01/29/15 10:00am
01/29/2015 10:00 AM

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The Riverhead Town Board will have a light agenda for Thursday’s work session, with a discussion of the draft resolutions for Tuesday’s 2 p.m. regular meeting being the only item on the agenda.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be live blogging the meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. Click below to follow or comment.

Live Blog Riverhead Town Board work session 01-29-2015

11/14/13 3:00pm
11/14/2013 3:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Apple Honda owner Irwin Garsten (foreground) discusses the deal Mr. Dunleavy offered at the Town Board work session Thursday morning.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Apple Honda owner Irwin Garsten (foreground) discusses the deal Mr. Dunleavy offered at the Town Board work session Thursday morning.

Town Councilman John Dunleavy assured the owner of a Riverhead auto dealership that the town could “circumvent” its bidding process by buying a natural gas-powered car from the dealership at a reduced price.

Apple Honda dealership owner Irwin Garsten came before the board at its Thursday morning work session, frustrated that the apparent deal had been called off by the town attorney’s office.

The deal surprised the other town board members, who said they had no idea the discussions had taken place. Mr. Dunleavy insisted there was “nothing underhanded” about the deal.

“John [Dunleavy] came back to me and said the following: the town would buy the vehicle if I sold it for under $20,000 and they would circumvent whatever rules may be in effect [for] having to put it out for a bid,” Mr. Garsten told the board.


The vehicle, a 2012 natural gas-powered Honda Civic, was donated to the town on a one-year free lease in June 2012, according to the lease agreement between the town and the dealership.

The car was donated as a joint promotion of clean energy between the town and Apple Honda, town officials said at the time.

The Town Board didn’t originally know where to put the car when it was donated, eventually assigning it to the town’s senior center, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said Thursday.

“It’s not like we need a car,” she said.

There was never an understanding that the town would be obligated to buy the car at the end of the lease, she said.

But that’s not how Mr. Garsten expected the deal would work.

He said he called Mr. Dunleavy after the lease had expired and agreed to offer the car to the town for $19,990 — below market value — because Mr. Dunleavy had assured him the town could buy the car from his dealership without having to solicit for other offers.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead senior center aide Daryl Sulzer lets Etta Pietocha, 90, in the town's new natural gas vehicle after they just filled it up at National Grid property last year.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead senior center aide Daryl Sulzer lets Etta Pietocha, 90, in the town’s new natural gas vehicle after they just filled it up at National Grid property last year.

The town’s bidding policy does require the town to request separate offers for items under $20,000, town, officials said during the meeting

Mr. Dunleavy said he was told the bidding requirements did not apply for those purchases.

When the town attorney’s office found out about the pending vehicle purchase, they checked to see if the town could find it for cheaper, complying with the rules, Mr. Garsten said.

The town’s decision to back out of Mr. Dunleavy’s deal was like a “slap in the face,” he said.

“My integrity is at stake in this thing.” Mr. Garsten said.

While Town Board members agreed the car was worth the money, they weren’t sure they could afford the vehicle. Ms. Giglio said maintenance costs would have to be taken into account since the town’s garage couldn’t service the energy-efficient car.

No line item for the car was included in the town’s budget either, she added.

After Mr. Dunleavy protested town officials taking issue with the deal, Councilman George Gabrielsen admonished him for making agreements without consulting the whole board.

“You don’t speak for ‘we,’ ” he said.

Mr. Dunleavy — who was recently elected to a third term  and during the campaign boasted of securing “the free use of a natural gas vehicle” for seniors — said he wanted to make the town more green.

He said the town should start by buying one car and later buying two or three over time.

But Ms. Giglio said the town could not just buy cars whenever it wanted.

“I want solar panels on my house, but I can’t afford it,” she said.

Mr. Dunleavy claimed the other board members were only upset over the deal because “my name is attached to it,” a line that caused some members of the board to roll their eyes.

The Town Board members agreed to talk to the senior services department, which had been using the freely leased car before it was returned earlier this year and see if town workers needed the vehicle purchased.

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For a full recap of the Town Board’s work session meeting, see below:

Riverhead Town Work Session

10/24/13 1:00pm
10/24/2013 1:00 PM

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The Riverhead Town Board is seeking revisions to a proposed law that would require all new swimming pools to have a pump-out and a minimum storage equal to 20 percent of the pool capacity.

The proposal, discussed at Thursday’s work session, was recommended by the town’s Conservation Advisory Council and initiated by planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree. However, board members said it should be restricted to areas near wetlands and the requirement should be for a drainage ring that is 4 feet by 4 feet. The proposal, which aims to prevent harmful pool chemicals from seeping into groundwater, will be revised and brought back before the Town Board at a future meeting.

The board also sought more information on the effect of potential loopholes in the new reduced parking requirements it recently approved for retail and office buildings. The goal of the amendment was to reduce parking, and therefore clearing of trees, since many of the bigger parking lots along Route 58 are almost never full. But the concern, raised recently by Larry Simms of Save Main Road, was that the amendment, in some cases, will allow developers to build more. There is currently no requirement mandating the area be used for open space.

Board members agreed that this could be a problem in some areas, but asked planning director Rick Hanley to look at specific lots and try to determine the extent of the potential problem.

To read what else was discussed at the work session, click below to read News-Review reporter Tim Gannon’s blog of the meeting.

October_24,_2013_-_Agenda(1).pdf by Riverhead News-Review

10/03/13 9:45am
10/03/2013 9:45 AM

liveblogRiverhead Town’s independent internal audit has revealed that the town saved some $900,000 more than it expected when it budgeted for 2012.

(The News-Review reported live from the meeting; click below to see what else happened.)

But the town’s fund balance, or reserves, still dropped by $1.7 million that year, according to the findings.

The town had budgeted to use $2.6 million in fund balance.

“The trend is not good,” Jack Orben, a retired investment banker now serving on the audit committee, said during a presentation of the audit’s findings before the Town Board on Thursday.

Among the chief reasons listed for the $900,000 difference, was that benefit payments to town employees were less expensive than anticipated.

Though it was good the town lost less money than it had expected, the losses overall are still worrisome.

Problems could prove to be “catastrophic” if the town keeps depleting its fund balance, the auditors told the board.

The audit committee members agreed that the town’s landfill debt — about $4 million per year until 2023 — was the primary cause of the town’s financial issues. In recent years the town has had to dip into its reserves to reduce the impact of accumulated debt on taxpayers to avoid a tax spike.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the town needs to sell land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton next year or face that significant tax increase to up the town’s revenues.

“Next year is the year of reckoning,” he said, adding that the town is looking into taking out mortgages against unsold EPCAL land as a last resort. Mr. Walter blamed previous administrations for paying the minimum amount on the town’s debt and running up costs “like a credit card.”

The audit also revealed five control deficiencies related to the town’s financial statements, four less than last year’s audit. Of those deficiencies one was a “material weakness” — the most serious type of deficiency. That weakness, related to the town’s aging software, was also identified on last year’s audit.

Earlier this year, town officials approved the installation of new switches to the town’s hardware to help solve that problem.

Three remaining “significant deficiencies” — the second most serious offense — were related to the town’s Federal Emergency Management Agency project on Horton Avenue, which ran over costs by about $2 million this year and is now on hold, according to a previous News-Review report.

Still, auditors praised the town’s work to cut back on deficiencies.

“We’re pecking off what we can as we can,” said town accounting chief Bill Rothaar.

Check below to see the full recap of the work session: