Letters to the Editor

Let Grumman site go back to nature
The best use for the former Grumman property is to take down the fences, remove the buildings and runway and let the property go back to nature the way it was intended. The deer and other wildlife population will increase, and hikers and joggers will enjoy the property as well as sportsmen who will fish in the pond.
Riverhead residents cannot afford to keep supporting the Grumman project. The town spends many thousands of taxpayer dollars yearly for security on the property. The Riverhead Town Board cannot find a prudent, profitable and productive use for the property. It is time to cut our losses and do something positive and practical .
If you agree with me please call the Riverhead supervisor or a council member.
Jim Dreeben

Don’t let Bruno die in vain
Bruno wasn’t the first dog at the Riverhead Animal Shelter to have been euthanized unnecessarily, but he may be the last. I’ve been wrong before, though. Every time another Riverhead shelter issue surfaces – and there have been many – I think to myself, “This is it. They can’t possibly allow this to continue. The Town Board will surely do something now.”
And then, nothing happens.
Remember Butch, the “meatball” dog, euthanized after a kennel attendant was accidentally nipped when the dog reached for a treat? Or Linda Mosca, a dedicated volunteer who was banned? For years Linda walked the dogs at the shelter and found homes for many. She even testified on behalf of the town when Riverhead faced improper practice charges by the union for allowing volunteers at the shelter. The case was subsequently dismissed.
The list is long. And still, Supervisor Sean Walter either maintains a defensive position or refuses to discuss the matter. In a Town Hall meeting he claims to have followed the euthanasia policy to the letter of the law. Did he read the policy? Did he read the medical reports? Did he read animal control officer Lou Coronesi’s documentation? Mr. Walter is reportedly an attorney. Is he familiar with the phrase, “arbitrary and capricious”?
And then there is Police Chief David Hegermiller, enforcer of laws. What responsibility does he assume, claiming that Bruno’s death was “urgent”? He states, “It is impossible for the town to adopt out a dog with a bite history.” Is that the policy? Is that why Bruno was killed? To whom is the chief accountable? Oh, that would be Sean Walter.
Councilman Jim Wooten, liaison to the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee is conducting an investigation. Well, Jim, it looks like the ball is in your court – again. As a matter of fact, it’s been there for the past three years.
Sue Hansen

Disclose Blues Festival finances
“Lol” is an abbreviation used in texting and e-mails in place of the words “laugh out loud.” I laughed out loud when I read Vail-Leavitt Music Hall’s board president Bob Barta’s News-Review letter to the editor last week talking about the Riverhead Blues Festival.
Bob, you still don’t get it.
Last year when you received the right to hold the Blues Festival downtown you and your board agreed that you would disclose the finances of your festival. You have yet to do so, even though you agreed to do so by September of last year. Your organization, the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, is certainly a worthy charity, we all want to see it do well, but you simply do not live up to the standards that other charitable organizations do and frankly your lack of financial transparency is appalling. You still don’t get that the Town of Riverhead provides you with police, cleanup, sanitation, medical services; blocks the roads for you and keeps order — services that cost some $50 ,000 — so that you can run your event each year while not disclosing a dime of what you take in. You’ll complain and say, nor does the Polish Festival, nor the Country Fair, but Bob, once again you miss the point, write this down so you won’t forget: Those events don’t charge the public to attend; yours does. Why should taxpayer dollars be spent to subsidize your event and then you thumb your nose at the very disclosure that you agreed upon? Something smells here, Bob. For you to call for a meeting with the Town Board after you won’t even live up to what you promised in the way of disclosure is a joke.
Bob, your event is out of gas. It’s like “Groundhog Day.” the same event each year, over and over again. Stop blaming others for your declining attendance, stop blaming the weather, or evil forces and live up to what you promised, disclose your finances or a cloud will always hang over the Blues Festival
Ray Pickersgill
Editor’s note: Mr. Pickersgill is a Riverhead salon owner and president of the Business Improvement District management association.

No BNL pollutants in downtown Riverhead
I would like to respond to the concerns of Sandra Mott, as referenced in the News-Review article about starting a community garden north of Grangebel Park, which I think is a wonderful idea. She claims “the Peconic River floods and is filled with contaminants from Brookhaven Lab.” That is absolutely not true, and is the reason that the Community Advisory Council was formed over 10 years ago to educate and get accurate information to all residents.
I have been a member of the CAC since it started, representing the Wading River Civic Association, along with Bob Conklin, who had represented Riverhead Town. Bob loved the river, and he was especially vigilant that no pollution get as far as downtown Riverhead.
The Peconic has been a main cleanup goal of the lab. It has been monitored and the damage from their sewage treatment plant has been remediated to the point that the 2009 Environmental Cleanup Report states: “Analytical data for 2009 show that the average gross alpha and beta activity levels in the STP discharge were within the typical range of historical levels and were well below drinking water standards. During 2009, tritium was detected in the STP effluent only once at a concentration above the minimum detectable activity (490pCi/L), which is less than 3% of the drinking water standard. Tritium was also detected twice in the influent, but at levels just above the minimum detectable activity. Analysis of the STP effluent continued to show no detection of cesium-137, strontium-90, or other gamma-emitting nuclides attributable to BNL operations. Similarly, there were no radionuclides detected along the Peconic River in 2009 that were attributable to BNL operations.”
If Sandra, or anyone else, is still concerned, please call the Suffolk County or state health department for more information. Health officials and those with the state Department of Environment Conservation were involved in the whole decision-making process, and did some of their own testing as well.
Helga Guthy

