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Photo from Comsewogue

When Mike Mosca was formally introduced as the incoming principal of Comsewogue High School at this past January’s district board meeting, he expressed his desire to revamp the school’s business department, saying he was focused on getting his students to the next step of their lives, whether it be college or straight into their careers. 

Comsewogue School District From left: Susan Casali, Jennifer Polychronakos, Michael Mosca, Joseph Coniglione and Jennifer Quinn. Photo from David Luces

Working together with Comsewogue Superintendent Jennifer Quinn, fellow teachers and administrators, collectively they have already begun making changes to the business curriculum at the start of this school year. 

In conjunction with this strategy, the high school has revitalized its School to Career Advisory Committee, which aims to help students with their career paths and become productive members of the community. The group will be made up of teachers, administrators, business leaders, local professionals, community members, students and other stakeholders.

“We think this is something we believe will get our students to the next level,” Mosca said. “We have been reaching out to professionals and asking them, ‘What are you looking for in a candidate?’ and use that help and sculpt our students to be successful post school.”

Mosca said he hopes that the revamped curriculum and committee will help bridge the gap from school to the next stage of a student’s life.

“We want to make the business curriculum focused on career readiness and want to make sure they gain the skills needed for the 21st century and their careers,” he said.

The principal of the high school said it has already begun reaching out to community members, organizations, professionals, business leaders, among others, to see who would be interested in joining the committee. 

As of now, the district has around 50 people who have pledged to join the committee. Together they will provide input on how the business courses can be improved as well as connecting students with professionals in their preferred career path. 

Mosca said they have plans on doing mock interview days with students, job shadowing opportunities, guest speakers to talk to students and set up possible internships. 

Anthony Ketterer, business education teacher, said he believes this is a great opportunity and advantageous for students at the high school. 

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school,” he said. “We want to bring students and professionals together … and continue the strong relationship between the community and the school.”

Ketterer said the main goal is to better educate students and teach them practical skills that they can use in the future. He also said they want to provide resources to students who chose to pursue trade and vocational careers after graduating. 

Beginning in September, administrators and teachers began the first step in the business department revamp when it began offering a virtual enterprise business class to seniors. 

The six-credit course offered through SUNY Farmingdale allows students to essentially run a virtual business, specifically a clothing business, which was chosen by the students. 

Mosca said the class is made up of 10 students and will act as a liaison for the committee on how they can further improve the curriculum for future students. 

The principal also mentioned that members of the committee donated cubicles, desks and other office materials to mimic a real-life business setting.

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school.”

— Anthony Ketterer

 

“They are getting real-world experience — they are our pioneers and they are going to be working closely with the committee,” Mosca said.

He wants to make this experience accessible to all students in the district and hopes to expand it younger students down the line. 

In addition, the principal said he wants to make sure they are catering to different fields and career paths that students are interested in nowadays, adding there are “so many directions they can go in now.”

In response, administrators have reached out to professionals in the health care and medical field like St. Charles Hospital and Northwell Health. Local officials and politicians have expressed interest in contributing to the committee. 

Mosca also has plans to eventually create a senior workshop stemming off ideas from the committee. He said there are opportunities to teach students important life skills like changing a tire or filing their taxes.

The committee plans to meet several times a year and its first advisory meeting will be on Nov. 14 at Comsewogue High School. 

“Getting our students exploring these opportunities is the goal,” Mosca said. “They should be thinking about this and their careers as early as possible.”

Students and parents address the board during a standing-room only board meeting Nov. 7, after air quality issues have resurfaced at Northport Middle School. Photos by David Luces

A day that began with over 60 parents and children participating in a “sickout” protest in front of Northport Middle School ended with a public meeting later that night, where the seven-member board of education unanimously voted to begin soil testing at the school. 

A packed crowd at the boarding meeting Nov. 7. Photos by David Luces

A crowd of concerned parents and community members packed into the standing room only public meeting at the William Brosnan School. Many parents voiced dissatisfaction about how the school district has been handling recent incidents with foul odors at the middle school, saying that soil and groundwater testing are long overdue.

