Government

Residents turn out for and against a plan to build a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Plans to build a 69-unit assisted living facility in a residential, wooded Huntington neighborhood were largely met with heavy censure by neighboring residents at a town board public hearing on Tuesday night.

The room was filled to the max with individuals holding up signs for and against the proposal, and jeering and applause often punctuated speakers’ statements. Out of the nearly 35 individuals who spoke, most residents opposed Massachusetts-based Benchmark Senior Living’s plans to build the facility at the corner of East Main Street and Washington Drive, calling the proposal too dense for the area and criticizing the traffic, noise and sewage treatment aspects of the project. The residents called on the town board to reject the company’s proposal to rezone the six-acre land, which has both C-3 Special Business and R-10 Residential zoning, to R-HS Residential Health Services District, a designation that would make way for the facility.

The project has gone through several versions. The proposed number of units has been brought down from 87 to 69 units, and the proposed on-site sewage treatment plant has been moved to the northwest corner of the lot, adjacent to commercial property. A 40-foot-wide natural buffer along Old Northport Road will be built, and the gross floor area would be slightly reduced from 70,567 square feet to 66,995.

Representatives for the developer said at the meeting that the project would meet the needs of a growing senior population in Suffolk County and especially in Huntington Town. But many residents expressed frustration over the zone change request, urging the board to keep the zoning of the current land intact.

Some support Benchmark Senior Living’s request to rezone property to make way for a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Some support Benchmark Senior Living’s request to rezone property to make way for a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Shoehorning a large-scale facility into this spot that would house 100 to 150 people including the staff is so far from the original zoning plan that it renders zoning laws absurd,” Jane Carter, a Cobb Court resident said. “Why do we have zoning laws in the first place? They’re there to protect us.”

Meanwhile, the plan got some support by fewer than a handful of residents, including the construction industry. The developer’s team of representatives argued the proposal is a good use for the site and for the town. John Dragat, senior vice president of development at Benchmark, said the plan destroys fewer trees than previous plans for the site, which included eight homes and an office building. Benchmark’s proposal covers less of the lot and, square-footage wise, isn’t much greater than the plan for the homes, Dragat added.

“In fact, we believe it’s a very responsible proposal,” he said. “It’s respectful of the surrounding community.”

Still, residents were not sold. Astrid Ludwicki, an Old Northport Road resident, said the project was too dense and called it a “monstrosity.”

“This building is too large,” she said. “It’s for Benchmark’s profits, clear and simple.”

Petitions opposing the project have been submitted to the town. Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia (R) said if they’re valid, it could mean the board would need a supermajority vote — four out of five — to approve the zone change, versus a simple majority of three.

After the meeting, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in an interview that the town’s planning staff would review the proposal. Asked for his sense of how the community feels about the project, he said “they’re against it.” The supervisor also said he agreed with the applicant’s claim that this type of facility is needed.

“I think there is a need,” he said. “I think everybody will say there’s a need. Now depending on if it’s in the right spot, we have to analyze that.”

Officials commend Smithtown on Friday for adopting the new geothermal code. From left to right, Michael Kaufman of Suffolk County Planning Commission; David Calone, chair of the county’s Planning Commission; Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio; Michael Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewable energy at PSEG Long Island; and John Franceschina of the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

A new Smithtown code has already translated into some cash.

PSEG Long Island presented Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) with a $10,000 check last Friday for adopting a new model geothermal code.

The utility provided an incentive program for any Long Island township that embraced the new geothermal codes, which utilize the constant, belowground temperature to heat and cool buildings, and help homes save both energy and money. PSEG Long Island committed to provide implementation assistance of $10,000 to each township and $5,000 to the first 10 villages with a population greater than 5,000 in Suffolk and Nassau counties that adopted the model geothermal code by May 31.

This particular new geothermal code helps municipal and private industry installers streamline the evaluation and installation process of the geothermal system in Suffolk County and ensures high quality installations to protect the county’s groundwater.

Vecchio said he was proud that Smithtown was the first town to adopt the code.

“I believe it’ll be a wave of the future;  we want to be the first ones to allow this new energy to come in,” he said.

When PSEG Long Island and the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization unveiled the new energy code back in November, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) stood with the organizations, urging towns to consider the adoption.

Smithtown’s Town Board voted in March to make Smithtown the first town in Suffolk County to adopt the new alternative energy geothermal code for residential and commercial properties.

