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At civic group’s forum, candidates debate adding Wildwood lifeguard


Candidates for Southampton Town Board said they will try to create a public beach at Wildwood Lake and improve sidewalk snow removal in areas like Flanders and Riverside.

But, for the most part, they weren’t making any promises.

The candidates spoke at Tuesday’s candidate forum held by the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association. The forum included some questions from audience members, which is how the Wildwood Lake and snow plowing topics arose.

The town has had a plan for years to create a public park, with lifeguards, at Wildwood Lake, but it’s never been implemented. The lake does not currently have lifeguards.

“There are no bathing facilities in Flanders, Riverside or Northampton,” said Northampton resident Chris Sheldon. “Will you pledge to do something?”

Democratic council candidate John Bouvier of Westhampton, a retired engineer who feels water quality is the town’s biggest issue, gave an emphatic “yes” as his answer. Wildwood is on a list of the state’s most pristine lakes, Mr. Bouvier said.

His running mate, Julie Lofstad of Hampton Bays, who owns a commercial fishing business, agreed.

“The water is our life, and to have a great body of water like that not being utilized … I think that’s a shame,” Ms. Lofstad said.

Democratic supervisor candidate Jay Schneiderman said he wouldn’t guarantee adding a lifeguard, but promised to explore the issue.

“Obviously, there’s an expense involved with that,” said Mr. Schneiderman, who’s represented the South Fork in the county Legislature for the past 12 years and is a former East Hampton Town supervisor. “If the money is available in the budget and we know it will have a certain amount of usage, I don’t have any objection to it. Let’s clean it up and let’s make it a real community park.”

Other candidates echoed those thoughts. Damon Hagan, a Republican council candidate and attorney, said it’s a matter of working it into the budget. Incumbent Republican Councilwoman Christine Scalera, also an attorney, said the issue has been discussed before. She said she will discuss it again with the parks department while possibly adding a parking permit system as a revenue generator.

“I haven’t forgotten that you want this to be a facility that is operating,” Ms. Scalera said.

FRNCA president Vince Taldone asked about removing snow from sidewalks, which is a town responsibility, whereas plowing the street on Route 24 is the state’s job. “Last winter, the poorest people in Southampton struggled in streets, trying to get to buses and day care centers, horrifically close to automobiles on Route 24.”

Mr. Taldone said the town told him it did not have a replacement for a broken snowblower. He asked the candidates what they would do.

Ms. Scalera said she agreed to add a snowplow to the budget and if needed, to hire private contractors to clean the sidewalks.

“I want the safest situation possible,” she said. Mr. Hagan added, “You don’t want to have people walking in traffic because you’ve got a snowdrift pile on the sidewalk.” He said he can’t guarantee the town will get the equipment but he will work to try and make it happen.

Republican Supervisor candidate Richard Yastrzemski said he thinks Southampton’s problems are due in part to a personality conflict between Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, who haven’t gotten along despite having both been elected as Democrats. He thinks better cooperation is needed between those offices.

Mr. Schneiderman said he has a good relationship with Mr. Gregor.

“I will do what is necessary to make sure people are safe,” he said, adding that public safety is his top priority.

Ms. Lofstad added: “I will pledge to you to try my darnedest to find the money to find the resources because I thought it was not good at all to have kids falling into the roads.” Mr. Bouvier said the town should have a process in place to avail itself of additional resources through the county, state or through private contractors when needed.

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Photo Caption: Republican council candidates (from left) Christine Scalera and Damon Hagan, Republican supervisor candidate Richard Yastrzemski, Democrat Supervisor candidate Jay Schneiderman and Democratic council candidates Julie Lofstad and John Bouvier at Tuesday’s Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association candidate forum. (Credit: Tim Gannon)