Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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The Island Christian Church in Port Jefferson will soon be officially called Harborview Christian Church. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Island Christian Church in Port Jefferson will soon be under a new name, Harborview Christian Church.

The well-known church at the corner of East Main and Prospect streets hung a banner from its porch declaring its name change. Rev. Pete Jansson said the church is splitting off as a branch of Island Christian, with the other, much larger site in Northport. 

“It’s a step of faith,” the reverend said. 

He said when the two branches of the church went up, it was said that if the two became too distinct they would have to look into separation. The Northport branch is a much larger campus and congregation, with many more church programs for multiple age groups and other, larger events. The smaller church in Port Jeff, he said, had become distinct in both its activities and number of churchgoers.

The church hung the banner off its porch to get residents used to the name before becoming a fully separate church starting the first Sunday of January 2020. 

Splitting off also has some disadvantages, namely the church having to fully pay its own bills, meaning more dependence on the donations of churchgoers instead of having the backing of the larger branch. 

“We’re dependent on paying our own bills,” Jansson said. “But we feel God is moving us in that direction.”

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The Rocky Point firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point. File photo by Kevin Redding

This year, fire commissioners from the Wading River through the Mount Sinai fire districts are running unopposed, but despite that fact, these small municipal entities have several issues and boons on their plates, and now is a good time to find out just what’s happening with your local fire personnel.

Commissioners are unpaid elected board members who run the district, which is a connected but distinct entity from the fire department. The district is a taxing entity whose board is elected by the residents in the district. They determine yearly budgets, go out for grants and propose bonds to maintain equipment and personnel of both the district and department.

All districts have set the date of Dec. 10 for residents to cast their ballots.

Here is a rundown of those seeking another term at their respective districts.

Wading River Fire Department headquarters. Photo from Google maps

Wading River

Commissioner Joe Marino has been serving through the year 2019, having been elected in 2018 to fill out the term of a commissioner who left before the end of his term. Marino is seeking another five-year term.

Marino did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Residents can vote Dec. 10 at the fire district headquarters located at 1503 North Country Road from 2 to 9 p.m.

Rocky Point

Kirk Johnson has been with the Rocky Point Fire Department since 2006 but had been involved in fire companies previous to that when he lived in West Babylon. By day he’s also a Suffolk County police officer and has worked in the 7th Precinct for 23 years.

Permission was asked of the Rocky Point Fire Department to dig for potential underground tunnels relating to Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe lab. Photo by Kevin Redding

Having been with the department for over 20 years, he originally ran to contribute his experience to upper management, and now he is running again to continue ongoing projects, such as construction of the new Station 2 firehouse, while trying to keep taxes down.

Johnson, a Shoreham resident, said ongoing work on the Station 2 firehouse is “rolling along very well,” and they are currently staying within their $7,250,000 budget. The foundation is currently in, and residents will soon see more of the skeleton of the building going up.

He added that the five commissioners are working on getting a New York State grant to help them replace breathing apparatus that have reached their life span. Johnson said they hope to receive news of that grant later in
December. 

The district has finalized another grant for a fire prevention training trailer, one with different rooms that can simulate a fire with fake smoke. The trailer, he said, can also be used to teach schoolchildren what to do in case of a fire in a classroom or at home.

Rocky Point residents can cast ballots Dec. 10 at the firehouse on Hallock Landing Road from 3 to 9 p.m.

Sound Beach

James McLoughlin Sr. has been involved with the Sound Beach Fire Department since 1973, but it was only five years ago, after a spot opened up, that the veteran department head and former chief decided to throw his name in for commissioner. Five years since, he’s running again unopposed. 

“I had been toying with the idea for years, but most of our commissioners were doing a good job, so I saw no reason to run,” he said. “When I had the opportunity to run, I went for it.”

McLoughlin, a retired Suffolk County fire marshal, said he has “been involved with fire my entire life.” 

