Government Briefs - 05.19.11

East Hampton Town
Digging Into Soil Tests
    Recent soil tests at the East End Community Organic Farm, which is on town-owned property on Long Lane in East Hampton, will be the subject of an East Hampton Town Board discussion. The levels of arsenic in soil at the farm, remaining from past agricultural applications, have been a concern for years, and members of the East Hampton Citizens Advisory Committee had recently requested a new round of tests.
    The board is seeking someone who can provide a detailed scientific analysis of the results, but heard Tuesday that a Cornell Cooperative Extension Service toxicologist who was involved in previous testing in 2005 had informally reviewed the findings and reported that arsenic levels, which had been within acceptable standards, had not greatly changed.
    Organic farming practices now employed at EECO were expected to bring down the arsenic levels, said Prudence Carabine, a C.A.C. member who was also part of an East Hampton cancer task force that was looking for chemical or environmental underpinnings of a cancer cluster among students at East Hampton High School, across the street from the farm. Therefore, she said, if arsenic levels have not substantially changed, the board should consider taking further action.

On Financing Employee Buyouts
    East Hampton Town officials are once again seeking a State Legislature vote that would allow the town to issue 10-year bonds to pay for an employee separation incentive program, offering monetary settlements to entice workers to leave so as to reduce the town’s work force. The proposal, a change to a section of state finance law, was before legislators last year but was never brought to a vote after state lawmakers’ work got mired in Albany politics.
    This week, the Democratic candidate for town supervisor, Zachary Cohen, sent a letter to Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle detailing why he is opposed to using debt to finance a separation incentive plan, calling it “bad finance.” Details of the program itself, he said, have not been publicly discussed and so cannot be critiqued.
    Mr. Cohen said the incentives could be paid for with surplus money the town is accruing, while still leaving adequate reserves for emergencies, or, if an employee leaves early enough in a particular year, from annual budget savings from the remainder of the unpaid salary.
    On Tuesday, Len Bernard, the town budget officer, likened securing the ability to issue bonds for the program to obtaining another “arrow in the quiver” of financial options. He said that how much debt might be issued remains to be seen.

Trouble Over Truck Route
    Residents living in a neighborhood off Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton, concerned about the recent resurrection of a plan to route truck traffic through the area, have formed the Freetown Neighborhood Coalition and sent an attorney to speak to the town board on Tuesday. Jonathon Moore, who practices in Washington, D.C., and also lives in the area in question, which includes West Drive, Morris Park Drive, Warwick Road, Neighborhood Road, Austin Road, and contiguous streets, delivered a memo to the board regarding the Snyder family commercial subdivision, for which planning board approval is being sought.
    The subdivision application has been pending for years, and the family recently appealed to the town board for help in getting final approval. Because the process of providing an access to the Snyders’ landlocked parcel through a separate, unconnected section of West Drive, chosen by the planning board because it winds through an industrial, rather than residential, area, has bogged down in legal complications, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley had suggested looking again at the other potential access through the residential part of West Drive. That brought the residents out to protest, as they had done before the original idea was scrapped.
    At Tuesday’s meeting, Ms. Quigley reassured the neighborhood residents, saying that the access to the new commercial subdivision is “absolutely” going to be over the northerly route.

Floating a Farm Museum
    The house and barn on the former Lester farm at the corner of North Main and Cedar Streets in East Hampton, purchased by the town through its community preservation fund, would be a good site for a farm museum showing how hoi polloi here once lived and highlighting the life stories of colorful local residents, Prudence Carabine told the town board on Tuesday. Richard Barons, the head of the East Hampton Historical Society, and the East Hampton Citizens Advisory Committee endorse the idea, she said.
    “Farming and fishing gave the town its character,” Ms. Carabine said, suggesting that the museum could display farm equipment as well as textiles and other everyday goods used by residents in the past. Mr. Barons has submitted a letter to the board offering the historical society’s expertise in establishing and running the museum.    J.P.

New York State
Construction Dollars for John Jermain
    Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced Friday that $137,667 in public library construction money had been awarded to the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor. “With libraries now experiencing remarkable increases in use, and with budget cuts creating significant hardship, I am thrilled that my constituents, and the beautiful John Jermain Memorial Library, will benefit from these state funds,” Mr. Thiele said in a release. The money is part of $14 million made available for public library construction in the 2010 state budget.
    The Sag Harbor philanthropist Mrs. Russell Sage paid for the library to be built in 1910 in memory of her grandfather, whose name it bears. A public referendum for expanding the library, which is a state and nationally recognized historic place, passed by a wide margin in 2009.