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.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/11/13 12:00pm
TIM KELLY PHOTO | Sean Walter 'surrenders' to Al Krupski at the Dark Horse on election night Tuesday.

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter conceding the special county legislative election to Al Krupski (left) in January.

If the Republican Party puts up a challenger to County Legislator Al Krupski in November, chances are that person won’t live on the North Fork.

With the county GOP’s nominating convention only days away, the party’s Riverhead and Southold town leaders say they know of no one willing to stand against the popular Democrat, who in January handily beat Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter to fill the seat left vacant when Ed Romaine was elected Brookhaven town supervisor.

Mr. Krupski’s victory, 6,561 votes to 3,182, a margin of 67 percent to Mr. Walter’s 33 percent, prompted the supervisor in conceding to say, “You stomped me bad.” Prior to the vote, GOP leaders said they needed a candidate with significant name recognition, such as an elected official, to run a competitive campaign against Mr. Krupski, who had served in town government for 28 years.

In advance of the party’s May 14 county nominating convention, Republican leaders were scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider potential candidates for the legislative contests and the State Assembly seat left vacant when Dan Losquadro won a special election in March for the Brookhaven highway superintendent’s post.

Regarding the upcoming Krupski race, Brookhaven GOP leader Jesse Garcia deferred to Suffolk GOP Chairman John Jay LaValle, who said his party does not want to forgo the challenge.

“We do have a couple of people looking at it and we’re in discussions with them right now,” Mr. LaValle said on Monday. “We have to run a candidate. I feel pretty strong about that.”

Southold GOP leader Peter McGreevy said no thought was given to cross-endorsing Mr. Krupski, who ran with Republican support in one of his Town Trustee elections.

Suffolk Democrats will hold their convention on Monday, May 20.

Both parties have interviewed numerous potential candidates for the 2nd Assembly District seat, left vacant by Mr. Losquadro. The district covers Riverhead, Southold and a large section of northeastern Brookhaven.

Democrats under consideration include Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery in Cutchogue and Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point, who ran unsuccessfully against State Senator Ken LaValle in 2010.

The list of potential GOP candidates includes Southold Councilman Chris Talbot and former Romaine aide Bill Faulk of Manorville.

tkelly@timesreview.com

05/10/13 8:00am
05/10/2013 8:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | When the Riverhead Sewer District is able to upgrade its facility off Riverside Drive, the water being currently treated at the plant would then be pumped through a new, high-tech filtration system before reaching Peconic Bay.

With about eight months left before $20 million in upgrades must be completed at Riverhead’s sewer treatment plant off Riverside Drive, town officials readily admit they are well short of having enough money to fund the project. Town leaders have been preparing two pitches in hopes of acquiring enough funds through Suffolk County to pay for the upgrades.

The Riverhead Sewer District’s assessed rate for properties is currently just .455 percent, or about $35 a year on average for property owners, said sewer superintendent Michael Reichel. If the town can’t secure county money, assessed rates will have to jump by more than 522 percent, up to about $215 a year, to help pay for the necessary upgrades, which are being mandated by the state, town officials said.

No usage rate increases would be planned, Mr. Reichel said.

Riverhead’s main sewer treatment plant, near the county’s Indian Island Country Club, was built in 1937 and has been upgraded twice, most recently in 2000, which at the time helped the town meet state Department of Environmental Conservation requirements, said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

“The DEC’s basic opinion [after the last upgrade] was that we wouldn’t have to upgrade the sewage treatment plant for the next 20 years,” Mr. Walter said. “But then the DEC found new technology.”

Mr. Reichel said the plant’s permit requires the town to complete an upgrade by January 2014 that will meet new water quality standards. (He noted, however, that construction and installation of the upgrades would take about two years.) The district plans to file for an extension on the required upgrades while additional funding is secured.

“We’re coming to a crunch here,” Mr. Reichel said.

The sewer district spent about $1 million drafting plans for the upgrade in 2009, town officials said. Those plans involve converting and repurposing a number of existing tanks at the plant as a way to contain costs.

The sewer district currently has about $2.1 million available through a state grant, $700,000 set aside in a nitrogen-mitigation fund and a remaining district fund balance that can be applied toward the upgrade, Mr. Reichel said, but that still leaves the district about $12 million short of what’s needed.

“[The planning] is done,” he said. “We know how big it’s going to be, we know the size of the pipes, we just don’t have the money.”

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Waste water being aerated in one of the two 750,000-gallon treatment tanks at the Riverhead Sewer District plant. With the required plant upgrades, the treated water would be pumped through a high-tech filtration system.

