who had left, and was making $100,483.  Mr. Saladino is also stepping down from his town position this week.

At the time of their hiring, some had questioned why the town covered 75 percent of the health insurance costs for part-time attorneys. Supervisor Sean Walter said the town was paying less for the two part-timers, each working 20 hour weeks, than for a full-time attorney working 35 hours a week.

Under the pending employment agreement slated to be voted on next Tuesday, Mr. Kozakiewicz would be a full-time employee awith 100 percent of his health insurance paid by the town.

11/09/10 7:12pm
11/09/2010 7:12 PM

Riverhead Town’s revenue is on pace to fall about $900,000 short of projections in this year’s budget by the end of the year, according to town finance administrator Bill Rothaar.
His estimate is based on revenue the town had actually received through Nov. 5, 2010.
But $800,000 of that shortfall comes from two expected revenues that didn’t even begin to materialize in 2009. One was the sale of the East Lawn building on East Main Street for $450,000. The other was an anticipated settlement for $350,000 in a lawsuit involving alleged illegal excavation on Route 58.
“Other than the $800,000 that we knew wasn’t coming in, our revenues were right on target,” Mr. Rothaar said at last Thursday’s work session.
Minus the $800,000, the revenue was $94,878 short of projections.
The $894,878 total shortfall also assumes that $2.6 million in surpluses will be applied to decrease taxes in 2011. A year ago, the previous Town Board applied $4.7 million from the surplus, or fund balance, to lower taxes after it appeared that the budget would otherwise produce a huge tax rate increase.
One item that Town Board members questioned last week was the projected revenue from Planning Board fees. The 2010 budget estimates $100,000 in fees this year, but through Nov. 5, only $18,411 had been received. Mr. Rothaar is projecting $150,000 by year’s end.
“Planning has a couple of site plans that are expected to be completed,” he said, adding that his projection was based on information from planning department head Rick Hanley.
One area where revenue is expected to be higher than projected is in rental income from wireless phone companies, and the Town Board this year decided to rent space on three town sites for cell towers. The revenue anticipated in the 2010 budget was $100,000, but Mr. Rothaar said $149,500 has been received already and $254,000 more is expected by year’s end.
The Town Board has until Nov. 20 to adopt a final budget and has yet to decide what to do about six full-time and seven part-time positions proposed for elimination in Supervisor Sean Walter’s budget. Thus far in budget discussions, for the most part, councilmembers Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy have argued for restoring positions while councilmembers George Gabrielsen and Jodi Giglio have called for further cuts. Three votes are needed to make changes to the supervisor’s budget, which calls for a 4.3 percent town tax rate increase and a spending decrease.
[email protected]