Sound Beach Fire District headquarters at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. Photo from Google Maps

Sound Beach residents recently passed a $2 million bond that department and district officials said was necessary for much needed repairs to the main firehouse. This includes replacing windows and adding sprinklers in the building. It also includes drainage repairs to the parking lots in the front and rear of the building, which will also even out the pavement. 

The commissioner said it has been several years since they asked residents to pass a bond, adding he and the other commissioners know the issue with taxes on Long Island.

A growing problem for Sound Beach and other departments, he said, is the diminishing number of volunteers as people work more jobs and for longer hours. State mandates and training requirements require more hours of training from prospective volunteers, which has only exacerbated the problem, especially for as small a district as Sound Beach. 

“The first EMT course I took in 1974 was about 70 hours,” McLoughlin said. “Now it takes over 120 hours for the course. It’s hard to find people to commit to that training.”

While he said the district is not currently looking for full-time fire personnel, the district has hired a full-time EMT ambulance driver. Other districts, like Setauket, have hired a few full-time firefighters to deal with declining volunteers. 

Sound Beach residents can cast their ballots Dec. 10 at the firehouse located at 152 Sound Beach Blvd. between 2 and 9 p.m.

Miller Place

Commissioner Jeffrey Kinkaid has served three five-year terms as commissioner and is seeking a fourth term. However, he was with the department for many years, joining in 1989 after moving to the area in 1988. Overall, he said he has spent 40 years with fire departments both on the North Shore and in New Hyde Park.

“I went through the ranks, became chief for two years and in watching how the commissioners interacted with the chief, I thought I could help with that,” he said.

Miller Place Fire Department. File photo by Kevin Redding

Kinkaid said he has been able to interact with volunteers in the department, adding he has been out on more than half the calls that have come through to see what goes on. 

In the past 15 years, Kinkaid said the district has been busy renovating facilities and updating equipment, including upgrading the headquarters located at 12 Miller Place Road, updating equipment and the construction of a new Station 2 building on Miller Place-Yaphank Road, which was completed by a bond. Kinkaid said this has been done while at the same time trying to keep taxes low.

“I also live in the district,” he said. “I’m in touch with what’s going on, you’ve got to be.”

For the future, the commissioner said they plan to purchase a new rescue truck after decommissioning another one several years ago. The district went out for a New York State grant, but not getting it the district has decided to use budget funds to purchase another, albeit smaller truck at the tune of around $200,000 to $300,000. Kinkaid said they are also working on replacing volunteers’ breathing apparatus packs with budget funds, which could be another $350,000 bulk item. 

“My goal is to maintain equipment and keep the tax burden low,” he said. 

Miller Place residents can cast their ballots Dec. 10 at the main firehouse, 12 Miller Place Road, from 4 to 9 p.m.

Mount Sinai

Peter Van Middelem is running again for his third term as commissioner of the Mount Sinai Fire District unopposed. He has been with the department since 1984 but has been in fire rescue for longer than that as a retired member of the New York City Fire Department. As a third-generation area resident, he also serves as trustee on the Mount Sinai board of education. He also volunteers as a coach with the girls varsity lacrosse team.

“We’re just focused on trying to serve the community and make sure our members are safe,” he said. “It’s about what we can do and what we can do without adding burden to the taxpayers.”

Mount Sinai Fire Department. Photo by Kyle Barr

Like many fire departments on Long Island, Van Middelem said Mount Sinai is suffering from a lack of volunteers, whether it’s from residents working multiple jobs, a lack of interest or young people leaving Long Island. The commissioner said his department in particular has been aging, and at age 53, he himself is one of the younger members in the department.

The district has looked at some ways to mitigate the lack of membership. One has been shared services with the Miller Place Fire Department, where they respond to calls in part with Mount Sinai and vice versa. 

Though he added they may look into additional sharedcall agreements with neighboring departments, another idea on the books is paying firefighters. Setauket recently hired a few paid members, and while Van Middelem said it has been discussed, the district is not currently looking for paid members.

“We have no idea how things will look in another five years,” he said. “A great portion of the district’s costs come from personnel — it’s something we’ll have to think about.”

