Town rejects highway supe’s plea to oversee sign permits

Town Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson says his department should be in charge of sign permits. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
Town Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson says his department should be in charge of sign permits. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Fed up with his crews picking up signs for public office on public property, Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson asked the Town Board to give his department the authority to issue political sign permits.

But that proposal was rejected by the board majority.

Currently, under a law enacted in 2009, anyone posting signs for public office in town is required to post a $200 deposit per candidate with the town building department. The signs must be less than 32 square feet, they cannot be put in the right-of-way, on utility poles or public property and they have to be removed within two weeks after the election, or within 60 days of receiving the permit.

If they aren’t taken down by then, the candidate doesn’t get the $200 back.

“Being that my guys are on the road and these signs are being put up all over the place, I think the highway department should be responsible for giving out permits for the signs,” Mr. Woodson told the Town Board at Thursday’s work session.

“I’d rather leave it the way it is,” said Supervisor Sean Walter.

Mr. Woodson said it’s his employees who end up having to remove the political signs from the road right-of-way, so it would be easier if they were also the ones issuing the permit. Then they could easily check if they are legal.

Mr. Walter said the highway department could just check with the building department, though Councilman John Dunleavy disagreed.

“The building department doesn’t go out and check the signs,” Mr. Dunleavy said to Mr. Woodson. “You guys are on the road and are checking the signs. I think it’s better with you guys.”

Councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen agreed with the supervisor, noting it’s just a matter of having better communications between the highway and building departments.  Mr. Wooten said the highway superintendent just needs a list of what candidates have permits. 

Mr. Woodson said that if the board doesn’t want to change the code, they should let the building department employees pick up the signs.

“Everybody throws the signs all over the place and my guys are picking them up all day,” Mr. Woodson said. “My guys are better off doing something else instead of picking up signs all day.”

The removal of signs for school board — which are covered under the town code, along with signs for political office — has had some candidates thinking foul play was at work in recent weeks. 

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, candidate Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said the signs she had put up her name and that of with fellow candidate Susan Koukounas were being stolen.

“To the people that are being childish,” she said. “Like they’re in third grade, and stealing the lawn signs from Sue Koukounas and myself, who are running as a team, along Peconic Bay Boulevard: Grow up.”

The only school board candidates currently not on file as having paid the $200 down payment for a sign permit is Greg Fischer. Every other candidate has a permit — Ann Cotten DeGrasse and Susan Koukounas, who share one sign — Laurie Downs and Brad Harnig.