This is not the first time Smithtown has been one of the firsts to adopt alternative energy codes, signing onto a model code crafted at the Suffolk County Planning Commission for solar energy. The model code helps municipalities evaluate proposed solar energy systems for both commercial and residential properties.

Back in March when Smithtown adopted the code, Michael Kaufman, of the county Planning Commission helped draft the model code and said he believed that Smithtown residents needed to act locally by going green as much as possible because of the energy crisis on Long Island, with Long Island having some of the highest electrical rates in the nation.

“There is an energy crisis on Long Island,” Kaufman said at a previous town meeting. “We have some of the highest electric rates in the entire nation. Fossil fuel energy has high costs and we have severe environmental costs when fossil fuels are used. Town of Smithtown residents need to think globally and act locally by going green as much as possible.”

An x-ray device is used at a press conference to show how inspectors will monitor potentially harmful toxins in children’s products across Long Island retail stores. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Suffolk County is not playing games when it comes to toxic toys.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) saw one of her latest proposals receive unanimous approval last week when the Suffolk County Legislature approved measures that would ban the sale of any toys containing potentially dangerous toxins. The Toxin Free Toys Act zeroes in on six toxins most commonly found in toys marketed to children and will forever ban them once the legislation gets County Executive Steve Bellone’s signature.

Hahn said the initiative came as a response to a recent report issued by the New York League of Conservation Voters and Clean and Healthy New York that found several children’s products containing carcinogenic components on the shelves of Long Island stores. Most specifically, the legislation targeted dangerous materials that are linked to cancer, cognitive impairments, hyperactivity and genetic disorders in children, Hahn said.

“As a mother, I am outraged that children’s toys contain these toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, learning and developmental disabilities and respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders,” Hahn said. “By passing this law today, we are acting proactively to protect our children’s health.”

Under the proposal, new children’s products sold in Suffolk County would need to contain less than specified limits in parts per million of the six following components: antimony, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, lead and mercury. The legislation pegged the county’s Department of Health Services to head up the operation by notifying retailers by the beginning of 2016 that inspectors would be conducting random checks for toys and other children’s products containing toxic content using an x-ray fluorescence analyzer.

Clean and Healthy New York released the “Toxic Toys on Long Island” report back in December, which surveyed various retail spots like Target, Party City, Walmart, The Children’s Place, Macy’s, Ocean State Job Lot and Dollar Tree to find that some products contained potentially harmful materials. The report found more than 4,600 children’s products and toys contained at least one of 49 hazardous chemicals.

Kathleen A. Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York, was one of several health and safety advocates to applaud the proposal as an appropriate response to December’s report.

“In the absence of a strong state or federal law to regulate toxic chemicals in children’s products, it is both laudable and appropriate for Suffolk County to take action to protect its most precious and vulnerable residents,” she said. “Hopefully, this action will create a tipping point for New York State to follow suit. Otherwise, more localities will step up and follow Suffolk’s lead.”

Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, has also been at the forefront of the statewide push to limit the kinds of toxins children could be exposed to through their toys. While the state still waits for its own comprehensive response to toxic toy legislation, Bystryn applauded Suffolk for taking the lead.

“Toxic chemicals have no place in children’s toys, and they should not be on store shelves for sale,” Bystryn said. “I applaud bill sponsor Kara Hahn and the Suffolk County Legislature for sending a clear message to parents that they deserve the right to know what dangers are lurking in the products they bring home.”

Village Center file photo by Heidi Sutton

It was mostly incumbents versus challengers during a debate between candidates for the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees on Wednesday night, with the two groups standing apart on issues such as the village’s comprehensive plan, taxes and the local power plant.

The event, run by the chamber of commerce, featured all of the board candidates: Mayor Margot Garant is running for her fourth term against businessman Dave Forgione; and Trustee Larry LaPointe is running for his third term against resident challengers Matthew Franco and Stan Loucks.

Two trustee seats are up for election — LaPointe’s and that of Trustee Adrienne Kessel, who is not seeking re-election — so the two candidates with the most votes will win slots on the board.

Longtime village Judge Peter Graham, who is unopposed for re-election, was also present.

At the Village Center debate, the five candidates sparred on the topic of the aging Port Jefferson power plant, which could need to be upgraded — or repowered — soon if locals want to keep it as a key source of property tax revenue for the village. Locals have feared the plant will not be repowered for several years, and village officials have been lobbying to save it.

