Televised meetings would greatly benefit the East Hampton Town Trustees, a resident and frequent visitor to that body’s twice-monthly gatherings urged on Tuesday.
Diana Walker of Amagansett continued a campaign to persuade the trustees to install video equipment at the Lamb Building in Amagansett, where they meet. She spoke after the body concluded the latest discussion with a Louse Point, Springs, property owner who is among four applicants seeking to protect their properties by installing a rock revetment to stabilize the toe of the bluffs facing Gardiner’s Bay.
The exchanges with Ms. Walker and the property owner, John Mullen, illustrated the trustees’ multiple frustrations. On one side, they feel that their ongoing efforts to protect the public’s access to beaches, which the trustees manage on the public’s behalf, is under constant attack by shoreline property owners who install hard structures on the beach, which the trustees assert is counterproductive and in fact erodes coastline. On another, they feel constrained by an inadequate budget and a dismissive attitude toward their jurisdiction among town officials and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Ms. Walker called the discussion with Mr. Mullen, in which the trustees proposed a compromise that would allow a hard structure along part of the 560 feet of shoreline in question, “an incredibly valuable conversation.” The debate, she said, was “another argument for revisiting your resistance to being televised. . . . I gather that the budget is not an issue.”
Deborah Klughers, a trustee who works for LTV, the town’s public access channel, told Ms. Walker that, while the prior town board negotiated a contract with LTV that would allow for televised trustee meetings, “I was told it was $50,000 to do two cameras and a rack of equipment. . . . The money to wire this room, to properly install cameras and equipment, is not in anyone’s budget.”
“If you have some real interest, then it’s your challenge on behalf of your constituency” to find the resources, Ms. Walker said.
Tim Bock, a trustee, asked if she was suggesting that taxpayers shoulder the cost.
“Absolutely,” she said, “because you’re representatives of the taxpayers.”
To illustrate her point, she told the trustees that she had discontinued her use of the herbicide Roundup as a result of the body’s discussions at a prior meeting. “The point is, if you’re interested — because there seems to be a perception that you’re not — that is an argument to make this happen.”
But there are other factors, said Stephanie Forsberg, a trustee. She has urged the town to make the trustees’ clerk a full-time paid position with a salary comparable to those of the town government’s department heads. At the same time, she said, the trustees’ budget is better allocated to programs such as the water-quality testing they initiated last year. Further, the purchase and installation of equipment would be wasteful if the town board decided to move the trustees’ meetings elsewhere.
“We would love everyone to be educated as to what we’re discussing,” Dr. Forsberg told Ms. Walker. “But right now . . . we’re literally fighting for $1,000 here, $500 there. We would like help with the hundreds of thousands in our legal fees.” The trustees are often in litigation with shoreline property owners over the installation of hard structures on the beach.
But televising their meetings, Ms. Walker said, “is going to validate the trustees in the future in terms of outreach, of ‘They really are important and we must lobby the powers that be.’ ”
Diane McNally, the trustees’ clerk, said that they would consider televising their proceedings “when we have the funds . . . when we’re going to be presented professionally.”
“Don’t lose your sense of mission about how important it is to educate us,” Ms. Walker pleaded. “Don’t give up on it, ’cause I ain’t gonna.”
The trustees discussed their Aug. 13 budget meeting with town officials. Ms. McNally said that she would ask for an increase in excess of 2 percent over their 2014 budget of $251,456. “I am going to ask for $50,000 in legal fees,” she said, noting that the body has already paid its legal representatives more than $100,000 in 2014.
“Think about the support the town gives us in fighting these legal suits,” Ms. Klughers said to her colleagues. “Is that moral support? Show me the money.”