Town officials went before a Suffolk County Legislature sewer committee “multiple times,” Mr. Walter said, but got no closer to acquiring county funds for the project.

Last month, however, the county announced a competitive grant for municipalities to pay for sewer district upgrades.

About $30 million in funding will be available through the county’s Asset Stabilization Reserve Fund, which comes from a countywide quarter-cent sales tax used for land preservation and water quality. Submissions will be evaluated by the Suffolk County sewer infrastructure committee, headed by Legislator Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), and then presented to the Legislature for approval.

“This pool of funds gives Suffolk County a way to ‘grow’ sewers in Suffolk, which is both an environmental and economic development necessity,” Mr. Horsley said in a statement about the grant last month.

The applications are due by June 4, Mr. Reichel said.

“We’re looking to get as much as we can to go toward the upgrade,” he said.

Mr. Walter said the town will apply for the grant as early as next week.

Town officials also hope to tap into another source of income: the county’s sewer stabilization fund. That fund allows sewer districts in the county that raise sewer rates by more than 3 percent to get additional county funding to stave off further rate increases for customers, town officials said. Mr. Walter said he believes Riverhead is entitled to the fund, even though the local sewer district is run by the town without county involvement.

“We’ve also been very willing to hook up additional facilities,” Mr. Walter said, pointing out that the town’s water treatment plant already services the Suffolk County Center and jail complex in Riverside in Southampton Town.

Those buildings account for about 24 percent of the sewer district’s incoming flow, but pay only about 18 percent of the district’s revenue, Mr. Walter said.

“It’s a sweetheart deal for the county,” he said, hoping the arrangement would bode well for the town’s efforts to get funding.

The sewer treatment plant at the end of River Avenue currently uses biochemical methods to treat the wastewater generated by businesses and homes from downtown Riverhead to Route 58 to the Tanger Outlet Center.

The untreated water flows through a series of metal grates about a half-inch apart before it eventually moves into large 23-feet-deep tanks containing a layer of bacteria-laden “sludge” at the bottom. The water is mixed and aerated in the open-air tanks, Mr. Riechel said, as the “good” bacteria in the tanks devour the harmful germs.

A layer of clean water is left between the sludge at the base of the tank and a thin layer of scum at the top. A floating device called a “decanter” removes this clean water and pumps it into another set of equalization tanks, Mr. Reichel said. The water is then fed through a series of pipes to a bed of ultraviolet lights that kill remaining bacteria. The treated water, which is not safe to drink but is of a higher standard than required for river water, is pumped into the Peconic River.

The $20 million upgrade would install a finer metal strainer at the point where the water initially enters the property, Mr. Reichel said. Instead of being a half-inch apart, the metal grates will be 1/16 of an inch apart, allowing the sewer district to catch smaller physical waste faster.

The plant would use two currently vacant tanks as part of a system to irrigate Indian Island Golf Course with treated water. This would have the added benefit of allowing the county to save precious well water, which it now pulls from to irrigate the course, Mr. Reichel said.

Finally, the upgrade would also include a mesh that will be installed in the equalization tanks that would further filter the clean water produced by the plant, as well as more powerful UV lights that would kill anything in the water, even viruses, to help improve water quality before it is pumped out of the plant.

The town’s property also includes a scavenger treatment plant that takes in wastewater from private and commercial cesspools from across the East End and Brookhaven, Mr. Reichel said.

He said the town has not only readied a proposal for the county’s competitive grant, but has also tested out the planned irrigation system on a smaller but identical golf course built on the sewer district’s property to pilot the program.

Because of the irrigation component, the town was able to secure a $2.1 million grant from the state DEC to help fund the plant upgrades.

“If we don’t get the [rest of the] money, the board’s got to make a decision,” Mr. Reichel said. “But they have no decision to make but to go forward.”

Steve Wirth, owner of Digger O’Dell’s bar and restaurant in downtown Riverhead, said he pays a “sizable part” of his taxes to the sewer district because of his higher usage.

Mr. Wirth said the increases to the assessed value portion of the sewer tax would likely not affect his business as much as any usage rate changes would.

“If it’s necessary and it moves us in the right direction and gets us something better to the environment… you gotta do it,” Mr. Wirth said. “I’m not environmentalist but that’s worth it.”

psquire@timesreview.com

03/13/13 12:00pm
03/13/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town historian Georgette Case (right) rings the brass bell as (from left) town clerk Diane Wilhelm, councilmen Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy, and Supervisor Sean Walter look on Wednesday morning.

Town historian Georgette Case stood outside the front doors to Town Hall Wednesday morning, vigorously ringing a brass bell and announcing, “Here Ye, Here Ye, Here Ye! It’s 9:30 o’clock. The stage has arrived from Albany with great news on the 13th of March, 1792.”

