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Thursday
Aug312017

Republican Primary Candidates Discuss Views At LWV Meeting

Standing room only. Republicans filled the Brush Barn for last night’s League of Women Voters candidates meeting for the September 12th Republican primary. Audience members were given the opportunity to hear the candidates vying for town supervisor, town board, and town clerk postitions on the Republican line. 

With an overflow crowd standing outside the open doors, Republicans, many party faithful, and other interested residents got to hear canidates Patrick R. Vecchio, Edward R. Wehrheim (for Supervisor), Robert P. Doyle, Thomas Lohmann, Thomas J. McCarthy, Lynne C. Nowick (for Town Council), Conrad A. Chayes, Vincent Puleo (for Town Clerk) discuss their positions.

All questions were presented to the candidates by Suffolk County League of Women Voters moderator Lisa Scott. 

Town Clerk Candidates Vincent Puleo (l) Conrad Chayes (R)The questioning began with the candidates for Town Clerk incumbent Vincent Puleo and challenger Conrad Chayes. At the outset it appeared from Mr. Puleo’s demeanor that he was angry, it only took five minutes to understand why. Despite being in his position for twelve years, Mr. Puleo was going to have to defend himself against accusations appearing in recent negative mailings. The opportunity arose when a question about improving interactions with with the public led Mr. Chayes to respond “I would do the job. Not play a Candidates Puleo and Chayes leaving the stagegame of gotcha.” Mr. Puleo has been under attack since early 2014 for the debacle that led to a crisis whereby reelected candidates Supervisor Vecchio, Tom McCarthy and newly elected Lynne Nowick did not sign the mandated Oath of Office and were unable to serve in their positions. The book where electees sign is under the purview of the Town Clerk and it was alleged that Mr. Puleo, who opposed the three electees in the election, willfully neglected to have them sign the book. This charge has been repeatedly denied by Mr. Puleo and again last night when he repeated his position that the allegations were “ridiculous”. Mr Puleo said that the people who call themselves victims should look at themselves, repeating that his job is not to run after people to collect signatures but to have them sign and file the documents. Ms. Scott called them on their non-answers which led both candidates to acknowledge that continued and improving online services including access to information and applications is key to serving the public. 

Supervisor candidates were next on the agenda. Sewers was the key word in the supervisor portion of the meeting. Both candidates concurred that the growth in the business district in Smithtown will be determined by the installation of a sewer system. Both candidates agree that Kings Park, through the efforts of their local Ed Wehrheimcommunity organizations, have done the heavy lifting on developing a plan for their downtown area. Specifics Patrick R. Vecchioabout hook-ups and user fees were not discussed. Both candidates agreed that the mom and pop stores prevalent in Smithtown’s past would not be returning. A question was asked about downtown shuttles, to which both candidates agreed that without population density transportation shuttles in the downtown areas would not be practical. A question, based on the Youth Bureau’s wish list, was support for a youth recreation center. Mr. Wehrheim, was a supporter of the proposal but said that the numbers it would serve were just not there to commit to building a recreational center. Supervisor Vecchio, is not a fan of a stand alone recreation center, he indicated that he supports the town’s involvement with youth programs but felt that schools were the appropriate place to house youth programs. Mr. Vecchio pointed out that schools and gymnasiums were already equipped and should be used to facilitate programs. Both candidates expressed support for land preservation. Both candidates agreed that accessory apartments were not appropriate for residential areas. Candidates took a wait and see attitude on Gyrodyne property but expressed concern for over development and density. Mr. Vecchio reminded people that the property is currently zoned industrial.

Differences were remarkably few. Supervisor Vecchio pointed out that Councilman Wehrheim voted against the funding for revitalization of the St. James business district. Mr. Wehrheim defended his vote saying there wasn’t enough time to examine the proposal between the time it was proposed and voted on. He currently supports the St. James revitalization program now that a new water main and a sewer line have been added. The candidates disagreed on consolidation of town buildings. Purchasing the New York Avenue School was once considered for the purpose of consolidation of town buildings. Although the school is no longer available for purchase Mr. Wehrheim continues to support the idea of consolidation.  Mr. Vecchio believes  the current configuration is cost effective and beneficial to citizens. Mr. Wehrheim criticized the lack of communication between the town and the school district.

In closing Mr. Wehrheim spoke of his six-point platform which includes using the town’s stellar fiscal position to bond for improvements. He spoke of needed improvements to the Landing Country Club and the Hauppauge Industrial Park. His plan includes creating a business advisory council which he believes will be able to work out issues before they get to the town. He proposes putting Smithtown’s triple A bond rating to work by increasing bonding for projects which he claims will have a negligible impact on taxpayers. Mr Wehrheim also expressed his desire for increased oversight of town departments.

Mr. Vecchio used his closing to point out that Mr. Wehrheim spoke of increasing oversight of town departments but six months ago refused all assignments designating him to act as liaison to town departments.