Many people blamed illnesses, such as cancer, headaches, nosebleeds, mold infections and other serious diseases, on the school’s long history of air quality issues. 

Board President David Badanes and Superintendent Robert Banzer both reiterated to the crowd that according to experts, the middle school is safe for operations.

“Since 2017, we have made major capital and personnel improvements to the school and have corrected issues found in a 65-year-old building, as well conducted environmental testing and engaged experts from the Department of Health, the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center of Long Island and the Icahn School of Medicine,” Banzer said. “In their professional assessments, all have indicated that the middle school is safe for occupancy. Without the assurances of these professionals we would have not occupied the school.”

“In their professional assessments, all have indicated that the middle school is safe for occupancy. Without the assurances of these professionals we would have not occupied the school.”

– Robert Banzer

The district expects that soil testing and the creation of a subcommittee will quell any remaining concerns and help bring a divided community back together. 

The subcommittee will be made up of 10 members, which will include board trustees, parents, district staff and professional experts. Together they will work on an analysis and come up with parameters of the soil testing. 

The timetable for the subcommittee’s actions has already been established. On Dec. 12, recommendations will be given to the board identifying experts that will conduct soil testing and additional analysis. December through January, soil testing begins. January-February, assessment of soil testing results. By March, the district expects a final report, which will include recommendations given to the board.  

Parent Lauren Handler called on the board to stop utilizing the services of Hauppauge-based firm J.C. Broderick, which has come under scrutiny for some of its previous reports and findings at the middle school. 

She also asked for a comprehensive review of all previous testing done at the school, additional groundwater testing, cesspool testing, and investigating the environmental impact of the VA Hospital and Covanta among other things. 

“If any part of this testing cannot be completed, or if testing is completed and the source of the result cannot be identified and remediated, than this building should be closed,” Handler said. “If this request cannot be met, I’m asking the superintendent and board members to step down.”

 A number of speakers called on the board to consider appointing an independent broker to select the consultant and experts that will be on the committee. 

Tammie Topel, a former board member who served for six years, said she previously brought up health concerns to the board.

A Northport Middle School student addresses the board Nov. 7. Photos by David Luces

“I am a former board member and when I was on the board two years ago, I requested for soil testing more than once,” she said. “Especially during one of my final board meetings, when I learned two former students had developed aplastic anemia.”

Topel, a nurse by profession, said proposals to approve soil testing at the middle school were voted down twice during her tenure. 

“Why didn’t we do this two years ago?” she asked. 

A number of parents also accused the board of not being up front with information about student illnesses at the school.

“I’m alarmed and disgusted by some of these things I just learned recently,” Michael Figeroura, an emergency medical technician for the New York City Fire Department and parent, said. “I find it disgusting when kids are complaining that they have headaches or smelling metallic things, they go to the nurse and all that gets done is that they check their temperature.”   In addition, Figeroura criticized Timothy Hoss, Northport Middle School Principal, for his handling of the situation.

“Who tells them [the students] after he comes into the room that there’s nothing there … But miraculously 30 minutes later there’s an email, a text message and a phone call — that yes there was some type of smell in the air and that they are working on the ventilation systems,” he said. “I want something to be done, we absolutely need more testing now and later.”

He also called for better trained medical staff in the schools. 

“For a nurse to check the temperature of a child after they complained about metallic smells, it is unacceptable,” Figeroura said. 

Timothy Heck, an accountant and community member, was one of a number of individuals that proposed the idea of moving the middle school students to another building in the district, arguing that the district has the available space due to declining enrollment. 

“I did a rough estimate myself and I figured from the administrative and operation costs, it costs around $2.5 to $5 million to keep one of the schools open,” he said. “What makes sense to me is that you could close one of the schools down and move the kids to this building or one of the grade schools.”

Heck cited a 2015 demographic study done by the district, where they projected that about 502 students were expected to be enrolled in the middle school in 2024 compared to 2007 when it had a peak of 908 students. 