After celebrating the 220th anniversary of the establishment of Riverhead Town last year, Ms. Case proposed making it an annual celebration. So this year marked the first of what will be an annual reading of the law that established the Town of Riverhead.

The act in came to pass after residents of Southold Town complained of their town being “too long.”

“WHERAS many of the freeholders and inhabitants of Southold in Suffolk county have presented to the legislature, that their town is so long, that it is inconvenient for them to attend at town meetings and also to transact the other necessary business of the said town; and have prayed that the same may be divided into two towns,” the act said.

At the ceremony Wednesday in front of a handful of media members, Supervisor Sean Walter said, “We have succeeded to secede.”

photo@timesreview.com

03/09/13 11:00am
03/09/2013 11:00 AM
Sandy damaged cars in Calverton

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vehicles being transported from the EPCAL site last week.

Only one of two runways at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL) still has Hurricane Sandy-damaged cars parked on it.

Insurance Auto Auctions, an Illinois-based company that has been storing flood-damaged cars on both runways at the former F-14 test site since the storm, has had all the cars removed from the eastern runway, which is still used for aviation.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sandy-damaged vehicles being transported from the EPCAL site last week.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The eastern runway at EPCAL has had all cars removed from it.

But while that might delight environmentalists who have raised concerns over the cars, that’s not the best news for Riverhead Town finances, since the town stood to make up to $2.7 million from IAA depending on how long the cars stayed there.

“I have a feeling they are going to be [completely] out of there by June, that’s what their goal is,” said Supervisor Sean Walter.

Mr. Walter said the cars being stored by Copart, another auction company, on grasslands at EPCAL owned privately by Jan Burman, have been moved off the grass and now are being stored on privately owned taxiways that run along the eastern runway.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO |  Sandy-damaged cars parked on grasslands at EPCAL in early January.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO | Sandy-damaged cars parked on grasslands at EPCAL in early January.

There still are cars being kept on the western runway by IAA. That runway is no longer actively used for aviation. The cars at EPCAL are all total-loss cars acquired by insurance companies, which then use the auction company to sell them for parts or to licensed recyclers.

SkyDive Long Island had been using the eastern runway but the company signed an agreement with IAA in December through which they were reimbursed for the loss of the runway use while cars were stored on the active runway for up to four months.

Following Hurricane Sandy, which flooded more than 200,000 cars in the tri-state area last year, the town agreed to lease 52.14 acres on the inactive 7,000-foot runway as well as taxiways to the west of the EPCAL property to IAA for six months, and then followed that up by agreeing to an arrangement with IAA and SkyDive Long Island that shut down the active 10,000-foot runway on the eastern part of EPCAL so that IAA could store more cars.

The first deal, using runways and taxiways on the western runway, will net the town over $1 million for six months, with an option for another six months, which could double that amount. The second deal using only the eastern runway but not the eastern taxiways, netted the town $670,000 with a four-month limit on how long the cars could stay.

Parts of the eastern runway’s taxiways, which runs along private properties, are privately owned by adjoining landowners, town officials said. The terms of any financial arrangement between Mr. Berman’s company and the taxiway owner or owners were unavailable. Mr. Berman could not be reached for comment.

The runway leases added a boost to the town’s reserves, and Mr. Walter said he’s still hopeful the town will net around $2 million from the cars in Calverton when all is said and done.

“I hope they stay till October but they’ve already cleaned off the 10,000-foot runway,” Mr. Walter said. The town will definitely get more than $1 million from the runway leases, he said, and possibly about $2 million.

The cars that were being stored on Mr. Burman’s land came as part of a private deal between his company and Copart USA, an auto auction company in Brookhaven hamlet. The town is not involved in that deal.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued violations to Copart and Mr. Burman for storing the cars on the grass. The DEC has said it had no objections to cars being stored on the runways or taxiways, which are paved, although Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society has called for the town to end that practice as well, saying rainwater runoff can carry pollutants from the cars into the groundwater.

Mr. Walter said he wasn’t sure exactly when the cars were removed from the grass, only that it happened “recently.”

In addition to the town and Mr. Burman, storm-damaged cars also are being stored on a paved parking lot on the south part of EPCAL, on land owned by Laoudis Of Calverton LLC, which owns the Mivila Foods facility there.

Representatives from IAA could not immediately be reached for comment.

tgannon@timesreview.com

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.”

psquire@timesreview.com

02/28/13 12:00pm
02/28/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The southern entrance into the already-developed part of EPCAL, referred to as the industrial core.

