East Hampton Town
EECO Farm Lease Extended
The East Hampton Town Board voted on Dec. 20 to renew the East End Community Organic Farm’s lease of town-owned farmland on Long Lane in East Hampton for five years, following the expiration of the current lease in April. Rental of the 42 acres of farmland will cost $150 per acre per year.
The land is used to grow produce sold at a farm stand on site, and also contains garden plots that can be rented to community members. Portions are leased out to other farmers, including the Food Pantry Farm, which provides vegetables to local food pantries.
Representatives of Food Pantry Farm have been urging the town board to renew the EECO Farm lease, so that they can proceed with plans to erect a hoop house to extend the growing season. Obtaining funding, they said, depends on an ongoing agreement.
However, town officials were reluctant to extend EECO Farm’s lease, as the structures already erected there, including hoop houses and the farm stand, exceed what was allowed under the original lease agreement. After a consultation with the planning board, the new lease contains a provision limiting the hoop houses to a certain area on the property, and requiring that they be screened from view.
The lease agreement is subject to a permissive referendum, allowing members of the public to challenge it if enough signatures are collected. Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione abstained from the Dec. 20 vote.
Revised Deficit Calculations
The way in which the town’s overall $27.2 million deficit was calculated must be revised, according to a resolution passed by the town board on Dec. 15. The town has already borrowed $21.2 million to cover the deficit, to be repaid over 10 years.
After discussions among the town’s outside auditing firm, bond counsel, and budget office, and consultation with the New York State Comptroller, it was decided that money left in the sanitation fund, and designated as a surplus reserve, should instead have been put toward the deficit.
Accordingly, $868,996.50 will be taken from a sanitation fund reserve and placed into a separate fund earmarked for paying back a portion of the debt incurred when bonds were issued to cover the deficit. Approximately $79,000 a year will be taken from the special fund to help pay debt service on the bonds, from now through 2021, the resolution says.
The apportionment of the sanitation fund money as surplus was among the budget calculations challenged by Zachary Cohen, who narrowly lost his recent bid for town supervisor and had focused on financial matters, first as an interested volunteer, then as a member of the town’s budget and finance advisory committee, and finally as a candidate.