Otherwise, the district, he said, is looking to get a handle of New York State insurance regulations, specifically covering cancer. It is a major turn from when he started in fire rescue several decades ago, he said, adding the district has been performing comprehensive medical screenings for members. 

“I’m very appreciative of serving,” he said. “I take this job very seriously.”

Mount Sinai residents can cast their ballots Dec. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the firehouse located at 746 Mount Sinai-Coram Road.

Candidates Ruminate on Past accomplishments and Future Challenges

The Port Jefferson and Terryville Fire Comissioner elections will be held Dec. 10.

While Port Jefferson Fire District Commissioner David Okst is running unopposed in the village, Terryville Fire District’s race is contested with two members vying for one seat. Commissioner Bernie Reynolds is planning to retire, which means volunteer member Daniel Gruosso is running against Captain James Guma of Company 1. 

Commissioners are unpaid elected board  members who run the district, which is a connected but distinct entity from the fire department. The district is a taxing entity whose board is elected by the residents in the district. They determine yearly budgets, go out for grants and propose bonds to maintain equipment and personnel of both the district and department.

All districts’ polls are open Dec. 10 for residents to cast their ballots. Residents of Port Jefferson Station or Terryville can cast their ballots at the firehouse located at 19 Jayne Blvd. in Port Jefferson Station from 2 to 9 p.m. Residents of Port Jefferson can cast their ballots at the firehouse located at 115 Maple Pl. from 3 to 9 p.m.

Here is a rundown of those seeking a term at their respective districts.

Terryville Fire District

James Guma is running for Terryville Fire Commissioner. Provided photo

Guma, a current fire captain of Fire Company 1, said he wants to use both his experience running his own business, the Port Jeff Station-based D James Marketing, and his firefighting experience to help run the district.

“I would be honored to further serve our fire community and district as commissioner,” he said. 

Guma has been a longtime resident of the area, having graduated from the Comsewogue School District in 1981, and he currently owns a home in the district. He cites his years as a New York City police sergeant for his knowledge of leadership and his experience in his own business and in helping friends open Due Baci Restaurant in Port Jefferson village, saying he has knowledge of employee management, buying and selling equipment and sending requests for proposals. The district handles over 40 employees, he said.

“Running for this position takes having business strengths,” he said.

In addition, he said he is active in the local community as a civic and chamber member as well as a past president and current treasurer of the Red Knights Long Island Chapter NY-26 motorcycle club.

As a member of the department for over 30 years, he said he has been dedicated to the area not just as an officer but also as a member of the carnival committee and has served as department chairman.

He added that ensuring the safety of the community requires providing the necessary resources to the department, especially since other local departments such as the Setauket Fire Department have started to hire a few paid firefighters. However, he said he does not see Terryville needing to hire paid firefighters any time in the near future. 

“It’s all volunteers and it should be that way,” he said. 

Gruosso has lived in the district for 25 years, having bought the house from his parents who originally lived there. He has been a member of the Terryville Fire Department for four years, having taken a hiatus two decades ago when he had been with the department for two years before leaving to manage a hefty job schedule.

Dan Gruosso is running against Captain James Guma of Company 1. Provided photo

Now that he’s been with the department for a while, and with one of his two sons a member as well, he said he wants to offer up his time.

“I saw it as a good opportunity to give back,” he said.

He currently lives in the district and has seen two sons graduate from Comsewogue. He works as a diesel mechanic and has spent more than 17 years with the Operating Engineers Local 15 union. Overall, it’s a job he describes as “turning a wrench all my life.”

Gruosso is part of the antique fire truck committee, where he does all the mechanical work for both engines on his own time. 

As commissioner, he said he would work to assure tax dollars are used wisely and be a voice for both the first responders and community members. He added that as commissioner he would have the opportunity to show the district mechanic some of what he knows, as he often goes out for schooling on mechanical matters.

“I’m looking to give back my time, and give up some of my knowledge,” he said.

He added he has seen no animosity between the candidates and both remain friends in the department.