Similarly, at a board of education budget meeting in January, the district projected that the schools have lost nearly 1,165 students since the 2011-12 school year. 

It’s unclear if board members are considering that option. 

Three board of education trustees have been appointed to the committee: Vicky Buscareno, Larry Licopoli and Tom Loughran. If you are interested in being considered for the subcommittee please send an email to: boe@northport.k12.ny.us.

 

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Local officials and veterans gathered at Port Jefferson Memorial Park for an unveiling ceremony of three new monuments to honor those who served in the nation’s most recent conflicts Nov. 10. 

The ceremony and unveiling completes renovations for three of four memorial sites located in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook identified last year for upgrades. The new memorials honor those who served during the Cold War, Lebanon peacekeeping, the Grenada and Panama invasions, the two Gulf wars, the Afghanistan War and the War on Terror.

The work was spearheaded by a war memorial fund committee formed last fall through a partnership between Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars members, and the Long Island State Veterans Home. 

“Today is the unveiling of three new monuments that have been long overdue here — the previous three monuments only went up to the Vietnam War,” said Bill Wolf Sr., commander of the Port Jefferson Station American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432. “We are dedicating three new monuments from the Cold War to our present-day wars we are fighting today.”

Hahn thanked the veterans present for the sacrifices they’ve made. 

“I want to thank the veterans here today for their services — this great nation is only free because of all the things they have done,” she said. “We’ve been working for a year and half to update these memorials … so when veterans come home, they can have the conflicts they participated in reflected here.” 

Dedication of the updated memorial in Port Jefferson was accompanied by the replacement of the site’s damaged existing stonework. Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) secured funding from her district parks budget to make these updates and other related work in advance of the installation of the new monuments. The Town of Brookhaven owns and maintains the memorial site in Port Jefferson across the road from Village Hall.

Phase 1 of the project has already been completed by expanding the memorials in Stony Brook Village and on Setauket Village Green. The final phase will comprise an update at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park near Se-Port Deli.

The approximate $35,000 cost for the memorials project is being paid largely through donations. Contributions are still being accepted for the phase 2 costs. As of Nov. 10, the project members have raised $29,000 since 2018.

Members of the committee will look to complete phase 3 of their project in time for next year’s Memorial Day. Wolf said the committee should have the funds by then to get the work done. 

Checks can be made payable and mailed to Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 986, Port Jefferson Station, NY, 11776, or can be hand delivered to the attention of Ed Kiernan at American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432, 1450 Hallock Ave., Port Jefferson Station.

More information is available at the website americanlegionwilsonritchpost432.org.

 

Steve Bellone discusses ideas about promoting the arts in St. James with Natalie Weinstein from the civic group Celebrate St. James during a recent visit to the Calderone Theater. Photo by David Luces

State and local officials gathered at the St. James General Store to commemorate the recent completion of the new pedestrian crossing that connects the store to Deepwells Farm and its parking. The project also included drainage and infrastructure repairs near the building as part of phase one of the Downtown Revitalization Project. 

The arts, experts state, is a sure-fire way to revitalize a community. Photo by David Luces

Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) noted that the repairs were completed just in time as the community nears peak holiday season, when residents frequent the Suffolk County-owned and operated shop. 

“As you know this is the oldest general store in operation in the United States,” he said at a press conference. “Not only does this [repaved road] make for safe crossing on Moriches Road, but the beautification allows for more people to stop and encourages people to shop locally.”

Douglas Dahlgard, Head of the Harbor mayor, said the general store is a destination in the community. 

“This is a destination, it has been one since 1857,” he said. “History is very important in this community, tourists have come from as far as South Africa [to visit the store]. [The store] reminds me of my roots.”

Wehrheim expects the rest of phase one initiative, which includes renovating sidewalks, crosswalks and concrete gutters spanning from Patrick’s Way to Jericho Turnpike, will be completed in the next two weeks.

