Budget due today

A boater approaches the mouth of East Creek on Saturday.

Supervisor Sean Walter will present his tentative 2011 Riverhead Town budget Thursday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m. in Town Hall.

The supervisor has said he cut more than $2.8 million from the budget in preparation for unveiling his tentative budget, which must be presented before Oct. 1, under state law. He said the tax rate would have increased by more than 20 percent otherwise.

Mr. Walter has frequently cited a budget deficit of more than $6 million, which he claims was left by his predecessor, Phil Cardinale, who served from 2004 to 2009. He said the town offset tax increases during those years by using one-shot revenues from things like the sale of land at Calverton Enterprise Park, and that the 2010 budget included some unrealistic revenue projections.

Mr. Cardinale, in turn, said in a column in the News-Review last week that the town had an $8 million fund balance when he left office, while other towns had deficits. And he claims that most of the added spending in this year’s budget was because of the $1 million cost of retaining town dispatchers, which Mr. Walter supported and he opposed.

State law requires the supervisor to submit a budget proposal first, and then the entire Town Board reviews that budget and can make changes before it submits it for a public hearing. Traditionally, that public hearing is held the day after Election Day. The full Town Board is required to adopt a final budget by Nov. 20.

Creek dredging planned

Suffolk County is looking to dredge three creeks in Riverhead Town, but first it wants the town to sign indemnification agreements protecting it from liability.

The creeks in question are Miamogue Lagoon, Hawk’s Creek and East Creek, all in Jamesport. The indemnification agreement would mean that if something happened during the dredging, like a bulkhead falling down, the town, not the county, would be responsible for the cost, Mr. Walter said.

Dredging of creeks is traditionally done by the county Department of Public Works. Town officials said the county asked for a similar arrangement last year that was rejected.

“But if we want these creeks open for our residents, the county is saying we must have this indemnification agreement,” Mr. Walter said during a recent work session. “They really have us between the proverbial rock and a hard place.”

Several years ago, a bulkhead fell apart during a dredging project and the residents in the area sued the county, officials said.

Board members asked for an engineering study of bulkheads near those creeks to determine their condition.

Public water at the club?

The Town Board has scheduled an Oct. 19 public hearing on a proposal to extend the Riverhead Water District to the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club.

The $500,000 cost of the extension will be paid entirely by the U.S. Navy, with no funding coming from the Riverhead Water District or from the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club.

One drinking water well at the club has already been fitted with a filter because of a plume of contaminated groundwater south of the former Grumman site.

The pollution is believed to have occurred while the Navy owned the land and leased it to the Grumman Corporation, which assembled fighter planes on the property for more than 30 years.

Some hunting club staff members, including one with young children, live at the site and use the water there.

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