Port Times Record

Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner speak against PSEG Long Island's proposed rate increase. Photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven officials announced Thursday that the town is seeking permission from the New York State Public Service Commission to intervene on PSEG Long Island’s pending application to the commission for a rate increase.

At a press conference, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and councilmembers Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Dan Panico (R-Manorville) and Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) expressed their concerns about the increase in the delivery charge portion of customers’ bills — a nearly 4 percent bump each year for three years — set to kick in next year. The officials said they believe PSEG Long Island hasn’t adequately justified the increase, which would have a “devastating impact,” on Long Island residents.

“We want to make sure that our voices are heard — the ratepayers in Brookhaven Town are heard,” Romaine said.

By legally intervening, according to attorney Rob Calica, of Garden City-based law firm Rosenberg Calica & Birney LLP, town officials would have access to filings and documents that are otherwise not public.

“If the town doesn’t intervene, it’s a commenter,” said Calica, who the town retained to handle the matter. “The comment period is closed. If the town doesn’t intervene, the records that are unavailable for public review remain unavailable. If the town intervenes, it elevates its status from commenter to a party.”

The utility stated in its proposal that it would invest in maintaining and modernizing the electric system; enhancing technology for managing customer accounts; improving infrastructure to better prepare for and respond to storms; and improving system reliability.

The town joins Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., who asked to act as an intervener in an April 10 letter to the New York State Department of Public Service, the department which contains the commission.

According to PSEG Long Island’s application, the three-year increase will amount to an approximate $221 million increase in revenues.

In his letter, Kennedy called it questionable to give “that excessive amount of money” to a “quasi-governmental entity that is supposed to be a leader in management performance, yet decides to increase the average residential customer’s bills when its own employees live and work on Long Island.”

This is the first time in more than 20 years that Long Island’s utility provider has had to submit a rate plan to the Department of Public Service, as required by the LIPA Reform Act of 2013, which also put the Long Island Power Authority under the management of private company PSEG Long Island. The department assigned administrative law judges to hear the case, on which Long Island residents commented at public hearings held throughout March.

Brookhaven officials and Kennedy said they also took issue with the fact that the utility’s proposed increase does not have to follow any cap that other public institutions, like governments and school districts, have to abide by, referring to the state’s tax levy increase cap. Romaine said PSEG Long Island should have to comply with and be held to higher standards.

“They are a public authority no different than the Town of Brookhaven,” he said.

In an email, Jeff Weir, PSEG Long Island’s director of communications, said the organization is proud to have the most transparent rate proceeding that local customers have ever seen.

“We believe the modest increase that we are seeking in our filing will allow us to continue to create a more resilient, modern and customer-responsive electric utility,” Weir stated. “We welcome the opportunity to continue to have constructive, open dialogue regarding our request.”

Port Jefferson Treasurer Don Pearce explains the 2015-16 budget at a meeting in Village Hall on Wednesday night. Photo by Elana Glowatz

A week after some Port Jefferson residents called on village officials to keep any tax increases as low as possible in next year’s budget, the board of trustees did just that when they approved a $10.2 million spending plan Wednesday night that complies with the state-imposed cap on tax levy increases.

The budget will raise taxes by $0.46 for every $100 of assessed value on a property. That number comes in just below the village’s tax levy increase cap, at 1.68 percent.

At the time of a public hearing on April 6, the village had been working with a budget draft that would have carried a 4 percent tax increase, even after the board slashed more than $300,000 in expenses during budget workshops. The hearing was on a measure that the trustees ultimately passed that night to give themselves the authority to pierce the cap if necessary — something Port Jefferson has done each year since the state cap was enacted. But some residents implored the board to better control taxes and stay within the cap this time.

Treasurer Don Pearce said at the public hearing that in order to meet the cap, the village would have to cut out more than $140,000 in expenses or add revenues to the spending plan. On Wednesday night, Pearce said the village took residents’ comments and whittled down the budget further to close that gap.

Pearce reported that the 2015-16 budget will represent an increase of about $217,000 over the current year’s budget, which means that the village’s mandated expenses — like employee retirement contributions, health care costs and payments to the local ambulance company — are increasing more than the budget itself.

Prickly
A Hastings Drive woman called police to report an incident of criminal mischief at her Stony Brook home — an unknown person cut branches from the front of her shrub sometime between April 11 at 8 p.m. and April 12 at 10 a.m.

Boozy banter
A man reported to police an incident of harassment on April 12. He told police that at about 8:20 p.m. in the wooded area on the west side of Waldbaums on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket, he and another individual who may have been intoxicated made a verbal threat to him.

A leg up
A 36-year-old man from West Hempstead was arrested on Nicolls Road in Stony Brook on April 8 and charged with third-degree criminal mischief of property greater than $250 in value. Police said he kicked a female victim’s passenger door of a 2008 Honda Civic, causing damage, on Church Street in Lake Ronkonkoma on April 4. He was arrested days later in Stony Brook at 3:30 p.m.

Drugged driving
Police said a 21-year-old woman from Setauket was arrested on Old Town Road in Setauket-East Setauket on April 12 and charged with first-degree operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs and fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana. Police said she was driving a 2006 Nissan southbound on Old Town Road when she was pulled over at about 6:40 p.m.

Reckless
A 22-year-old man from Centereach was arrested in Setauket-East Setauket on April 11 at about 5 a.m. and charged with first-degree reckless endangerment and first-degree burglary. Police said the man fired a shotgun on Ringneck Lane in Setauket. Police also tacked on a burglary charge at the precinct — they said on March 29, at about 3 a.m., the man went into a home on Old Town Road and struck a man in the head.