Phase two of the revitalization plan is expected to be completed by the end of winter.  It includes adding a sewer line and pump station along the main stretch of Lake Avenue, new off-street municipal parking and major pedestrian safety and traffic calming measures. 

After the press conference, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined town officials in a Lake Avenue walking tour and visited the Calderone Theater, which will soon open as a cultural arts center in the future.     

Wehrheim said they have looked at a number of parcels that are primed for economic development. Ideas include purchasing the vacant Irish Viking Bar to create a pavilion for live entertainment in the center of town and additional parking. 

Neighbors near the Del Vino Vineyards on Norwood Road in Northport are struggling with traffic congestion and other concerns related to vineyard operations. Photo from Norwood Community Watch Group

After numerous residents complained about parking, traffic congestion and safety concerns on neighborhood streets around the Del Vino Vineyards in Northport, officials unanimously voted at an Oct. 16 board meeting to adopt parking restrictions to certain residential streets.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (R), who co-sponsored the resolution, said they recently met with the vineyard’s neighbors to discuss the parking problems in their neighborhood. 

“This is something we wanted, but now what do we do about street parking for us.”

— Tom Ryan

“The no-parking signs should be installed by the end of the month and we are hopeful that the signs will be effective in addressing these issues,” Cuthbertson said. 

The restrictions prohibit parking around the vineyard on both sides of Norwood Road between Starlit Drive and Russell Court as well as both sides of Starlit Drive 700 feet south of Norwood Road. The no-parking zones, which officially take effect as soon as the signs go up, will be enforced Monday to Friday from 4 to 11 p.m. and weekends from 1 to 11 p.m. Also, parking on Sound Court is prohibited at all times. 

Tom Ryan, who has lived on Norwood Road for the past nine years, and has advocated for parking restrictions along with other neighbors, said the approved changes are the lesser of two evils. 

“This is something we wanted, but now what do we do about street parking for us,” he said. 

Ryan said the new arrangement was the best option to tackle the problem, because the traffic and parking situation on residential streets has gotten completely out of control with numerous tour buses coming and going as they drop off patrons near the vineyard. A steady stream of Uber and Lyft vehicles also clog local streets.

Anthony Guardino, a Hauppauge-based attorney and representative for the vineyard’s owner Frederick Giachetti, did not respond for comment on the approved restrictions by press time. He previously said at a Sept. 17 public hearing that the restrictions were unreasonable, and it would be only fair to adopt a resolution that bans all parking on those streets regardless of the time.

“We’re anxious for the signs, as of now we have resorted to putting up garbage cans, traffic cones and caution tape to deter people from parking on the street,” Ryan said. 

The tactic seems to be working, they say. However, neighbors on Starlit Drive, who are located closer to the vineyard, have had patrons disregard the obstacles and when asked to not to park in front of homes, they’ve countered that it is a public street. 

In the aftermath of the approved parking restrictions, residents who live further back from the no-parking zones are worried that the parking problem will shift closer to them. 

Ryan expects that the shift will happen. Residents outside the immediate perimeter of the new restrictions have already reached out to town officials to add additional no-parking zones to avoid pushing the congestion deeper into the neighborhood.    

Ryan said this is just one chapter of many other chapters going forward in regard to the vineyard. 

He and other neighbors are now concerned about additional capacity problems at the vineyard, since the business was approved to build a second-floor deck by the town planning board in September. 

Additionally, the owner has proposed in the past about adding 60-80 additional parking spots at the vineyard, which would increase the lot size from 120 spaces to up to 200. 

The vineyard has been a thorn in the side of many residents since it first opened in November 2018. Neighbors have said that the core issue is that Del Vino lacks adequate on-site parking, which caused the problems.

Ryan said it could alleviate some of the parking problems, but it wouldn’t relieve the patron and traffic congestion in the area. 

“The owner is someone who just continues to push the envelope,” he said. 

Some roads near the vineyard have become so crowded, residents said, that it only can accommodate one-way traffic. They have also complained that vineyard patrons pass-out on lawns and urinate in public. 

