January 22, 2014

Board Meeting: Fast And Friendly

Nobody argued.

Nobody yelled.

With the outing ending in under two hours, with the outing ending without a single raised voice, veteran East Hampton Town Board attendees, accustomed to the tension and arguments of the last administration, were left slightly disoriented.

Staying true to a campaign promise to bring civility to town hall, Supervisor Larry Cantwell made quick and amiable work of a short agenda last Thursday night.

A public hearing on the draft Community Preservation Fund Management and Stewardship plan drew just one comment from the public. Board watcher David Buda complained the plan, which is designed to detail how the town will spend a portion of CPF money on stewardship and management of its CPF properties, "seems to omit the guts" and lacks pertinent detail.

Scott Wilson, the town's director of land acquisition and management explained that, traditionally, when compiling the list of upcoming projects, he works with direction from the town board. Since the board is newly seated, that direction has yet to be articulated.

Under CPF law, the town can spend up to 10 percent of its total CPF revenue on management and stewardship. This year's proposal estimates a budget of $468,881, which accounts for less than 2.5 percent of the total revenue.

Moving to the public comment portion of the evening, Judy Samuelson, co-president of the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons, reminded the board of the group's stance on creating the position of town manager. She encouraged the board to move to embrace a re-organization of town government that includes an apolitical, appointed manager. In response, the supervisor informed that the budget adopted for this year doesn't include funding for a new administrator. Before the town could hire such a professional, there has to be a budget for it, he said. That gives the board a year to start the process, Samuelson countered.

Next up, Margaret Turner, executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance, addressed the issue of late tax bills. Because the bills weren't sent out on time, town officials had to extend the payment deadline. Last week, the board voted to appoint a new interim tax receiver and relieved the former receiver of her duties.

Turner said her group wants a more detailed explanation of what went wrong, as well as information about preventative steps that will be taken to ensure the SNAFU doesn't occur in the future. "We hope you're looking into the whole procedure," she said, predicting officials will learn the breakdown is "a little bit of everybody's" fault.

Cantwell said he was reluctant to discuss the problem until all facts are known. He assured Turner he planned to get to the bottom of it.

J.J. Kremm, a member of the American Legion Post in Amagansett asked the town to look into gaming laws that prohibit the legion from selling scratch off and pull tab lottery tickets. Other legions across the country have them, and the revenue they produce help to run the facilities. The ability to offer the amenity to customers may help the legion, which provides a good service to veterans, he said.

Finally, Cantwell addressed the need to increase fees for self-haulers at the town recycling center. Individuals will see a $15 increase to the cost of a permit this spring. "We don't raise these fees lightly," the supervisor said. However, measures must be taken to resolve a shortfall at the dumps.

It's been suggested the town move to a "bag program" as is utilized in Southampton Town. However, Cantwell pointed out that comparisons between East Hampton and Southampton miss the mark, since Southampton doesn't accept any commercial waste.

Additionally, using his own home as an example the supervisor calculated he'd spend two to three times the cost of the permit on bags, should East Hampton change its program. He figured it could cost a family of two anywhere from $300 to $400 a year for the bags.


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