05/27/14 6:00pm
05/27/2014 6:00 PM
Neighbors have been complaining about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Neighbors have been complaining about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Riverhead Town has formally taken Gershow Recycling to court, filing legal papers on Friday after continually hearing complaints from neighbors about noise and vibrations coming from Gershow’s Hubbard Avenue recycling facility.

The Town Board on April 15 had authorized the legal action, saying the property “is being used and occupied in violation of various sections of the Code of the Town of Riverhead and the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.” (more…)

05/10/14 10:00am
05/10/2014 10:00 AM
(Credit: Tim Gannon)

(Credit: Tim Gannon)

For readers out there who aren’t big town hall buffs, our government reporter, Tim Gannon, does a bang-up job each week reporting live from public Town Board meetings. In a media cycle that calls for fast, reliable information, his live blogs — with quotes, photos and meeting details along with his built-in perspective from 18 years covering the town — offer a great glimpse into the inner workings of our local government, if that’s your thing. Of course, since I’m an editor it’s my job to follow the news out of our local schools, governments and business communities (more…)

05/09/14 3:16pm
05/09/2014 3:16 PM
Neighbors have been complaining about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Neighbors have been complaining about noise and ground shaking near Gershow Recycling on Hubbard Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The clock may be running out on Gershow Recycling.

After Riverhead Town Board members gave the town attorney the OK to bring the Hubbard Avenue recycling facility to court, the Medford-based company has submitted some information the town has requested over how it plans to mitigate noise on site.

But it’s not enough, according to deputy town attorney Bill Duffy. (more…)

05/01/14 5:00am

 

Clockwise from top-left: Town hall, the armory building, police station/justice court, Second Street firehouse (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Clockwise from top-left: Town hall, the armory building, police station/justice court, Second Street firehouse (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

If Riverhead Town Board members don’t agree on much, they at least agrees on this: The town needs a new location for its justice court.

But how to construct it, or where to put it, or how much the town should spend on it have remained topics of constant conversation at Town Hall in recent few months — with little, if any, common ground being established.

(more…)

03/28/14 9:00am
03/28/2014 9:00 AM
Riverhead Town Hall (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Riverhead Town Hall (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

As if journalists needed another reason to call for more open government, the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2005 started Sunshine Week, a “national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.”

Sunshine Week was actually last week, March 16-22. But this week has provided us with a couple of reminders about how various elected officials could easily improve their efforts to open up to the public.

It’s not exactly breaking news that Riverhead’s all-Republican Town Board meets in caucus from time to time. Precedent supports the legality of such meetings. Supervisor Sean Walter’s allegation that board members are discussing public business during the meetings, however — and the fact that board members are meeting so frequently — is noteworthy, as it appears to fly in the face of state open meetings laws.

RELATED STORY: ‘SUPE TAKES AIM AT CLOSED-DOOR MEETINGS AMONG BOARD MEMBERS

Board members who attend the caucus meetings, as well as the current Riverhead Republican Committee chairman, deny the allegations, describing the meetings as discussions about the political impact of board members’ decisions and not the decisions themselves.

The timing the supervisor picked to bring all of this to light could be considered curious. He’s suffered the loss of a few votes on the public stage recently — likely stemming from discussions during these caucuses — so this could be construed as a political counter-punch. But there’s really no way for the public to know the whole truth unless the all-Republican Town Board stops meeting in caucus. And the only way to accomplish that, it would seem, would be to diversify the party affiliations of Town Board members.

Meanwhile, in the school district, a couple of instances this past week show room for improvement as well.

Superintendent Nancy Carney gave a thorough presentation Tuesday night about a $4 million bond proposal now set to go before voters in May, after which the school board voted to adopt it as a ballot proposition. But the proposal had never been publicly discussed at any previous school board meeting.

Without speaking on the merits of the bond itself, one might think these publicly elected officials — albeit volunteers — would want to inform and seek input from their constituents before setting the stage to borrow $4 million.

And following the presentation, it raises eyebrows to see a unanimous vote on such a costly plan without any discussion whatsoever — between members of the public and the school board or within the school board itself.

RELATED COVERAGE FROM TUESDAY NIGHT’S SCHOOL BOARD MEETING

Another note from Tuesday night: The school board approved a plan to spend $456,000 from the district’s capital reserve fund right after closing a public hearing on the matter. While it’s not uncommon for public boards to adopt more mundane measures immediately following a public hearing, voters deserve more time to weigh in on $456,000 in expenses for a fund they voted to create.

So, in all, the school board may spend about $4.5 million with little public discussion or input from the people being asked to come up with the money.

If taxpayers in the town and school district feel they’re being increasingly marginalized when it comes to big decisions — and their leaders are opting to keep them out of the discussion to avoid headaches, slowdowns or the outright blockage of measures — then the public’s only recourse is to demand change through their votes.

03/27/14 5:15pm
03/27/2014 5:15 PM
Councilman John Dunleavy (left) and Sean Walter at a recent work session. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Councilman John Dunleavy (left) and Sean Walter at a recent work session. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

“This board tore each other apart for the last two years on petty issues. And the lack of caucuses allowed that to happen.”

That’s how Riverhead Republican committee leader Mason Haas explained why he believes Riverhead Town Board members, all Republicans, need to meet in twice-monthly political caucus meetings — which are closed to the public.

(more…)