Stock Photo

Federal authorities have entered permanent injunctions against 15 individuals and ordered them to cease their involvement in multi-million-dollar mail fraud schemes. 

Anthony Kafeiti, of Port Jefferson, and Steven Diaz, of Mount Sinai, coordinated the schemes, according to federal officials. Documents show the individuals targeted elderly by falsely stating that they won large sums of money in exchange for a fee, but never gave the victim’s their winnings.

The schemes grossed $4.8 million in fraudulent proceedings over the past year, according to authorities.

“These permanent injunctions stop unscrupulous individuals and companies from conducting fraudulent solicitation schemes that targeted the elderly in our district and throughout the country and the world,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York. “This office will continue to use all available resources to protect victims of get-rich-quick schemes.”

Officials said the 15 individuals participated in the schemes in a variety of ways, including facilitating the mailing of fraudulent solicitations that victimized the elderly or vulnerable. The solicitations informed recipients throughout the world that they had won multi-million-dollar cash prizes but needed urgently to pay a fee to claim their winnings. Although victims sent in the requested fees by cash, check or credit card, they did not receive large cash prizes in return. 

Some 10 other individuals and companies were connected to the scheme, some were located in Germany, Las Vegas and Vancouver, British Columbia. 

The permanent injunctions were issued after the district court granted the government’s request for a temporary restraining order in November 2018. The injunctions prohibit those individuals from sending fraudulent solicitations, receiving, handling or opening any victim mail responding to solicitations and using or benefiting from lists of victims who previously responded to solicitations. The injunction also authorizes the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to open mail that was detained by law enforcement and return payments to the victims of the schemes.

“These defendants were making misleading promises of easy money,” said Delany De Leon-Colon, inspector in charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Criminal Investigations Group. “Anyone who engages in deceptive practices like this should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable, regardless of where they are.”

Attorneys for the two individuals named in the alleged scam could not be reached
for comment.

Dan Losquadro and Anthony Portesy are seeking the town highway superintendent’s office. Photos by Rita J. Egan

Two familiar faces are vying for the Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent seat. Incumbent Dan Losquadro (R), who has been superintendent since 2013, is seeking a fourth term come Election Day. Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy, a private attorney, is once again running for the top highway department position. He ran against Losquadro in 2017. 

The town highway superintendent’s role is responsible for overseeing more than 3,300 lane miles of town roads, making it one of the largest highway departments in New York State. The candidates joined in a debate at the TBR News Media office

“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts.”

— Dan Losquadro

Losquadro has spent 16 years in elected office, previously serving as Suffolk County legislator and New York State assemblyman.

“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts,” he said. “Instead of debating, now I can allocate funding and I get to see those projects to their completion, that is very gratifying to me.”

Portesy said he shares some of the ideas Losquadro has. His ideas have come from talking to thousands of voters since he lost in 2017. 

The challenger detailed what he called a “worst to first” initiative he’d like to implement if elected. The priority list would be publicly posted on the town’s website, so residents can see when their road is going to get reconstructed. 

“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,” he said. “The voter frustrations are based off the in-house metrics. No one knows how they decide which roads are done and which ones are not done.”

Losquadro said there are many factors that go into selecting roads for work, and that it sometimes hinges on weather conditions. 

“This winter was different because we had so many freeze-thaw cycles,” he said. “Every day it seemed like during the day it was 45 degrees and then at night it went down to 18 degrees.”

The incumbent said during the winter they used a combination of cold patch and hot mix to battle potholes. 

“We used more cold patch but it never quite fully hardens, so that meant after the winter it breaks up and we had to go back all throughout the spring and summer to fix the potholes that were already fixed,” he said. “It is a battle that you have to keep fighting.”

For next year, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has allocated $15 million to the highway department. Both candidates agreed that the funds are needed to fix roads that are past their life expectancy. 

Losquadro said that every penny should be going to roads and mentioned his own high priority list. When pressed on why he doesn’t give more details on when residents can expect work done on their roads, Losquadro said there are multiple factors that decide when a road can be done, and much is out of his hands. 

