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Wednesday
Apr172019

Smithtown Town Board Unveils Renovated Board Room

Victor Liss Town Board Room After RenovationVictor Liss Board Room Before Renovations(SMITHTOWN, NY:)  Town of Smithtown officials unveiled the all new Victor T. Liss Board Room during the April 9th Town Board Meeting. Prior to start of the meeting, Supervisor Wehrheim led the Town Board in commending those responsible for the renovations, recognizing their outstanding craftsmanship.

“The craftsmanship and detail that went into remodeling the people’s boardroom is a true testament to how devoted our parks and public safety staff is to the community. They worked weekends and nights to get this job completed on schedule and they did it for a third of the price, had we have hired an outside contractor.” - Supervisor Edward R Wehrheim  

Renovations to the boardroom included completely gutting the walls and ceiling to insulate the room and install a white coffered ceiling, LED energy efficient lighting, custom built wood dais and podium with white granite top, handcrafted wood panelling, flooring, an updated HVAC system, state-of-the-art live streaming camera and cyber security systems. The renovations were made for approximately $80,000; with a quarter of the cost covered by proceeds from outside funding.

 

Monday
Apr082019

What's New In Smithtown Government? RAISES 

 

By Jerry Cimisi

The Town of Smithtown has signed new contracts with the Smithtown Administrators Guild (SAG) and the Civil Service Employees of America (CSEA). The town’s employees, from board members to blue collar workers, will receive a pay raise retroactive from January 1, 2018. 

The new SAG contract run from Jan.1, 2018-Dec.31, 2020. The CSEA contract runs from Jan.1,Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim 2018, to Dec. 31, 2022.

Salaries of town council members’ salaries will increase from $65,000 to $72,316 in 2019, eventually reaching $75,000 by 2020.

SAG employees—board members, highway superintendent and the like—will receive a 2 percent retroactive raise for 2018, and a 1.5 percent increase for each of the following two years. There is a retroactive cost of living increase for 2018 and for 2019-’20. SAG members will receive a cost of living increase in July. That cost of living increase will be determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The CSEA agreement calls for a two percent retroactive pay raise for 2018; in the years 2019-2022, a 1.5 percent raise will be given on Jan. 1 and July 1 of each year. 

The raise puts town council members more on par with council members of neighboring towns. Brookhaven council members are paid 72,316; Huntington will be at $76,841 in 2020, Islip is $77,200.

Smithtown Public Information Officer Nicole Garguilo, said that in keeping town council members’ salaries “comparable with other towns, we will also attract younger people for government service. Traditionally many board members are older, often retired, and town council was more or less a part time position. We are trying to change that, have candidates look at these positions as a career. It seems younger people have become more involved in politics now. There is more information out there, digital media is playing a bigger role in politics. There are more younger elected officials.”

Supervisor Edward Wehrheim added, “We have to offer competitive salaries for elected officials. Our board members are now working at least 30-35 hours a week.”

Garguilo is the town’s very first public information officer. She received $74,206 in 2018; in March of this year she was given a $5,000 raise.

Supervisor Wherheim has given Town Councilman Thomas Lohmann a new position, in addition to his duties and salary as councilman: he is a part-time executive assistant to the supervisor at $30,000 per year. 

Wehrheim’s salary will be raised from $112,000 to $115,000. Brookhaven’s supervisor is salaried at $119,132; the Huntington supervisor is at $140,000, Islip supervisor at $102,500.

A native of Kings Park, Wehrheim has been working for the Town of Smithtown since 1971. He worked for the Department of Parks, Buildings and Grounds, became its director in 1989, retired from that department in 2003 and became a town council member. He was elected for his first term as supervisor in 2017.

(Wehrheim’s predecessor, Patrick Vecchio*, served for forty years as town supervisor. Wehrheim defeated him in the Republican primary for the nomination.)

In addition to signing new contracts for its employees, the town has also undertaken extensive renovations, at town hall, specifically to the town board room.

Wehrheim said, “It was a complete renovation, from the ceiling to the floor, the heating and air conditioning. The last time work had been there was in the 1950s, so it really needed it. We look at that room as the people’s room. The renovation was just completed and we had our first meeting there after the renovation on March 21. The public was very appreciative of what was done.”

The town spent $80,000 on the renovations, which included an update of its live streaming equipment. The town live streams its work sessions, on FIOS and Optimum. 

Wherheim said that $60,000 of the monies for the renovations came from the parks budget, with the other $20,000 funding from cablevision. By law, cable companies must carry local government meetings on its public access channels.

When asked what he would like to see improved in the town, the supervisor said he would be focused on downtown revitalization for the three business districts in the township: Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James. His administration intends to make use of the monies the state has designated $40 million to sewer Smithtown and Kings Park at $20 million for each.

The town has also secured $3.9 million in DASNY (Dormitory Authority of the State of New York) funds from State Senator John Flanagan and bonded approximately $4 million for sewers on Lake Avenue in St. James.

The supervisor said this would enable the town to increase its water usage capacity to host larger restaurants “and with apartments above them, meeting the standards of the Board of Health.” The sewer project for Kings Park will begin in spring 2020; sewers for downtown Smithtown and St. James are not yet scheduled.

Wehrheim added, “We are actively improving our parks and recreation areas. In 2018 we renovated three parks, two in St. James and one in Nesconsett, as well as the golf course and catering facilities at the town’s Landing Country Club.

