Steve Levy: Legislature’s bill could force sex offenders to stay put on East End

05/21/2010 12:00 AM |

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has sent a letter to the supervisors of Riverhead and Southampton towns saying the two homeless sex offender trailers on the East End might have to stay open.
The trailers could remain near downtown Riverhead and in Westhampton Beach if members of the county Legislature move forward with a bill that prevents the county from using a voucher system to house the offenders, he wrote.
The bill, which also instructs the county Department of Social Services to find suitable locations for private shelters across the county, was described by Mr. Levy as “ill advised.” He noted that voucher systems, which provides daily stipends for food and lodging, are used in neighboring Nassau County and throughout the state.
“Now, this proven and successful approach is on life support and would be terminated as part of the recent bill,” he wrote. “Such action would seemingly leave the county with no option but to keep the Riverside and Westhampton trailers open, even in light of a court order that limits our ability with respect to use of trailers.”
A state judge had ordered the trailers inadequate due to their lack of  running water. That ruling came after some of the about 20 sex offenders taxied each night to sleep in the cot-lined trailers filed a complaint of tight quarters and a lack of showers or toilets. County officials have said the Riverside trailer must be moved because Riverhead Town would not let the county run sewer lines to a replacement trailer there. In Westhampton Beach, the county earlier this month tried to place a newer trailer that would have hooked into an existing septic tank, but Southampton officials acquired a temporary restraining order to block that move from happening. Southampton Town this week got a judge to extend that restraining order, officials said.
The county Legislature approved the bill Mr. Levy referenced by a margin of 14-4. Mr. Levy has vowed to veto the bill, citing how hard it would be to find suitable locations and coordinate with private shelter providers to present a plan within 30 days, as the bill demands. He said vouchers would be necessary in the meantime, and added that finding such locations would likely be a daunting task. The Legislature would need 12 votes to override Mr. Levy’s veto.
“I urge you to join me in rejecting this bill that would prohibit us from using vouchers,” he wrote the supervisors, “even as the Legislature scrambles to find acceptable sites across the county