“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,”

—Anthony Portesy

He stressed that he is working with a finite budget and assured residents that they have a plan in place. 

“We are getting there — I will never say work will be definitely done by next year, it could be done in two or three years,” he said. “Winters change things.” 

Portesy said that’s the crux of resident’s frustration and he wants to make the process more transparent to them. 

“They know there’s only so much money in the pot, they just want to know when their road is going to be fixed,” he said.

Another area the candidates differ is on how the department uses contractors for most of its work. 

The highway superintendent said he would love to have more workers, but the department tries to be mindful of its spending. 

“The town used to have its own pavement crew, but it is just not feasible to hire multiple employees and buy our own materials,” he said. 

The challenger said he believes within the confines of the budget the department could have room to hire between 12 to 20 additional employees over the course of three to five years. 

“I think we can lessen the reliance on contractors — I think creating an apprenticeship program could be a good idea,” he said.

Steve Bellone (D), John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Greg Fischer (L) are facing off for Suffolk County exec. Photos by David Luces

It is a three-man race for the Suffolk County executive seat this year. Incumbent Steve Bellone (D) is vying to secure a final term after coming into office in 2012. Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer, from Calverton, are looking to unseat Bellone in this year’s election. 

Some topics discussed were the county finances, the opioid and MS-13 situations and Suffolk’s water quality. 

Suffolk County finances

The status of the county’s finances continues to be a pressing issue since Thomas DiNapoli (D), the New York State comptroller, released a report saying Suffolk was under the most “significant fiscal stress” of any county — with Nassau — in the state in 2018 for the second year in a row. Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit.”

— Steve Bellone

Bellone touted since he took office seven years ago, he has made the county government more streamlined, fully eliminated the existing operating deficit and has helped achieve an operating surplus for two consecutive years.

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit,” he said. “The county government was completely dysfunctional. Everyone was saying we were heading in the same direction as Nassau County, we were going to have a control board. I told them that was not going to happen, and we made the tough decisions.”

Since Bellone took office, the county government has cut close to 1,300 municipal jobs looking to reduce expenditures. 

Kennedy, who has been the county comptroller for the past five years, said his office has been auditing aggressively, has saved the county upward of $56 million and helped refinance its pipeline debt. He said the county is currently $883 million in operating debt and has a $91 million general fund balance deficit. 

The longtime Suffolk politician argued that the county would probably have to cut back at least $50-60 million from the current operating budget. 

“There’s things in life, you have your wants and your needs — that’s where we are at [right now],” he said. “We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

Kennedy said he would look to implement percentage decreases across the board for contract agencies and in some cases suspend services, similarly to what the county Legislature did in 2008 in the midst of a recession. 

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance,” he said.

Fischer put it simply that the county is no different than a big bankrupt company. 

“We are rated lower than Nassau County, which has financial control boards,” he said. “We can’t rely on the state for anything right now.”

If elected, Fischer would freeze further increases in spending immediately as well as freeze future hiring and begin cross-training county employees.

“This is something that has to be done now,” he said. 

Opioids/MS-13 

On opioids, Kennedy said the county has had an addiction issue long before oxycodone was ever cooked up, mentioning morphine, methadone and crystal meth that have been a concern since the late ’80s. 

He said treatment for addicts is one of his main concerns. 

“We have fewer treatment beds in Suffolk County than five to 10 years ago,” Kennedy said. “Availability of treatment beds is the most pressing need right now.”

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Many Republicans have criticized the Bellone administration for the closure and sale of the Foley Center in Yaphank, which they contend would have helped in the fight against the opioid crisis.

The county comptroller said that the governor has to be more proactive in helping the county. In addition, he said law enforcement needs to be more effective. 

Fischer said he lost his brother to heroin and is acutely aware of what is going on in the fight. 

“This is horribly addictive stuff — I believe in ‘scared straight’ programs, bringing in junkies into schools and scaring the crap out of kids,” he said. “I do want more treatment and prevention not just more cops.” 