Port Jefferson Fire District

Okst, a 30-year veteran of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, ran in 2014 for commissioner and has decided to run again this year. His seat is uncontested.

“I’m happy to do it,” Okst said. “I’ve enjoyed being able to give back to the community.”

The commissioner said he was a longtime member and once treasurer of the department. The district, he added, has gone through a bout of turnover, which has bred new blood on the board of fire commissioners. 

In the past five years, he said the district has used Dormitory Authority of the State of New York grant funds to purchase a new fire boat. The funds were secured in part by Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). This is important for a small district such as Port Jeff, but while the district is reaching out feelers for additional grants, such funds have become more and more competitive and thus harder to come by. 

In the near future, the district is planning on some sort of flood mitigation for the firehouse, which was inundated in September 2018 after flash floods buried the floor in nearly 4 feet of water. 

“It was the worst flood members had ever seen,” he said. 

Okst added they were looking at items such as flood doors in the building’s main floor doorways to help stop such an event from happening again. 

In addition, the district has purchased a building for training purposes, where members can restructure the layout of a room with removable walls while fighting through fake smoke. However, state requirements mandate members train with a bailout harness system, and volunteers have had to travel to nearby departments to use their training equipment. The district is using budget funds to create a bailout system for its training room. 

In addition, the district has resolved to use money from its reserve fund to install a new roof on the annex building, with a cost not to exceed $60,000. The roof, Okst said, is leaking as the building is over 20 years old. They hope to put that project out to bid in the near future.

 

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Michael Bowler

Michael Patrick Bowler, of Port Jefferson Station, passed Dec. 1. He was  72.  

Michael devoted his life unselfishly to the care of his family and those in his community. He was a passionate longtime educator and lacrosse coach at Rocky Point High School, having helped coach the 2008 team to win a state championship. He was the beloved husband of Helene for 50 years. 

In addition, he was the loving father of Brendan (Amy), Kevan (Andrea), Michael (Ann), and the late Sean (Adena Herskovitz).  “Silly Willy” grandfather, better known as “Poppy” who unconditionally loved John, Michael, Brian, Donny, Brodie and Rory; and the devoted brother of Kevin (Jennie), Stephanie and Meg Malangone. 

Friends may call at the Bryant Funeral Home, located at 411 Old Town Road, East Setauket.  Visiting hours are Thursday, Dec. 5, from 7 to 9 p.m.  A Mass will be celebrated  Friday, Dec. 6 at 10:30 a.m. at Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson. Interment will follow at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Smithtown.  

Donations to Ride for Life, ALS Association and Hope House Ministries would be appreciated. Visit www.bryantfh.com for more information.

Christine M. Spalletta 

It is with profound sadness to announce the sudden passing of Christine Spalletta of Northport Nov. 11. Raised in a large Irish Catholic family in Oyster Bay, she was born as the second daughter to the late Robert J. and Josephine Barnett. She will be forever loved and missed by her three children, Dawn (Kenny) Bennett, Theresa (Chris) Moore and Steve Spalletta, and seven adored grandchildren, Hailey, Brayden, Julia, Noah, CJ, Jamieson and Makenna. She is also survived by nine siblings, Jody (Don), Patty (Greg), Elie (Mike), Anne (Tom), Bob, Katie (Alan), John (Susan), Tom (Marie) and Jane (Bernie) as well as many nieces and nephews. Chris cherished her dear friends Betty, Pat, Jackie and Jackie and her oldest friends Loretta and Charlene (Oyster Bay High School Class of 1963). Christine’s greatest joy was being with her grandchildren.

Patrick Perpignano 

Patrick Perpignano of Northport died Nov. 14 at 76 years of age. He was the beloved husband of Carroll; loving father of Lisa Marshall (John), Kristin Perpignano (Jeremy Norris) and J. T. Glancy (Lisa); cherished grandfather of Devin, John, Lily, John, Lauren and Diana; and dear brother of Giovanna Perpignano. Visitation was held at the Nolan Funeral Home in Northport Nov. 19. A funeral Mass was celebrated Nov. 20 at St. Philip Neri R.C. Church, Northport; private cremation followed. In Patrick’s memory donations to American Cancer Society would be appreciated.