Franco said the village is in a “wait-and-see pattern” on those efforts, but needs to be more proactive by finding places to cut the budget and thus lower taxes. Forgione also pointed to reducing taxes as a solution, saying that year-to-year village tax increases are too high.

On the other side of the argument were incumbents Garant and LaPointe. The trustee said he “resents the implication” that the village board has been just sitting and waiting, as members have been visiting Albany to lobby for repowering and bring parties to the table to negotiate as much as possible. Garant added that to help prepare residents for a potential loss of tax revenue from the plant, the board has been putting money aside each year and working to resolve tax grievances in order to stabilize the tax roll.

Loucks, who fell on different sides of different issues throughout the night, said the village must continue pressuring state officials to push for repowering.

On the topic of the draft comprehensive plan, which includes recommendations for development throughout the village, candidates were asked if they support the document as it reaches its final stages of review.

Garant, LaPointe and Loucks spoke in favor of the plan, with the incumbents saying it will work to improve the commercial areas uptown and downtown in particular.

“We have the problems of a small city,” LaPointe said that night, imploring the audience not to fear change. “I want the blight gone.”

Forgione and Franco argued the village should modify the plan based upon recommendations that the Suffolk County Planning Commission listed in its letter approving the plan.

In the fight for mayor, the candidates closed with Forgione saying he would strive to get more community input.

“I will do more than run this village,” he said. “I will serve this village.”

Garant called on the audience to return her as the village leader.

“This is a very critical time,” she said. “I am your mayor.”

Councilman Neil Foley, left, and Supervisor Ed Romaine stand by the jetty where a Selden man allegedly crashed his boat and then fled the scene. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Town and county officials aren’t taking boating safety lightly, and are urging residents to take precautions while out on the water this summer.

Boating safety was the topic of discussion at a press conference held at the Sandspit Marina in Patchogue Thursday, following a hit-and-run incident on May 24.  Mark Tricarico, 31, of Selden, was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a boating accident involving injury, according to a Suffolk County Police department press release.

Tricarico allegedly crashed a 23-foot boat into the west jetty at the entrance of the Patchogue River on the night of the 24th. One passenger was treated for minor injuries. Tricarico could not be reached for comment.

“If everyone follows safe boating procedures, most accidents can be prevented,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said on Thursday, just yards away from the site of the incident.

June and July are typically the busiest boating months of the year on Long Island, and Romaine along with Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau Deputy Inspector Ed Vitale urged boaters to be aware of boating laws in the hopes of avoiding a repeat of the events of May 24.

From left, Assistant Deputy County Executive Tim Sini; Police Marine Bureau Deputy Inspector Ed Vitale; Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine; and Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley at a press conference on boating safety. Photo by Alex Petroski
From left, Assistant Deputy County Executive Tim Sini; Police Marine Bureau Deputy Inspector Ed Vitale; Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine; and Brookhaven Councilman Neil Foley at a press conference on boating safety. Photo by Alex Petroski

Romaine and Vitale also reiterated some general boating safety precautions, like avoiding alcohol while operating a boat, being aware of weather forecasts and following paths set by buoys.

“Stay in the navigable channels,” Romaine said. “Understand what the buoys are for.”

Operating boats while intoxicated was a point everyone touched on.

“You don’t see it that often until you see a boat up on the rocks,” Jesse Mentzel, a bay constable, said in a one on one interview.  “It happens, and they could hit another boat just as easily.”

Assistant Deputy County Executive Tim Sini attended the press conference on behalf of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“We want to make one thing clear—boating while intoxicated will not be tolerated in Suffolk County,” Sini said.

Sini added that there would be checkpoints and patrols to monitor the waterways and ensure that everyone remains safe this summer.

Some additional safety precautions suggested by Romaine and Vitale included a boating course approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as well as a swiming and first-aid course, operating at safe speeds, and designating an assistant skipper in case you are injured or otherwise unable to assume command of the vessel.

“The water can be a very hostile environment,” Vitale said.  “It’s a beautiful looking place and it is truly, but it can be very hostile to people.  You have to pay attention.  You have to be aware of the weather.  You have to be aware of the currents.  This is something that every now and then people get out on the water and they just don’t get it.”