A plan released this week by local environmentalists for the redevelopment of Enterprise Park At Calverton is nearly identical to the one that Riverhead Town is presenting to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said.

“It’s very close to our plan,”  Mr. Walter said.

He said that’s a good thing because it’s important to have the environmental community working with the town as it presents its plans to the DEC.

Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, called on local environmentalists in November to come up with a plan of their own for EPCAL. Mr. Amper said at the time that Mr. Walter “is launching a one-man war on the environment.”

Mr. Amper and others released their plan this week.

“From what I’ve seen, there does seem to be agreement,” Mr. Amper said.

Mr. Amper worked with Bob DeLuca of the Group for the East End, Geoffrey Freeman, an architect and planner, Tony Coates, a former Business Improvement District member, and Ray Pickersgill, the BID president, to come up with a plan.

His group, led by Mr. Freeman and including members of the business community, did not see the town plan when it put together its proposal, he said.

“They spent three months trying to determine what needed to be preserved as far as endangered species, wetlands and grasslands and they came up with a plan we think the town can work with,” Mr. Amper said.

The town will need to formally submit a plan to the DEC, which Mr. Walter thinks it is close to doing, and after that, the plan will be subject to a scoping hearing, where the public suggests issues that should be studied in an environmental impact study. After that, it must undertake that study.

The study will take about a year before the plan can be approved, he said.

“It’s key for everybody to have input, so this becomes a partnership with everybody,” Mr. Walter said.

While the two maps look identical, the one submitted by Mr. Amper’s group states that 695 acres can be developed at EPCAL, while the town traditionally has said its plan identifies about 600 acres.

Mr. Walter thinks that’s just because the town has access to surveys and computer models of the land in question.

He said that if anything, there’s only about 50 acre difference between the two plans.

“For too long, some have suggested that EPCAL development has been blocked by environmentalists,” Mr. Amper said. “That’s never been true and it’s high time we proved it. Intelligent planning dictates that we identify the areas that must be protected before additional land is developed.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/24/13 7:59am
01/24/2013 7:59 AM

faa_logo

In less than two short decades, the North Fork has seen Grumman Corporation’s fighter jet assembly and testing facility in Calverton shut down; North Fork Bank’s acquisition by Capital One Bank, which later closed its Mattituck headquarters; Mattituck Aviation — globally famous for its airplane engine overhauls — purchased by a Chinese company and relocated; and an announcement that the Plum Island Animal Disease Center would be shuttered in favor of a new facility in Kansas.

In 2008, in the face of cost-cutting measures included in a proposed congressional budget, it also appeared the area would lose an additional 1,000 nearby jobs at Brookhaven National Lab — at least until Congressman Tim Bishop stepped in and fought to keep those jobs here. Meanwhile, economic development at the former Grumman site, now called the Enterprise Park at Calverton, has been largely stagnant.

It’s clear that the greatest threat to our region, its real estate market and the families who live here is the continued loss of well-paid jobs. That’s why the North Fork needs a facility like the NextGen Integrated Air Traffic Control Facility, a campus comprising 250,000 square feet of buildings that would generate some 800 highly technical and well-paid permanent local jobs, as well as hundreds of construction jobs over a 10-year building period. Riverhead Town officials agreed last week to submit an application to bring the project to town land at EPCAL.

Frankly, the people of the North Fork and adjacent areas need the facility more than those in Islip Town, Nassau County and even Selden, where residents are more easily able to commute to New York City and other points west, where more vibrant industrial economies exist and quality jobs are more readily available. While it’s understandable that Mr. Bishop doesn’t want to choose sides among constituents in his vast district, he should recognize this great threat to the region and push for sites on, or closer to, the East End. While the FAA coming to town-owned land at EPCAL would be best for Riverhead taxpayers in particular, any land in the area will do — even property near Westhampton’s Gabreski Airport or privately held land at the EPCAL site.

It is regrettable, as Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy pointed out last week, that the town has arrived late to the party in making a pitch for this facility. Now, we can only hope the delay doesn’t hurt the town’s chances of getting it.

The News-Review has supported Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter’s efforts to create an economic generator at EPCAL by subdividing the property and selling off the land to individual companies. But this FAA facility is a potential game changer, just as other projects might be as they are proposed for the site. Mr. Walter will need to adjust his vision for EPCAL accordingly. Yes, as Mr. Walter has said, thinking about Long Island as a whole has its benefits — but it’s a big island, and things that benefit Westbury or Lindenhurst or Islip Town can actually worsen our precarious situation on the East End. And that, it could be argued, could do even greater damage to the island as a whole.