It has to change
I’m writing in regard to your Jan. 6 editorial, “Where’s the rest of it?”
Your statement beginning with, “So far, Mr. Cuomo has been silent on any companion measures, such as limiting employee salaries…” is very relevant with respect to the proposed 2 percent cap on annual property tax increases proposed by the governor. The problem with that, as you very well know, is that it would be impossible to implement under the current school salaries paid.
I have written my appropriate state and federal legislators to enact legislation making all school employees state employees. It would obviously take time to reconfigure existing salaries and benefits to current state pay grades and health coverage. But the most obvious advantage is that we, the taxpayers, would no longer be at the mercy of our school boards for the ever-increasing annual salary raises, given regardless of the community’s ability to pay for it.
Any increases would be in tandem with all state employee contract dates, and homeowners would no longer be afraid to open their tax bill every January. Additionally, and I think most importantly, school boards could actually concern themselves with the everyday operations of the school itself. Imagine that.
I have also written the state Board of Regents, which recently has been concerned about school consolidation. Better late than never. Almost every southern state has a regional county system which students from many communities attend.
Yes, for some the bus ride is a bit longer than 15 minutes, but the school taxes are less than 50 percent of what we pay here.
Hopefully, Governor Cuomo and the Board of Regents will someday use this radical approach to reducing the crushing burden of our school taxes. I only hope that someday comes sooner rather than too late.
Lloyd Booth

Some ‘awesome’ town highway workers
I’ve lived on Herricks Lane in Jamesport for almost four years now. I’m writing to commend and thank the crew of the Riverhead Town Highway Department, who have done a fabulous job maintaining my road, but on an early evening on Dec. 27, a Monday, I never witnessed such kindness and caring as displayed by highway workers Mike, J.R. and Kevin. I apologize for not knowing the others who came to my assistance in 60-plus mph whiteout conditions.
You see, I’m a small-business owner for 29 years and I do snow removal. I understand the demand plus long hours working to plow in storms like the post-Christmas blizzard.
I had just finished and was taking my mom to the store to get some essentials in my 4×4 truck. I came upon a stranded motorist on Herricks Lane, by John Kojunski’s potato farm. After I failed to free her, we decided to leave her four-by lights (hazards) on and take her to Martha Clara Vineyards, where she worked, as she was low on gas and staffers there have their own vehicle to free her at a later time. Upon leaving that scene, I got approximately 50 feet or so and got stuck in a drift that covered part of my truck’s door.
I was unable to get out of the drift and couldn’t open my door, but a crew was approaching. The first vehicle that approached not only stopped, but Mike got out to see and evaluate the situation — remember, whiteout conditions, 60 mph and it’s cold. He got a chain, a shovel and started to dig me out. As the other crew members approached, they all got out and assisted us. They could have kept going, as they had worked many hours. They didn’t need to come to my aid, but they did. J.R. was next and then Kevin. Not only did they free my vehicle, they freed a vehicle for someone else who had tried to help.
I cannot tell you my gratitude toward those men, as I’m sure they have their own families and such and wanted nothing better but to finish and get to their homes. I’ve never witnessed such kindness and understanding. They are awesome!
It’s my opinion and past experience that the Riverhead Town Highway Department is blessed with the best staff anyone could ever ask for. Now, I have had hundreds of employees in my career. I can’t say that any of them would have stopped, but the highway workers did. Thank you.
William Van Helmond

Hats off to our ‘heroic’ firefighters
Every 23 seconds somewhere in the United States, firefighters are responding to a call. Surprisingly, 72 percent of those firefighters, nationally, are volunteers, and in Suffolk County all our firefighters are volunteers.
This past week I joined several elected officials to honor and thank emergency responders — nearly 100 volunteer fire departments and ambulance companies from throughout the region — including the Mastic Fire Department and Chief Dwight Blankenship for the heroic actions that led to the evacuation of more than 2,000 area residents when a propane fuel supplier making a delivery noticed something wrong early New Year’s Day morning. The actions of first responders undoubtedly averted what could have been a major catastrophe. Later this month I will nominate Chief Blankenship for a New York State Senate Liberty Award for his actions that day.
Now I want to thank all our volunteers for the work they have done and continue to do.
Our volunteer firefighters and first responders unselfishly commit substantial amounts of time to training and responding to calls. They leave family gatherings, respond on days off and at all times of day and night — it doesn’t matter. When the community calls, our volunteers respond. The volunteers respond not knowing if it is to a false alarm, a minor incident, or a major catastrophe that will put them in harm’s way. For their dedication to public service and our community, I say “thank you.”
Kenneth LaValle
New York State Senator
1st District