Linda Ringen 

Linda Ringen of Daytona Beach, Florida, formerly of Northport and Port Jefferson, died Nov. 23. She was the beloved wife of Peter; loving mother of Peter (Martha) Ringen Jr. and the late Ronald Ty Ringen Sr.; and cherished grandmother of Ronald Ty Ringen Jr., Alicia Kelly Ringen, Justin Ringen, Chelsea (Timothy) Atkins, Joshua Ringen and Grace Ringen. Visitation and funeral services were held Nov. 30. Closing prayer was held Dec. 1. Interment followed at Cedar Hill Cemetery, Port Jefferson. 

Daniel Donovan 

Daniel Donovan of Kings Park died Nov. 24 at 55 years of age. He was the beloved father of Kelly Zimmermann and her husband Daniel, Patrick Donovan and Shannon Donovan; loved by Dee Donovan; cherished grandfather of Mason; and loving brother of Colleen Kirsop (Ken), James Donovan (Trish), Robert Donovan (Valerie) and the late Michael Donovan. Visitation was held Nov. 30 at Nolan Funeral Home in Northport. Private cremation followed. In Dan’s memory donations to Visiting Nurse Service & Hospice of Suffolk, 505 Main St., Northport, NY 11768, would be appreciated. 

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From left, Kevin Mann of the Rotary Club of Rocky Point; Pam, Lewin Farms farm manager and Keith Owens of KO Cares. Photo from Mann

For over two decades, on the day before Thanksgiving, the Rotary Club of Rocky Point, along with a local farm, has facilitated over 300,000 pounds of produce to get into the hands of people who need it.

The Calverton-based Lewin Farms, which Rocky Point Rotarian Kevin Mann called “the big farm with an even bigger heart,” has hosted volunteers from soup kitchens and food pantries looking for fresh produce. On Thanksgiving Eve 23 volunteers from seven soup kitchens and food pantries converged on Lewin’s to gather around 20,000 pounds of produce and fruit. 

The seven groups that came are Long Island Cares, which gathered 8,896 pounds of food, Island Heart Food Pantry in Middle Island, The Friendship Kitchen in Middle Island, Mount Sinai Congregational Church, Friend’s Kitchen in Rocky Point, North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River, the Medford-based KO Cares and the Gordon Heights SDA Church.

Mann said the project will continue next year and thanked Lewin Farms for its consistent help. 

A mugshot of Charles Titone, who police said sexually abused a 6-year old and possessed child porn. Photo from SCPD

Police arrested a school bus driver early on Tuesday, Dec. 3 for alleged sexual abuse and possessing child pornography. The man drove a bus in the Northport-East Northport School District.

Police, which included the members 2nd precinct, along with computer crimes and special victims sections, said they launched an investigation into Charles Titone III, 46, following a tip from the New York State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Police said investigators executed a search warrant at Titone’s home, located at 250 Depot Road in Huntington Station, early in the morning and arrested Titone at around 7:30 a.m. for allegedly having sexual contact with a 6-year-old and possessing child pornography on his phone. Titone is a school bus driver for Huntington Station-based Huntington Coach Corp. and drives in the Northport-East Northport school district.

Titone was charged with sexual abuse 1st degree and possessing a sexual performance by a child.

The victim was someone previously known to Titone and not a student from his bus route, police said.

Attorney information for Titone was not immediately available.

Titone is being held overnight at the second precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 4 at First District Court in Central Islip.

The investigation is continuing. Police said detectives are asking anyone with information to contact the Computer Crimes Unit at 631-852-6279 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.

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Police said Rocky Point man Matthew Gallagher defrauded investors. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police arrested a Rocky Point man Nov. 27 for allegedly scamming investors out of more than $60,000 between December, 2018 and March, 2019.

