With a “yes” vote by three members of the East Hampton Town Board last Thursday, consultants were hired to create a comprehensive wastewater management plan for the town that will address water protection, septic systems, and the town’s aging scavenger waste treatment plant.
Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who has been advocating for the plan and offered the resolution, lauded it after the meeting as an important step for the town’s environmental future.
A group comprising Lombardo Associates, a Massachusetts company, the FPM Group of Ronkonkoma, the Woods Hole Group, and Christopher Gobler, a Stony Brook Southampton professor, was selected to undertake the data collection, analysis, and research for a maximum of $197,989.
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley voted against the move, and Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was absent from the meeting.
Before the selection came to a vote, it was criticized by Carole Campolo, who specified she was speaking to the board as an individual resident and not as a representative of any group. She raised questions about the selection of Mr. Lombardo as a consultant, concerns she said she had outlined in a March 21 e-mail to the board.
“I don’t believe any other contractor had access to the board like Mr. Lombardo had,” she said, noting that he had given a presentation to the board last year about the denitrification systems he sells, called Nitrex.
If Mr. Lombardo is to be asked to make recommendations as to how septic problems should be addressed, she said, he should be asked to sign an agreement that his company would not bid on providing any proposed solutions.
Ms. Campolo, who said her background includes working on “multimillion-dollar contracts for the City of New York,” said she believes “a considerable conflict of interest exists with Mr. Lombardo.”
“I think the public must be assured that their money is being properly spent — that there is no conflict of interest,” she said, suggesting an investigation be conducted by Pat Gunn, a town attorney and head of the Public Safety division. She asked the board to delay a vote on the matter.
A committee evaluated all of the consultant’s proposals “at arm’s length” and graded them, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said. “I think the process is not flawed.”
“I don’t know whether it’s flawed or not,” Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said. But, she added, “Carole was in business, and says it sends up red flags.”
“Obviously you guys have the votes, but I do have a concern about it, and I do object that we rushed this through,” she said. “I have the exact same feeling, that this is a setup to get Mr. Lombardo business,” she said. “I’m not saying it was done to get Mr. Lombardo business . . . but it is suspect.”
The recommendations that will emerge from the consultants’ study are undetermined, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, pointing out that Ms. Quigley, along with Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, had been against developing a comprehensive wastewater management plan from the start. Asserting that the town should not begin the study “is obstructionist, really,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “I think we should move the discussion forward. We have a lot of other work to do.”
“We don’t need to do a study; we know what’s wrong with the scavenger plant,” Ms. Quigley said.
The board also heard several comments at last Thursday’s meeting that stemmed from an April 2 work session at which the topic of protecting the Montauk beach and downtown was dropped after a failure to reach accord on placing rocks on the shore.
Margaret Turner, the East Hampton Business Alliance executive director, said the group was “concerned about a lack of action” on recommendations by a committee formed to look at coastal erosion control options. “There needs to be more of a sense of urgency and understanding of the severity of the situation,” she said.
“Quite frankly, we don’t have time,” she said, asking that the board address the various committee recommendations.
Ira Barocas said that, with both Ms. Quigley and Mr. Wilkinson finishing their terms at the end of this year and not planning to run again for office, some are already looking ahead to the next configuration of the board. But, he said to Ms. Quigley last Thursday, “you have eight more months in office. We cannot afford, as a town, eight months of autopilot. We can’t afford to have inaction — on a lot of things.”
Also last Thursday, the board had to rescind a resolution revising the town’s legislation regarding taxi regulations, which had been adopted at the previous work session. After a discussion of some revisions to the proposed law, which had been raised at a public hearing, Ms. Quigley moved for a vote before a final draft of the law had been written. Mr. Wilkinson seconded the motion. The law passed with three votes, although Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said that she was reluctant to vote on an unwritten resolution. Mr. Van Scoyoc abstained, because of the lack of a written draft. Councilman Dominick Stanzione also abstained, with no explanation.
A law cannot be adopted without a complete final draft being first put down on paper, John Jilnicki, the town attorney, said last Thursday.