Who’s responsibility should it be to declare a winter storm emergency?
Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio argued over that question during the March 20 Town Board meeting. The emergency designation allows roads to be closed and cars ordered off the streets to accommodate snowplows, among other things.
Ms. Giglio said she believes those decisions should be made by the highway superintendent and the chief of police.
Ms. Jens-Smith argued that the supervisor makes those decisions, in consultation with the highway superintendent and the police chief.
Ms. Giglio said that when the nor’easter hit in early January, just days after Ms. Jens-Smith took office, the question came up whether to ask Suffolk County for assistance. Ms. Giglio claims that the police chief and deputy highway superintendent said they had the situation under control, but Ms. Jens-Smith asked for county help anyway. Ms. Giglio was concerned about the cost of calling in the county.
Councilman Tim Hubbard said he met with the supervisor, the police chief and the deputy highway superintendent and it was agreed that while the snowplowing was under control, the town could use county help in removing some of the cars that were stuck in the snow.
Ms. Jens-Smith said that because it was also a county state of emergency, there was no charge for the service. She said there were 30 cars stuck in snow.
Ms. Giglio maintained that the decision should be made by the highway superintendent and the chief of police. She didn’t outline how a decision would be made if they didn’t agree.
“Let the experts handle this,” she said.
“You’re alone on that,” Councilman Jim Wooten said, adding that state law says the supervisor or chief executive should make the decision.
“Looking back, everyone came out of it safely,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said.