7th Squad detectives arrested Matthew Gallagher, 36, at around 5 p.m. Police said the man had collected money from three victims while telling them they were investing in a legal marijuana farm in California. Victims were promised a high return on their investment in the farm, which detectives said does not exist.

Gallagher, was charged with scheming to defraud 1st degree, three counts of grand larceny 3rd degree and identity theft 1st degree.

His attorney was listed as Miguel Alvarado, of the Hempstead firm Mejias Milgrim & Alvarado. The attorney did not immediately return calls for comment by Friday, Nov. 29.

The investigation is continuing. Police have asked anyone who has additional information or believes they have been a victim to call 7th Squad detectives at 631-852-8752 or call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.

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Judges taste pies made by local residents, making the decision on both taste and texture. Photo by Kyle Barr
PJSD student in the aftermath of the pie-eating contest. Photo by Kevin Wood

Pie to die for was served up at the Village Center in Port Jefferson Nov. 23 as the village hosted its first Pie Bake Off and Eating Contest, sponsored in part by Torte Jeff Pie Co. and the Village of Port Jefferson. 

Residents and locals, even one who hailed from across the Sound in Connecticut, sent over two versions of their home-made pumpkin pies to see which would be the cream of the crop. Six judges, including Mayor Margot Garant and trustee Kathianne Snaden, as well as Torte Jeff Pie Co. owner Lisa Harris tried slices of 33 pies, judging them on crust, taste, sliceability and more. By the end, it was general surgeon Dr. Lawrence Kelly of Port Jefferson who won first place. Second place was tied between Tom Capodanno and Beth Whitford. The pies were raffled off for those wanting to take them home, and over $250 was donated to the food pantry at Infant Jesus Church in Port Jeff.

After the judging, both adults and kids from Port Jefferson Elementary School took part in a blueberry pie-eating contest, with Luke Musto winning in the children’s division. In a contest between the village and school, the village barely managed to pull ahead. Finally, Jimmy Purificato won in the public pie-eating contest.

Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, during his presentation to the village board Nov. 18. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jeff village officials are considering installing an electric car charger into an existing parking space toward the west end of the lot off Barnum Avenue.

Nick Dattilo, a salesperson for Nesconset-based electrical supplies company Kelly & Hayes, presented to the village board Nov. 18 about the possibility of installing a Charge Point electric vehicle charging station. Each station comes with two extendable charging ports and can be accessed with either an app or with a device that usually comes with a standard electric vehicle.

Kevin Wood, parking and mobility administrator, said the village is looking to make use of a New York State Energy Research and Development grant, which will provide up to an 80 percent rebate for such projects, from $250,000 up to a max of $500,000. The village would have to put the money upfront to be reimbursed. Mayor Margot Garant said she wanted to make sure the grant was in place before signing any contract for Charge Point.

Wood said the village could benefit, as the demographic of electric car owners is on the rise.

“As soon as you drive in [to the parking lot] you drive right into these,” Wood said. “I just like the idea that a person could come to Rocketship Park with their kids and charge their car.”

Officials said the hope is people with electric vehicles would shop while waiting for their car to charge. Each charge takes from three to five hours for a full charge.

The station includes an 18-foot retractable cord that winds up like a vacuum electric cord.

Though each station comes with two ports, Wood said he would like to see only one port be used with one space as a pilot. He added the village’s parking committee is usually hesitant to give up even a single space.

“If we saw it being used a lot, we’d open the second one up,” he said. “This town can’t afford to give away spaces.”

There are several electric vehicle charging stations in the immediate area. One set is in the parking lot of Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, and another set is provided at Stony Brook University, whose services are not billed for use.

The village board would still have to decide upon cost to the driver, with the rate depending on how long a car is being charged. Garant mentioned, depending on cost, the service could be offered free to attract people into downtown Port Jeff.

The board plans to reassess the feasibility of the charging station at the next board meeting, Dec. 2.

Wood said his goal is for installation of the charger next to Rocketship Park to take place in the first quarter of 2020.