Government Briefs 1.02.12

East Hampton Town

Constable’s Case Upheld
    The New York State Department of Labor has upheld a judge’s ruling that Kevin Maier, a former senior bay constable who worked for East Hampton Town for more than 23 years, before retiring in 2010, did so under duress in a “climate of fear and uncertainty” after Supervisor Bill Wilkinson threatened employees with layoffs, and so was entitled to unemployment benefits. Mr. Maier was initially denied the benefits, but that decision was reversed after a hearing.
    The town had argued that no particular positions had been targeted for cuts, but the judge said in his initial decision that Mr. Wilkinson “refused to talk to anyone, including the other members of [the] board,” creating “an atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the claimant’s job security.”
    In its denial of the town’s appeal, the appeals board said that given the lack of specific information, and the potential for Mr. Maier to lose accrued sick leave pay, health coverage, and an opportunity to accept a retirement incentive, he had “good cause” to accept the retirement offer.

Welcome to the Board
    The East Hampton Group for Good Government will host a get-together on Saturday with the newly elected members of the town board, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, who both ran on the Democratic ticket. The event will take place at 2 p.m. at the residence of Steven and Lauren Schwartz at 48 Ruxton Road in East Hampton.

Life-Saving Station Report
    Robert Hefner, a historic-preservation consultant to East Hampton Town, has completed a report on the Amagansett Life-Saving Station. The report details the history and architecture of the building, constructed in 1902 as one of a network of such stations along the South Shore, and makes recommendations for its restoration.
    The highest priorities, Mr. Hefner says, are to restore the porch, the boat-room doors, entrances and windows, and the boat-room interior. Restoring the station to how it appeared at any time from 1902 through July 1942, a month after a guard from the station encountered four Nazi agents who had landed from a U-boat, would maintain the building’s historical integrity, Mr. Hefner said in his report.
    The Coast Guard sold the station in 1966 to Joel Carmichael, who moved it to Bluff Road and used it as a residence, and whose family donated it to the town in 2007. It was moved back to its original location off Atlantic Avenue, and a committee recently formed to oversee and raise money for its restoration for use as a community center.
New G.O.P. Chairman
    The East Hampton Town Republican Committee unanimously elected Kurt Kappel as its new chairman at a committee meeting on Jan. 11. Mr. Kappel, a builder by trade who lives in Springs, has served as a Republican committeeman for eight years. He replaces Trace Duryea as the local party leader. Ms. Duryea steered the party through the 2009 and 2011 town elections and will continue her involvement in local G.O.P. politics as a committeewoman.
    In a release from the party, Mr. Kappel said he wants to use interest in the 2012 presidential election to get East Hampton voters more interested in town politics. “I want to remind people how East Hampton Republicans have restored our town’s finances, defended traditional rights like beach driving, and kept property taxes from rising,” he said. “Each one of these important issues help protect our residents and future generations. However, more work needs to be done. For instance, East Hampton still needs to provide an environment to create local year-round jobs and work on maintaining and preserving our beaches and fishing industries.”
    Mr. Kappel’s wife, Lisa R. Rana, is an East Hampton Town justice.

New York State

East End Redistricting
    A proposal to redraw New York State legislative districts, released by a legislative task force last week, would redraw the boundaries of the East End district represented by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., of which East Hampton is a part. Currently the Second Assembly District, Mr. Thiele’s district would become the First Assembly District under the proposal, and Southold and Shelter Island Towns would be included, while the hamlets of Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley would be transferred to another district.
    Under constitutional guidelines based on census population figures, each New York Assembly District should include 129,089 residents. The existing Second District contains 142,833 constituents; the new district would have 128,929, within the acceptable range. The proposed redistricting plan will be subject to public hearings. An initial response from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office was negative, and the governor had vowed to veto district maps that were not drawn by an independent commission.
    In a release, Mr. Thiele said he also had supported independent, nonpartisan redistricting, sponsoring legislation that would have instituted such a process. He said it was “disappointing” that this year’s redistricting proposal was not done independently and that he would not vote for any redistricting plan this year that does not include a constitutional amendment ensuring that all future redistricting plans be prepared by an independent, nonpartisan commission.
    However, he said that after analyzing the proposed new First District he found that it meets “objective, nonpartisan criteria,” including that districts do not favor or oppose any political party, elected official, or candidate. “When a final plan is adopted, it will be in effect for the 2012 election,” the assemblyman said.

Money for More Rail Service
    Money for the purchase of small diesel trains that could be used for an East End integrated bus and rail shuttle service, which has been studied and discussed as a way to decrease traffic and provide more public transportation here, has been included in a proposed amendment to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s five-year capital plan. The amendment calls for a $37.2 million expenditure on five of the trains, which could provide additional service in the non-electrified parts of the Long Island Rail Road service area east of Ronkonkoma.
    According to a release issued by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed state budget for 2012 provides the first funding installment for the M.T.A. capital plan. A localized rail shuttle was “proven viable” during a L.I.R.R. pilot project, Mr. Thiele said, and the purchase of lighter, cost-effective shuttle trains is the next step toward increasing service here.

Grants for Storm Damage
    Grants are available for communities and businesses in New York that were damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. A total of $21 million has been allocated by the Business Flood Recovery Grant Program, administered by Empire State Development, for grants of up to $20,000 for eligible small business, farms, multiple dwellings, and not-for-profits to help offset the costs of storm-related repairs that are not covered by other federal, state, or local programs.
    The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Empire State Development are awarding grants of $300,000 to $500,000, from a total of $9 million, for flood mitigation or flood control projects in waterways affected by the storms.