Next Town Council candidates

Thursday
Jul202017

St. James Fire District Sets Date For Capital Bond Referendum

 

St. James Fire District sets date for capital bond referendum; encourages community participation 

The St. James Fire District Board of Commissioners has announced that a communitywide capital bond referendum vote will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 19, from 3-9 p.m. Voting will take place at the Jefferson Avenue firehouse, located at 221 Jefferson Ave. For residents who reside within Election District 79, voting will take place at the Fairfield at St. James. 

This referendum comes as a result of several years of research and planning to determine how to best serve the community now and into the future, given the vast infrastructural needs and safety hazards that are present at both firehouses in the district. 

“To put it simply, the way our fire district is currently operating is no longer the most efficient or safe way to serve the residents of our community,” said Lawrence Montrose, chairman of the board of fire commissioners. “Our district’s current configuration presents safety challenges for our volunteers who put their lives at risk to keep our community safe. It is our duty to keep them safe as well.”

The firehouse at the intersection of Lake Avenue and Route 25A was built in 1922; the last major renovation was completed almost 50 years ago. The antiquated building can no longer house the majority of the district’s fire trucks or engines – in fact, only one truck is currently housed at that location. The location of the facility also presents significant safety challenges, given the volume of traffic at the intersection. 

“Traffic volumes and speeds in front of the firehouse have increased greatly over the years,” said Montrose. “Not only does this hamper our response time when the truck at that location must respond, but it threatens the safety of our volunteers and those passing by at the time of a call.”

The district’s second firehouse, located on Jefferson Avenue, also has a number of significant infrastructural challenges. The firehouse suffered a flood last August, rendering sections of the building nearly useless to volunteers and forcing the district to operate out of a temporary structure on the property. Following the flood, engineer and architect reviews of the facility revealed that the building has numerous structural issues, some of which existed prior to the flooding. In addition, the layout of the Jefferson Avenue property presents other safety challenges for volunteers. 

“Our volunteers ‘gear up’ in one building but must cross the parking lot to board the trucks in another building,” said Montrose. “At the same time, other volunteers are entering the parking lot, creating a major safety issue.” 

The proposed plan calls for the consolidation of all fire services through the construction of a new facility on the existing Jefferson Avenue property. A new, centralized building will not only alleviate the safety concerns that currently exist, but will also allow the district to efficiently serve the community well into the future. The building would feature spaces that could be converted into accommodations for members and the community during storms or other major emergencies, and would also house a large meeting room for department meetings and community use. The proposed building would fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and facilitate improved traffic flow onto Woodlawn Avenue during emergency responses. Additionally, through green spaces and design, the new facility would protect the neighborhood feel of the current property and remain unobtrusive to surrounding homes. 

The cost of the proposed plan is $12.25 million. Based on current market conditions, for a home with an assessed value of $3,000, the estimated increase in fire district taxes would be approximately $118 a year. For a home assessed at $4,000, the project equates to an annual increase of $158, while a home assessed at $5,000 would see an increase of approximately $198 a year. 

“While we are mindful of any increase in fire district taxes to our community, we believe this plan is fiscally responsible,” said Montrose. “If we do not consolidate our services and merely renovate the existing Jefferson Avenue facility, it would cost us an estimated $10.6 million. The safety issues present with the property layout would still exist. For $1.6 million more, we are able to construct an entirely new, 21st century structure that will allow us to serve the community in the best way possible for decades to come.” 

The fire district encourages all residents to learn the facts of what is being proposed through the capital improvement bond project. The district will host a public information hearing about the proposed plan on Tuesday, Aug. 29, from 7-9 p.m. at the Jefferson Avenue firehouse, located at 221 Jefferson Ave. The district will also host a number of open houses, during which residents are encouraged to see the conditions firsthand and ask any questions they have on the proposal. Open houses will be held on Saturday, Sept. 9, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 14, from 7-9 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 17, from 1-3 p.m., all at the Jefferson Avenue location. 

Information on the proposed project will be sent to all homes within the district and posted to the district’s website, www.stjamesfd.org. Please also “Like” the district on Facebook by searching “St. James Fire District” for important updates and information.

Monday
Aug102015

The End Of The Nassau Suffolk Lumber Yard

102 W. Main Street 2009 (photo NY Times)Since 2009 the site of Nassau Suffolk Lumber, 102 W. Main Street, Smithtown has been blighted. In 2009 the property owner, North Fork Management, owned by Salvatore DiCarlo violated a Smithtown stop work order and demolished buildings. The site has been in various states of disrepair since. Until now.

