Government Briefs 10.11.12

East Hampton Town

Disciplinary Matters

    The East Hampton Town Board turned its attention this week to several disciplinary matters involving employees.

    Two employees of the East Hampton Town Human Services Department were suspended from their jobs for 30 days on Tuesday following disciplinary charges brought against them by Diane Patrizio, the human services director. 

    The town board voted unanimously to suspend Sheila Carter, a senior bus service supervisor, and Linda Norris, the adult day care supervisor, as of yesterday. An attorney, Eileen Powers, was appointed as a hearing officer should the employees seek a hearing on the charges, pursuant to state Civil Service law. Board members would not comment on what led to the suspensions.

    At a meeting last Thursday, the board also designated Ms. Powers as the hearing officer for an issue involving Joseph Reid, a Sanitation Department crew leader. Patrick Keller, the sanitation supervisor, brought disciplinary charges against Mr. Reid on Sept. 21, and he has requested a hearing.

    Another case involving disciplinary charges instituted by a supervisor against an employee has apparently been resolved. In another vote on Tuesday, the town board approved a stipulation of settlement between Patrick J. Gunn, an assistant town attorney and head of the Public Safety Division, and Fritz Riege, an ordinance inspector, along with his union-appointed lawyer. Mr. Riege had been written up in June by Betsy Bambrick, the director of code enforcement. Details about the settlement were not available by press time.

Taxi Licenses

    An overabundance of taxis this summer has led to a discussion of how to revise a recently enacted law requiring taxi companies to obtain East Hampton Town licenses.

    To cut down on the number of out-of-town operators, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley has suggested issuing operating licenses only to taxi companies with a home base in East Hampton. In addition, she has suggested that the board address how complaints against individual cab companies will be reviewed.

Hoop House Redux

    A law designed to ease the way for farmers seeking to extend the growing season by erecting hoop houses on their acreage is under discussion by the board again, after a public hearing on changes to the zoning code was held last year.

    Councilwoman Quigley has reintroduced the issue and suggested that a new hearing be held on a revised proposal that switches the responsibility for reviewing hoop house proposals from the architectural review board — a new element in the originally proposed revisions to the law — back to the town planning board.

    A majority of the board voted on Tuesday to proceed with another hearing, although Councilwoman Sylvia Overby raised some questions about other details. As proposed, she said, the new law would allow a hoop house to be constructed 20 feet away from a front-yard property line. Although farmers would likely prefer to put such buildings at the edges of fields, Ms. Overby said that preservation of scenic views across farmland is one of the goals of a farmland preservation program through which development rights are purchased with public funds. Perhaps, she suggested, setbacks should be increased on land for which the public has made such an investment.

Lighting Law Redo Lingers On

    East Hampton Town’s lighting law remains on the table, it appears, after members of a committee that has been reviewing potential changes to it requested more time.

    Committee members told the town board on Tuesday that a newly enacted state building code provision on lighting must be considered, as well as updated information on insurance requirements and energy-efficient lighting. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask, because it’s too important,” Tom Milne, a committee member said, asking the board to extend a grace period sunset on compliance with the existing law for three years.

    Public controversy had erupted over previously proposed revisions to the lighting law, with comments addressing the impact of the law on businesses as well as the degree to which it adhered to “smart lighting” and “dark sky” principles. The conversation led to formation of the citizens’ committee.

    The lighting committee members agreed to add two new participants who expressed concern about outdoor lighting and the proposed law’s provisions, Debra Foster, a former councilwoman, and Jeremy Samuelson, the executive director of Concerned Citizens of Montauk.

    In the meantime, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson announced that, after a meeting on a foggy night in downtown Montauk with East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker, town grounds maintenance staff, and John Keeshan, a Montauk resident, a decision had been made to replace the 75-watt bulbs in eight fixtures at four corners of the streets surrounding the Montauk green with 150-watt bulbs. The switch is needed for safety, to increase visibility of pedestrians in crosswalks, Mr. Wilkinson said, and “has nothing to do with brightening up Montauk.”

Brakes on Truck Ban

     More discussion is warranted before making a decision on a proposal to ban large trucks and through traffic on streets in the Miller Lane East and West area in East Hampton, the town board decided Tuesday.

    After hearing from residents of the area — some 80 or so who signed a petition asking the board to do something about drivers using the neighborhood as a cut-through and creating safety hazards — the board held a hearing last month on the restrictions. Councilwoman Overby suggested further discussion should include Chief Ecker, Highway Superintendent Steven Lynch, Tom Talmage, the town engineer, and town planners.

Preservation Decisions

    After hearings last Thursday on two properties targeted for preservation with the community preservation fund, the board voted to move forward on both.

    Members voted to buy a one-acre lot at 8 Deer Path in Springs for $385,000 from Barry McCallion and JoAnne Canary, and to add an almost five-acre property at 889 Fireplace Road in Springs, owned by Charles Miller, Valerie Meyer, Denis Gates, and Debra Gates, to the preservation fund list, a requisite step in the purchase process.    J.P.

Southampton Town

Herr Back at the Helm

    The Southampton Town Democratic Committee unanimously re-elected Gordon Herr as its chairman at a meeting on Oct. 2. Mr. Herr praised the committee for its organizational efforts, which have led to steady growth in the number of Democrats registered in the town.

    Also elected at the meeting were Mackie Finnerty as first vice chairwoman, Joy Flynn as second vice chairwoman, George Lynch as treasurer, and Hank Beck as secretary.

New York State

LaValle and Fleming Debates

    The first of two debates between State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, a 35-year incumbent, and his challenger, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, a Democrat and a former prosecutor for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, will take place on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Hampton Bays Senior Center at 25 Ponquogue Avenue. Questions will be taken from the audience at the event, which has been organized by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons.

    The second debate will be in East Hampton on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Emergency Services Building on Cedar Street.

Military Flags Go Tax-Free

    Military service flags, prisoner of war flags, and blue star banners, which denote that a son or daughter is serving in the military, will be exempt from New York State sales tax under legislation sponsored by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and signed into law by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Oct. 3. Currently, the flags of the United States and the State of New York are exempt from sales tax. Mr. LaValle said the law would take effect on Dec. 1.