The county executive maintained a comprehensive approach is the only way to solve the opioids crisis. 

He agreed with Kennedy and Fischer that local law enforcement plays a big part, but that prevention is just as important. 

Bellone touted partnerships with community-based groups and schools and opening DASH, a substance abuse and mental health center in Hauppauge, that is seeing patients 24/7. 

“The inability to provide adequate treatment has been a failure of our country,” he said. “Once you become addicted it is very hard to extricate yourself from it. We have made progress — the state has helped us.”

He also mentioned that the county has decided to sue the people responsible for the opioid epidemic. 

“Though we can’t restore the lives lost, the Sackler family [which controls Purdue Pharma] should be made to pay,” he said. 

On MS-13, Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department has led the fight against the gang and has helped in getting the lowest crime rate in the history of the county. 

Kennedy and Fischer contend that it is the federal government’s involvement that has swayed the tide in the fight. Though all three candidates agree that while strides have been made, there needs to be continued law enforcement efforts from both the local and federal levels. 

Suffolk’s water quality

Bellone called water quality “the most significant issue of our time in Suffolk County.” 

“Climate change will have certain impacts, but if we don’t address water quality, we are sacrificing the future of the county — we cannot sustain what this place is without protecting water,” he said. 

Bellone said water quality is not only vital for the county’s economy but also to local tourism which brings in billions of dollars each year. 

“It is one of the reasons why people live here and for the quality of life,” he said. 

The county executive defended his septic improvement program which he launched in 2017, saying it has allowed homeowners to replace outdated septic systems and cesspools. He also mentioned that it has helped reduce contaminants in the groundwater.

“We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy said his main concern is to continue to identify any suspected contaminants in our groundwater. He supports the Suffolk County Water Authority’s efforts to identify and remove 1,4-dioxane. 

“We need to raise funding to install 31 wells [throughout the county],” he said. 

Another of his concerns is stormwater runoff prevention, which he said, to him, the jury is still out on the advanced septic system, adding that four to six systems are not working properly. 

Fischer said he would propose a “100 projects in 100 weeks” plan if elected, adding there are some things the county could implement right now. 

“I would put a sizable fee or ban on high nitrogen fertilizer — this is dangerous stuff,” he said. 

The Libertarian candidate criticized Bellone’s advanced septic system program, calling it a complete failure and needs to be put into moratorium until it is fixed. 

Fischer also proposed changes to water codes, mentioning gray water — or the water that comes out of baths, sinks and other appliances — and setting certain mandates for new construction.

For Keith Buehler, guidance counselor at Port Jefferson Middle School, fishing and being out on the water was second nature to him growing up on Long Island. So when students came to him saying they wanted to start a fishing club at the school, he thought it would be a good opportunity to share his passion with others. 

“I loved the idea,” Buehler said. “I told them to get names and start a petition to start a new club.”

The middle school guidance counselor said the school principal, Robert Neidig, was very supportive of their efforts and helped in the process of getting the necessary paperwork to the district office. 

“You want to be a good role model for the kids, just getting out there and sharing one of your passions with them is fun.”

— Keith Buehler

The club has close to 70 students currently enlisted with both middle and high schoolers encouraged to join. 

Buehler said they had already started to have meetings and have begun to teach students the basics of fishing. 

“We were practicing casting and how to properly hold a pole,” he said. “Everyone has different levels of experience so right now it’s just about getting the equipment they need.”

Buehler, who fishes on his kayak at Smith Point Marina, as well as Rocky Point and Port Jeff, said through his connections from the local fishing community the club has received equipment and other items to get them started on future fishing trips. 

The Long Island Salt Savages, a Facebook group with over 3,500 members dedicated to fishing, donated poles, bait and other equipment to the club. 

“We’ve been very grateful for the support, they are a bunch of great guys,” Buehler said. “It really has given us a good foundation to start from.”

In addition, Buehler has gotten Soundview Heating & Air Conditioning, a business in Middle Island, to sponsor the club and will get T-shirts made for the students.  