During the July 14 Town Board work session the site was the subject of discussion. The property owner, VEA 181st Realty Corp Salvatore DiCarlo, wanted the town to grant a waiver to its demolition plan which called for the removal of the concrete and debris sitting on the property for years. The owner was asking to be allowed to crush the debris and to store it in a berm on the property.  Supervisor Vecchio balked, “NO” he would not support a waiver. The owner had not developed the property and according to Vecchio was “playing the town like an old banjo.” 

one of the many piles of concrete on the site of the former Nassau Suffolk LumberAt that work session the Town Board decided to table the proposed waiver until August 11. Questions arose from residents almost immediately. Residents questioned the impact of grinding up the concrete and allowing it to be stored on the property. New York Avenue resident Kathy Albrecht sent letters to all the Board members expressing her concerns and pointing out possible health issues caused by the grinding. Residents vowed to attend the next Town Board meeting and to express their concerns.

Support for approving the waiver began to disappear with Councilman Wehrheim stating to Smithtown Matters that the Albrecht letter brought up important issues and he wanted to get answers. “Safety first” Councilman Wehrheim explained. After receiving the letter he sent a memo to Russ Barnett, director of Smithtown’s Department of Environment and Waterways. 

Before Councilman Wehrheim received a response Mr. DiCarlo moved forward with the original demolition plan removing the concrete from the site.  Not a week later heavy equipment was moved onto the property and concrete was hauled off the site. 

Residents were not notified, they were awakened to dust and noise as the clean-up began. Calls were made to town officials who responded by contacting Joe Arico at Building Department.  Joe Arico negotiated with the property owner to water the site down during the removal process minimizing the dust. According to Mr. Arico, the Planning Department was very aware of the history of the site and was working with the property owner to make sure everything was being done properly. Mr. Arico said the concrete removal was being done according to the original demolition site plan including the hours of operation. There was no requirement to notify the Town Board nor the residents. “Everything was in order.”

102 W. Main St. Smithtown - August 9, 2015Not everyone felt that this was acceptable. Residents questioned the speed with which the property owner changed his position from requesting a waiver to allow crushing and the 180 degree change to removal of the concrete. “It seems odd that while we were asking for tests on the concrete the owner dropped the waiver request and quickly removed the concrete” said Kathy Albrecht.

Councilman Wehrheim said he too was surprised by DiCarlo’s action saying he had received no advance notice about the removal of the concrete.

It remains to be seen whether residents will show up at the Tuesday, August 11th Town Board meeting. But one thing is apparent, for the first time in six years 102 W. Main Street is clear of buildings, construction debris and blight.

 

Thursday
Jul302015

The Story That Was Not To Be - Candlelight Vigil 

The Story That Was Not To Be - Candlelight Vigil Celebrating Four Precious Smithtown Girls

by Maureen Rossi

On Wednesday July 29th when I arrived at Smithtown West to attend the Candlelight Vigil for the four beautiful Smithtown girls we lost in the motor vehicle crash last week I saw various news trucks outside the perimeter.  I pulled up, identified myself as press and asked why they were outside the fence?   The response was simply, no press, families request.   I identified myself to them as press, parked my car and I went in.  In addition to being press I am also a Smithtown resident in mourning for these beautiful girls and for their families.   

I wept uncontrollably while taking copious notes in my burgundy reporter’s notebook.  Pages and pages of quotes are stained by my tears. Quotes that will never be written out of the respect for the families.

Well over six-hundred people walked quietly onto the Smithtown West grounds to gather for the celebration of Amy, Brittney, Lauren and Stephanie.  It was a celebration, we heard from many about these amazing young women and the things they had done and accomplished in their short lives.

Local politicians were present; Supervisor Vecchio, Assemblyman Fitzpatrick, Legislator Trotta, Congressman Zeldin, Councilwoman Nowick, County Comptroller Kennedy and Legislator Leslie Kennedy. However, there were no photo opportunities, no words from them,  like everyone else who gathered, they were there to pay their respects to and to celebrate our Smithtown girls who left this world too early.  Every elected official there last night is a parent. Vecchio, Fitzpatrick and the Kennedys are grandparents.  They were not there as politicians, they were there as mourners, they were there to pay respect for the girls from Smithtown. Their hearts were broken like every other heart present.

In remembering these young ladies in our prayers, we must not forget to include the girls inside that fated limo and the devastation they witnessed.  They too will need our continued prayers. 

The small battery-operated candles lit the field which held family members and friends of the girls and they also lit the bleachers where all the other mourners gathered.   Just as quietly as the hundreds entered the vigil, they left with equal reverence.

Sunday
Apr262015

Smithtown 350 Foundation Offering $1,000 Scholarship

The Smithtown 350 Foundation is offering a $1000 scholarship to a graduating senior residing in the Town of Smithtown.  The student selected will be recognized for outstanding work in social studies and must have the recommendation of a social studies teacher.  The application deadline is May 10th.  Details can be found on the application and inquiries may be directed to 350scholarship@gmail.com.  

Smithtown 350 Foundation

2015 Smithtown 350 Foundation Scholarship

The Smithtown 350 Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation that was created by residents of Smithtown, who volunteered their time and joined together to form an organization that would organize and coordinate the celebration of Smithtown’s 350th Anniversary, Smithtown’s Sesquarcentennial. 

Click on link to download Scholarship Application.