This is our last regular edition of 2011 – next week will be a cover page retrospective. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank our many readers and advertisers for a great year, and all the candidates who stuck their necks out to run for public office. It's not easy to put yourself out there to be criticized and scrutinized, but it is the true essence of local government – every day people rise to the calling, and that's how democracy works. We especially owe our thanks to the many volunteers who serve on the civic associations – and of course our volunteer firemen and ambulance workers.
Please remember, especially during the holiday season, to shop local, contribute to our food pantries, and give the greatest gift of all to an orphaned pet – a home.
We were more than a little aghast at the cavalier attitude some Southampton Town Board members displayed when they heard the news the police department is running overtime costs up far in excess of what has been budgeted -- $38,000 in one week and almost $500,000 for the year.
The board was told the money went partly for training costs. We can only hope it's not going to pad hours for soon to be retiring personnel, a tried and true gimmick to raise retirement pay in more than a few police forces around the state.
The nonchalant reaction was troubling because the board went outside the department to hand pick a new police chief. Perhaps the kid gloves reaction was because the board didn't want to publicly criticize the new guy, having alienated some of the force by selecting him to begin with. Perhaps the new chief, Bill Wilson, wanted to spread out a little good cheer to win the rank and file back.
Let's tell it like it is – East End cops are among the highest paid in the country. Some make triple the state average. Like the rest of us, they'll have to learn to live within the financial guidelines laid out for the department. We can only wonder what would have happened had another department head, say Highway Supervisor Alex Gregor, came in with the same disturbing news about being over-budget.
The board told Wilson to write a memo explaining the overtime costs. We have a better idea: tell him to stop spending taxpayer money we can't afford to shell out. Memo to town board members (we should note Jim Malone voted against authorizing the overtime payout): take the kid gloves off.
Questions About Homeless Motel
To hear Suffolk County Commissioner Greg Blass tell it the deployment of a motel in Hampton Bays for use to house homeless people went off without a wrinkle. Southampton Town, which wasn't notified, and some nearby residents aren't so sure. An article appears about the matter elsewhere in this issue.
Blass told The Independent the Hidden Cove Motel was being sold, and all its current residents would be forced to leave. Not true, said one person close to the scene, who said the motel has been up for sale for years with no takers. Blass said there is "not one" undocumented immigrant in the Suffolk County shelter system, yet the emergency help line gives detailed instructions – in Spanish.
Far from the model citizens portrayed by Blass, a nearby resident said there were six 9-11 calls to police when the first eight or nine units of the 32-room complex were handed over to county homeless participants, including an assault case. Worse, those evicted just a few weeks before the holiday season "were given no help finding another place" by the county. "We're just a step away from being in the same position" as the homeless.
The landlord's not complaining. He may rake in as much as $500,000 from the county, probably almost double what the motel was yielding before the switchover. The guy next door probably isn't too happy though. "What do you think happens to your property value?" one neighbor asked.
The town is debating suing to stop this. By all means get a restraining order so the whole truth comes out before displacing any more people.