Major Grant With High Praise

    East Hampton Town will receive a $536,425 state grant to renovate its former town hall building, town and New York State officials announced yesterday.

    The award was among $12 million in Local Government and Efficiency Program grants given to 13 municipalities based on a demonstration of model financial practices and in recognition of “significant and innovative actions that reduce the property tax burden confronting residents,” according to a State Department of State press release. The money is to be used for projects that will provide recurring savings.

    East Hampton received the maximum award amount per capita and was singled out for praise in the state press release.

     “The Town of East Hampton implemented a comprehensive organizational restructuring of town government, downsizing 26 separate departments into 13 departments through attrition, staff reduction, and consolidation of functions to create a more efficient and cost-effective government model. The Town of East Hampton realized a savings of $4.2 million dollars through this re-engineering initiative, representing an 18-percent drop in the tax levy,” the release read.

    At a news conference yesterday morning, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who took office in 2010 after the resignation of former supervisor Bill McGintee amid a financial mismanagement scandal, called the grant a “performance-based award given by an objective group of evaluators.”

     “What’s so rewarding about this grant,” he said, “is the fact that it’s validation of behavior.”

    In two terms of office, Mr. Wilkinson and his budget officer, Len Bernard, have presided over the completion of forensic accounting measures needed to ascertain amounts transferred between town funds, which have been identified and properly paid back, to pinpoint a more than $27 million deficit accumulated under the previous administration, and successfully lobbied the state legislature for permission to issue bonds to cover the shortfall.

    “We’ve delivered a brand of competencies that generated this brand of recognition,” Mr. Wilkinson said yesterday. “Think of that — it’s the only government in Suffolk County that’s been recognized.”

    Mr. Wilkinson credited the work of Mr. Bernard as well as Charlene Kagel, the town’s chief auditor, and Nicole Ficeto, the grants coordinator for the town, with the success of East Hampton’s grant application. The application, said a press release from the town, highlighted efforts in 2010 through 2012 to reduce and reorganize the town staff as well as “selected program reductions” and “the establishment of a myriad of internal control procedures.”

    Mr. Wilkinson said that cautious financial practices must continue. “It’s a continual approach,” he said yesterday, “an objective set of principles that are here . . . and should be here in 2018.”

    The grant money will be used to help pay for renovations to the old town hall building to create an open floor plan described as a “European office landscape.” The design aesthetic, which originated in Germany, was “intended to provide a more collaborative and humane work environment.”

    “A more conducive work environment will create greater work flow efficiencies and positively impact employee confidence levels,” the town wrote in its grant request.

    Additional grant money, including grants targeted for creation of an environmentally friendly “green” building, may also be sought for the project.