Town board to host public hearings on new proposals

The town board will consider a ban on e-cigarettes at town beaches and playgrounds. File photo by Nick Scarpa

Huntington Town residents next week will be able to weigh in on a proposal to ban e-cigarettes from town beaches and on another measure that would expedite cleanup of graffiti-ridden properties in the town.

The proposals will be the subject of two separate public hearings on June 9 at 7 p.m at Town Hall.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) has introduced the new legislation to ban e-cigarettes from town beaches and playgrounds. Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) hopes to improve on old legislation to speed up the process of graffiti removal from both residential and commercial properties.

Berland’s proposal enhances existing graffiti cleanup laws. Under the new provisions, residents of Huntington would have 10 days after they receive a summons from the town to remove the graffiti from their property, according to Berland. After the 10 days expire, the town can send Huntington Town General Services Department employees in to remove the graffiti. The resident will then be charged with the cleanup fee and a $250 administrative fee.

If the owner fails to pay the cleanup bill within 30 days, the property will be added to a graffiti blight inventory, which will cost homeowners $2,500 and owners of commercial properties $5,000. Owners who fail to pay the bill will have the bill become a lien on their property.

The time frame is even shorter for graffiti that contains hate speech. The owner has a total of three days to remove it after getting a notice of violation before the town takes action.

“I think it’s important to protect our neighborhood from unwanted graffiti,” Berland said in a phone interview.

Berland has worked with graffiti cleanup for years and is now trying to create legislation that amends the town code so that the cleanups are routine.

Cuthbertson has introduced legislation to add electronic cigarettes to the list of products banned from town beaches and playgrounds. This list already includes tobacco and herbal cigarettes, pipes and cigars.

In 2010 a county law restricted the sale of e-cigarettes to those old enough to buy tobacco. Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) sponsored legislation to ban vaping, or the act of smoking an e-cigarette, at county parks and benches in late 2012.

Many residents in Huntington approached Cuthbertson asking for legislation to end vaping on public grounds, since they have concerns with being exposed to secondhand smoke. However, this new law, if adopted, would not include private property, as well as the parking lots at beaches. New no-smoking signs would go up at each public beach and playground.

In an email through his legislative aide, Cuthbertson said he believes this legislation is important on a public health level.

“The extensive amount of medical research and published studies support our desire to protect the health and welfare of those at our town beaches from secondhand smoke,” the councilman said.

File photo by Rohma Abbas

The political season is swinging into high gear in Huntington.

Last week, town Democrats and Republicans tapped their picks for two open seats on the town board. The Huntington Town Democrat Committee nominated incumbent Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and town Deputy Director of General Services Keith Barrett for the spots, according to Mary Collins, chairwoman of the committee. The committee also nominated incumbents Ester Bivona for town receiver of taxes and Marian Tinari for district court judge.

The Democratic nominations took place last Wednesday, Collins said.

“We think they’re the best people we have,” Collins said. “They’ve shown an interest in good government and getting things done.”

The Huntington Town Republican Committee unanimously picked incumbent Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Northport-East Northport school board member Jennifer Thompson, according to Chairwoman Toni Tepe. The nominations took place last Friday.

“The screening committee recommended [them] to the full committee because they feel that Gene has been a stalwart supporter of the people and that he always has the interest of the people at heart,” Tepe said in a phone interview this week. “And Jennifer Thompson came in, screened very nicely, [was a] very personable, knowledgeable individual and would be an asset on the town board.”

Republicans also nominated Tom McNally, a Huntington Station-based attorney and a Republican committee member, for the Suffolk County Legislature 16th District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Steve Stern. The party also chose Jennifer Heller-Smitelli, a civil litigator from Huntington, to run for the 17th Legislative District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Lou D’Amaro.

At this point, the candidates need to collect signatures to get on the ballot. And it looks like there might be a contest for getting on the ballot — at least over on the Democratic side — with former Highway Superintendent William Naughton announcing this week that he wants to run for town board. In addition, newcomer Drew Merola, a business account manager at Verizon is vying for a seat.

Asked for her thoughts on primary elections, Collins said they could be good or bad.

“Sometimes they help solidify the party,” she said. “Sometimes they can cause rifts. It all depends on how people conduct themselves while the primary process is going on.”

Berland and Barrett, when reached this week, said they were excited to get the Democratic committee’s nomination. Cook and Thompson didn’t immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday morning, but Cook stated in a previous interview he’s running for a second four-year term because he’s taken issue with the way the Democratic majority has spent money.

Tepe and Barrett agreed that this year’s election would be about transparency and ethics.