Buehler said the reaction from students has been great and are excited to get out on the water. 

“I’m a morning fisherman, so I go out before school sometimes — some of the kids will see me with my fishing gear when I come in and they’ll ask me questions,” he said. 

Greg Gorniok, science teacher at Port Jeff High School and co-advisor for the club, said he believes the club is a great opportunity for students to get on the water. 

“It was a no-brainer,” he said. “Keith and I fish all the time; a lot of students have the same experiences [as us]…It’s nice to share that passion with them.”

Gorniok said another positive is that they are exposing students to the waters of Long Island. 

“It will be fun, the kids get to see you in a different light and you better connect with them,” he said. 

While the club will be predominately about fishing, Buehler said they also want to plan beach trips, local boat excursions, beach cleanups, focus on environmental and conservation activism, as well as bringing in speakers to talk to students. 

The adviser hopes to continue to expand the club in the future. They have begun to raffle off equipment to members who attend club meetings as well.  

The club plans to do its first beach/fishing trip of the fall on Oct. 24 at East Beach in Port Jefferson. Buehler said in the spring he wants to plan out more fishing trips and educate students on local and state fishing laws. 

“The students have been a big part of this,” Buehler said. “You want to be a good role model for the kids, just getting out there and sharing one of your passions with them is fun.” 

Suffolk County legislators approved a $3.2 billion budget for 2020 Nov. 6. TBR News Media file photo

County residents got a glimpse of the county’s budget process as the operating budget working group held its first public meeting Oct. 17 when the 2019-20 recommended operating budget was discussed.  

The county operating budget funds employee payroll costs, county departments and a variety of other expenditures. The status of the budget has been in the spotlight since the New York State comptroller, Tom DiNapoli (D), said Suffolk was under “significant fiscal stress” — with Nassau — for the second year in a row. In 2018, Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

The topic has been an important issue in the county executive race. The current incumbent, Steve Bellone (D), has stated that during his tenure he has worked to bring the county spending and finances back in check. John Kennedy Jr., the county comptroller and Republican challenger for executive, has stated that the county is in a “fiscal crisis.”

Here is what legislators discussed at the meeting. The proposed operating budget for 2019-20 will be $3.2 billion, an increase from last year’s $3.1 billion budget. 

The recommended budget would look to increase property taxes by $14.66 million (2.14 percent), according to the report. The increase is comprised of a rise in police district property taxes of $16.56 million (2.8 percent). 

The police district will face an $11.3 million deficit by the end of 2019. It is the fourth year in a row that the district will have a deficit. Overtime for the police department in 2019 is estimated at $30.9 million. 

In addition, the county’s general fund, despite seeing an increase of $318 million in revenue from 2015 to 2019, is projected to experience its fifth consecutive deficit in 2019. Combined with the police district, the county may face an operating deficit of some $20 million. 

Sales tax revenue is projected to increase an additional $48.5 million from 2019-20 or about 4.5 percent.  

Another area of concern is the county payroll. It has increased by $315 million in the last seven years, despite the workforce being reduced by 1,250 positions. From the start of 2019 through Sept. 8, the number of active county employees on the payroll declined by approximately 150, according to the report. The recommended expenditures for employee health care in 2020 is projected to increase by approximately by $22.2 million. 

The Budget Review Office also raised concerns in the report that property taxes in the Southwest Sewer District, which covers parts of Babylon and Islip, would decrease by $2.14 million. This could lead to less funds available for sewer projects and potentially increase borrowing. 

In terms of other revenue, the county is projected to see an increase in funds from video lottery terminals at Jake’s 58 Casino Hotel in Islandia. The revenue brought in will increase to $25 million in 2020 compared to $2.9 million in 2018 and $3.3 million in 2019. 

For homeowners, the proposed county property tax will yield an estimated average tax bill of $1,207, an increase of $25. Average taxes per homeowners will increase by $32 in five western towns, including Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington, and decrease by $2 in the county’s five eastern towns.