“We are also beginning this year to restore the Flynn Memorial Park, which is a four-ballfield complex. In the mid-1980s the USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association), which features adult softball, had its seven-day tournament there; but apparently it was not kept up to their liking, and they’ve been having the tournament in New Jersey now for many years. We’ve been having discussions with the USSSA to get them back here. It would be a major financial boost to the town, with not just the players coming out, but their families—a boost to our hotels, restaurants, delis. We hope to have that restoration completed in 2020.”

See Town Adopted Budget

* Edit for name correction. Patrick Vecchio was mentioned as Ed Vecchio.

Monday
Apr082019

Smithtown Goes Blue for Autism Awareness

 

By Maureen Rossi

Last Wednesday the Lanese Family of Kings Park and other local families who live with Autism gathered outside Smithtown Town Hall. They were surrounded by local officials and town employees to kick off the annual Light the Town Blue event. 

An exciting and affirming occasion for Smithtown families whose loved ones live with Autism; the inaugural Light the Town Blue event was back in 2015.  It was the brainchild of Kathleen Lanese.  She is a special education teacher who resides in Kings Park whose two sons, Brendan 21 and Kevin 18 live with Autism. She is on the Board of Directors of Autism Speaks (the Long Island Chapter).   Kathleen  has been on the front lines of the Autism Community for almost two decades.  She has received countless award for her tireless works with regard to Autism Awareness.

Her oldest son Brendan addressed the crowd outside Town Hall as the wind tried to take his speech off the podium.  However, without skipping a beat his younger brother Kevin stepped up to hold it in place so his beloved older brother could continue to read. 

“This display of lights is important my brother Kevin and me, because we both have Autism.  And so many other people here in Smithtown do too – currently 1 in 59 children have an autism diagnosis.  We are so happy and proud to be a part of this evening, and this display of support, acceptance and awareness for the Autism community,” said Brendan.

The twenty-one year old credits Supervisor Wehrheim and the Town Board for embracing the Autism Community by both lighting up the town blue and by committing to increase employment and housing opportunities for those living on the Spectrum and those with other Diversified Abilities.

“This is really important because people like my brother and I grew up here in Smithtown, and we want to be able work here, and live in our own neighborhood, just like everyone else,” Brendan continued.  

The passionate young man said most don’t understand Autism because of its complexity and the fact that it varies greatly from person to person. 

“It’s ok to ask questions – I know my mom doesn’t mind.  Just try to be patient and kind and understanding when you see someone who is different and maybe having a hard time. They’re doing the best they can,” he shared.  

He pleaded with the audience to avoid using words like “autistic” and “retarded” as insults or jokes; saying it is very hurtful to people who with disabilities, and their families.

 “I hope you will join the Town Hall, the bull, and the Parks and Highway Departments and light your homes blue this April.  It makes us feel good to know that even if you don’t know exactly how we feel, you’re trying to be accepting and supportive”, ended Brendan.

His proud parents Kathleen and Rick and his young brother Kevin applauded along with the crowd that was gathered.  

 

“I am a mother first and foremost and I could not have been prouder of my son Brendan – he did an amazing job.  I am proud of my boys every day, they are good boys,” said Kathleen.

Brendan attends Suffolk Community College and works at Spectrum Designs.   His brother Kevin attends Kings Park High School and also works at Spectrum in a different capacity; as part of his job training program.   Spectrum Designs is a Nassau County based single agency model company that makes affordable apparel.  .  Seventy-five percent of their Employees are on the Autism Spectrum. Staff members at Spectrum are paid at least minimum wage, and work between 5 and 40 hours per week  A model for the tri-state area, they turn trainees into taxpayers and promote independence through the world of work.   Self-sustaining through sales, all Spectrum fundraising and donations go straight to advancement and expansion.

Everyone in the crowd affected by Autism was asked to join Brendan and his family on stage to help with the official countdown.  5, 4 3 2 1 - Kevin flipped the switch and Smithtown went BLUE!   

Residents can see Town Hall, the town mascot Whisper the Bull and the Highway Department aglow with blue lights for the entire month of April.  Their parameters are also punctuated with puzzle pieces symbolizing Autism Awareness.

 Residents can pick up free blue light bulbs at the Town Council Office.

 AUTISM EMPLOYMENT

  • 1 in 59 individuals are born with Autism (CDC)
  • 70-90% are un- or underemployed (United Nations data)
  • 500,000 will become working age adults in next decade
  • Societal cost for each unemployed individual estimated at $2,000,000 over their lifetime

To start customizing your own apparel from Spectrum Designs for either a team, company, or family picnic please www.spectrumdesigns.org

 

Maureen Ledden Rossi is the mother of two married Millennials – a journalist, columnist  and opinion writer for twenty-five years who resides in Kings Park, New York.

 

 

Sunday
Apr072019

40 Year Smithtown Supervisor Patrick R Vecchio Sept. 1930 - April 2019

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick R Vecchio has died at the age of 88. Supervisor Vecchio served in his position for a record forty years. First elected in 1977 he took office in 1978 and held it until he was defeated in a Republican primary by Edward Wehrheim in 2017.

Forty years in office earned Patrick Vecchio a reputation as a strong fiscal conservative who increased Smithtown’s reputation as one of the best places to live in Suffolk County. Recognizing his place in Smithtown’s history the Smithtown Town Board named Town Hall the Patrick R Vecchio Town Hall Building in 2015.

Patrick Vecchio died Saturday, April 6th at St. Catherine of Sienna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Smithtown.