“And also to maintain a community that is in the liking of people who live here,” Tepe said.

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Hurricanes have caused power outages in recent years. File photo

With several emergency services packed into a small area, Port Jefferson Village officials hope to secure a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority toward building a local backup energy grid to be used in case of a crisis.

The village applied for the NYSERDA grant to build the backup grid, known as a microgrid, through a statewide competition because of the critical community services that cannot stop functioning during a power outage, Mayor Margot Garant said.

“During a severe weather event such as we had with [hurricanes] Irene and Sandy, where the hospitals lost power and some of us lost power — some up to 14 days, [and the] hospitals were out eight to 10 days — those … patients that were on critical care services were put in harm’s way,” Garant said at the village board of trustees meeting Monday night. “So basically if we have a microgrid during those severe weather systems … where the overall grid goes down, we flick a switch and keep our critical services online.”

Microgrids are independent of the regional grid and rely on their own power-generating resources. NYSERDA may award up to $40 million total to help communities around New York State build those microgrids.

Port Jefferson Village is not the only municipality on Long Island applying for a slice of the pie. Huntington Town officials recently agreed to pursue the grant funding for their own microgrid, to support buildings like Huntington Hospital and the town’s wastewater treatment plant. And a month ago, NYSERDA awarded the first five grants — $100,000 each — to communities from Buffalo to East Hampton, so the applicants could perform feasibility studies on their projects.

NYSERDA expects to announce the next round of grant winners soon.

“We have two major hospitals, a ferry, a railroad station, our own school district, a village hall, a wastewater treatment facility, a groundwater treatment facility, an ambulance company,” Garant said. “We have a lot of emergency services-related components within a very small radius.”

Port Jefferson is listed on the NYSERDA website as one of five “opportunity zones” on Long Island where microgrids might reduce strain on the regional utility system and have other positive benefits. The other zones are Long Beach, Montauk, Hewlett Bay and Inwood. Statewide, there are eight other regions that have their own opportunity zones.

With a $100,000 grant, the village would work with consultants and local stakeholders, like the fire department, to research the Port Jefferson project. In choosing which projects to award grants to, NYSERDA is using criteria such as the area’s level of vulnerability to outages, how a microgrid would improve community function and the possible effect on ratepayers.

Although power generation and distribution in the United States used to operate at a more local level, the grids have become more regional over time to make the utilities more cost-effective and reliable, according to NYSERDA’s website.

“These systems are, however, vulnerable to outages that can impact large regions and thousands of businesses and citizens, particularly as a consequence of extreme, destructive weather events,” the website said. “Microgrids could help minimize the impact of these outages by localizing power generation, distribution and consumption so that a fallen tree or downed wire will not interrupt critical services for miles around.”

Projects awarded the $100,000 grants to perform feasibility studies will later be eligible to apply for more funding under the NYSERDA program, to advance the microgrid construction efforts.

County Executive Steve Bellone cites increased savings for taxpayers

Steve Bellone, Barry Paul and John Kennedy, Jr. spotted at a recent press event. Photo from Suffolk County

The merger of the offices of Suffolk County treasurer and the Suffolk County comptroller is being moved up by two years — a move Executive Steve Bellone’s office claims will save taxpayers even more money than originally anticipated.

The treasurer’s office will be folded into the comptroller’s office on Jan. 1, 2016 instead of a planned 2018 deadline, and the groundwork for the transition has already begun, with changes in the treasurer’s office implemented as early as January this year.

A whopping 62 percent of Suffolk County voters overwhelmingly supported a referendum to combine the two offices in a vote , and ever since then, plans have been put into action to complete the merger.

Merging the departments is expected to save taxpayers more than $3 million, according to Bellone’s office in a statement. Moving the merger up by two years saves more money because the county can eliminate positions sooner. Also, implementing new human resources software will allow the county to realize more savings.

The merger includes abolishing the treasurer’s position, as well as two deputy treasurer positions. Five positions have already been eliminated from the treasurer’s office. These positions included staff members who had retired or left the office and were not replaced, since the positions were deemed no longer necessary. 

Interim Treasurer Barry Paul has been spearheading the merger, and it is the main reason he was brought into the position. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone nominated Paul to the post when previous Treasurer Angie Carpenter was named Islip Town supervisor and left the office in early January of this year.

Bellone has worked with Paul and Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., whose two offices will become one. However, at first, Kennedy was not in favor of the merger. During Kennedy’s campaign for comptroller last year, he strongly opposed the referendum and the merger.

“I had concerns with the separation of functions and the new oversight of the two offices,” Kennedy said. Once he was elected into office and realized the public’s support for the move at the polls, Kennedy said he altered his point of view.

“I try to be guided by the will of my constituents, and they wanted to see consolidation so I am now on board,” Kennedy said.

Originally the merger was scheduled to be complete in January 2018, since Carpenter’s term as treasurer was from 2015 to 2017. Once Carpenter stepped down, there was an opportunity to bring on Paul and speed up the process.

Previously, Paul was a Bellone staffer, and once he finishes overseeing the merger of the treasurer’s office with the comptroller’s office, he will return to his post there. For Paul, the treasurer appointment was always a short-term assignment.

“All existing personnel from the treasurer’s office will go under Kennedy, and Kennedy has really embraced that,” Suffolk County Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider, who has worked on the merger as well, said in a phone interview. “This merger will save taxpayers money, while delivering better services.”

Another place that the treasurer’s office has been able to save money is with regards to a backlog of providing tax refunds. As of May 14, the backlog tax refunds were reduced by a third, coming down to 7,810, whereas over a month before, the number of backlog tax refunds was 11,830, according to Bellone’s office.

The backlog is expected to be completely eliminated by July, and will save the taxpayers more than a million dollars in reduced interests costs annually.

The new merged office will also host Munis software in the county’s IT system, which will save another $150,000 to $200,000 dollars. Munis is an integrated enterprise resource planning system that manages all core functions, including financials, human resources, citizen services and revenues.

In a statement, Paul said he has been following Bellone’s mandate to make the treasurer’s office as efficient as possible, and is confident in this timeline and the work his office has been doing to save taxpayer dollars.

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Smithtown Animal Shelter. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

The director of the Smithtown Animal Shelter will be stepping down from his position at the end of next month, town officials said.

Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) publicly announced the resignation of shelter Director George Beatty, 62, at a Town Board meeting last Thursday night, citing the recent death of Beatty’s wife as a catalyst to his decision to vacate his post. Beatty, who has been at the helm of the shelter for more than 30 years, has been at the center of controversy for many months in Smithtown as residents have consistently used Town Hall meetings as public forums to question his conduct, leadership and performance.

“I know many people would like to know the status of the animal shelter’s supervisor, Mr. Beatty,” Vecchio said at the Town Board meeting. “Two weeks ago, he lost his wife. It put some burden on him, as he takes care of his grandchildren.”

Vecchio said Beatty submitted his letter of resignation to the board earlier this month intent on retiring as of June 30. The audience at the meeting started applauding and cheering. The letter, dated, May 19, was short but concise.

“I have enjoyed working for the town of Smithtown and its residents and very much appreciate all of your support,” Beatty wrote in the letter. “I will miss working at the animal shelter, and if I can be of any assistance during the transition, please let me know.”

It was unclear who would be replacing Beatty, officials said. Town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) took on the role of animal shelter liaison earlier this year and has been working with an advisory board she established to enhance care at the shelter, usher in building improvements and work toward a 100 percent adoption rate.

She said at the meeting that Beatty had been working closely with her advisory board of experts, which included animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden and animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein, and was helpful in moving the project forward.

“We’ve been meeting regularly with him,” she said. “George has been absolutely cooperative and we’ve been working together for some time.”

Residents have been accusing Beatty of animal neglect at the shelter and called for his removal from the facility. Beatty blamed a lot of the accusations on misinformation, rebutting claims that his shelter was not clean nor doing enough to care for and promote adoption of the animals.

He said over his nearly three decades at the helm, he has seen the Smithtown shelter’s population shift from a dog-dominated census to a cat-centric group now because of his team’s hard work.

An online petition at www.change.org also called for Beatty’s resignation. The online petition, which also links to a Facebook page calling for change at the shelter, blamed Beatty for animal neglect and requested the town form a committee to choose a new director, independent of the civil service list.

The shelter director said the petition was rooted in misleading information.

“I’m very truly upset — I was mortified by it,” Beatty said in a previous interview. “It would have been of no use to speak. I feel our side was very well spoken and professional. But as for the opposing side, it was apparent to me that they only wanted to believe what they wanted to believe. Nothing I said could have put them to rest.”

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