Shoplifter caught
Police said a 32-year-old man from Southampton was arrested in Setauket-East Setauket on April 10 and charged with petit larceny. Police said he was arrested at the corner of Chester and Belle Meade Road for stealing assorted items from Walmart in South Setauket at about 10:20 p.m.

Busted with heroin
Police said a 28-year-old old man was arrested in Stony Brook on April 7 and charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, with the intent to sell. Police said that at about 12:45 p.m. on Route 347 on April 7 he was in possession of heroin in a 2014 Chevy Camaro.

Sweater snatcher
Someone stuffed a sweater into a purse and walked out of Target in South Setauket on Pond Path on April 7 at 2:05 p.m. without paying for it.

Taxi!
A cab was waiting outside of a Port Jefferson Main Street bar on April 12 when shortly after 3 a.m. a man walked up to the vehicle and kicked the side view mirror.

Punched
An argument on Main Street in Port Jefferson got physical on April 11 when one of the people punched the other in the face.

What a tool
Two unknown people entered a storage facility property on Jamaica Avenue in Port Jefferson on April 10, just before midnight, and removed a toolbox from a pickup truck.

Undeserved tip
A male entered a counter service restaurant on Main Street in Port Jefferson on April 9 and removed the tip jar. Two others accompanied the man, who then took the money and disposed of the jar.

Need a lift
Police reported an unknown person, or persons, shattered a 2014 Jeep’s liftgate on April 7 on Main Street in Port Jefferson.

Do not disturb
A resident of Henearly Drive in Miller Place reported receiving a dozen harassing phone calls from an unknown caller from April 7 to April 8.

Pocketed
A 2005 Honda Odyssey owner reported that a pocketbook containing credit cards and cash was stolen from the vehicle while it was parked on Miller Place Road in Miller Place on April 6.

Tracked
A resident of Halesite Drive in Sound Beach reported that an unknown person put a tracking device on his Jeep Cherokee. The incident was reported on April 9.

Through the basement window
Between 10:30 a.m. and 11: 30 p.m. on April 11, an unknown person broke a home’s basement window on Begonia Road in Rocky Point. Police said no items were taken from the home, and it doesn’t appear anyone entered the residence.

Call the coppers
A home on Hallock Landing Road in Rocky Point was ransacked at some point between April 8 and April 12. According to police, copper piping and various electronics were stolen from the residence.

Parking wars
Police responded to a confrontation at the Walmart parking lot in Centereach on April 11. Police said a woman reported that after opening her door and accidently hitting another person’s car, the individual became angry and started yelling. They then keyed the side of her vehicle.

Re-routed to jail
A 24-year-old Centereach woman was arrested in Centereach on April 7 for petit larceny after she stole routers, cables and merchandise from a Centereach store on March 24.

Slashed
A complainant on Elmwood Avenue in Selden reported his 2005 Ford’s tires were slashed on April 10.

Burglar caught
Police arrested a 22-year-old Centereach man on April 11 in connection with a March 29 burglary in which he and another person entered an East Setauket dwelling, threatened its inhabitant with a handgun and then struck the victim on the head. The man was charged with first-degree burglary with a dangerous instrument.

Put a ring on it
A 20-year-old Ronkonkoma man was arrested in Selden on April 10 for fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. Police said the man sold a stolen ring at a pawnshop.

Getting physical
A 24-year-old woman from Lake Ronkonkoma was arrested in Smithtown on April 12 and charged with third-degree assault, with intent to cause physical injury. Police said that on April 11 at 1:35 a.m. on Church Street in Lake Ronkonkoma she punched a female victim in the head, and the victim required medical attention. The woman was arrested at the precinct in Smithtown.

Joyride
Three individuals were arrested after midnight in Smithtown on April 11 after police conducted a traffic stop on Jericho Turnpike and found drugs on passengers seated in a 2003 Chrysler. A 21-year-old man from Ridge and a 22-year-old man from Centereach were both arrested and charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance — heroin. A 21-year-old from Bellport was also arrested and charged with fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Shoplifter busted
Police said a 23-year-old man from Commack was arrested in Smithtown on April 11 and charged with petit larceny. The man took assorted items from a Walmart on Veterans Highway in Smithtown at about 11 a.m. without paying for them. He was arrested at that location.

Pills, CD player, taken
Someone reported to police that a CD player and prescription drugs were stolen from a location on Bishops Road in Smithtown sometime between 8 p.m. on April 1 and 3 a.m. on April 11. There are no arrests.

Screen damaged
Someone cut the screen window of a residence on Lisa Court in Nesconset at 3 p.m. on April 3, though nothing was stolen from the location. There are no arrests.

Spending spree
A Clover Lane resident of Kings Park reported to police that his or her identity was stolen last week. An unknown person attempted to make purchases using a Citibank credit card. The attempted purchases didn’t go through, police said. The person tried to buy groceries from a supermarket in Astoria, items from an Armani Exchange in Staten Island and items from a Macy’s in Staten Island.

Angry customer
Police said they received a report of a disorderly customer at a West Jericho Turnpike location in Smithtown on April 8 at about 2:30 p.m. Police said the customer picked something up from off the counter and threw it against the wall, damaging the item to the tune of $50.

Time-less
A complainant told police that her watch went missing from her home on Hunter Place in Smithtown, sometime between 2 and 4 p.m. on April 3.

Windshield damaged
Someone reported to police that the windshield of a 2015 Kia Soul parked in the driveway of a Belinda Court home in Nesconset was cracked sometime between 7 p.m. on April 10 and 8 a.m. on April 11.

Items jacked
Someone cleaned out a 2014 Volkswagen Passat parked on Landing Road in Kings Park. A complainant reported that several items were stolen from within the car: tools, clothing, money, a driver’s license, paperwork and other items. The incident occurred at 9:48 p.m. on April 9, according to video surveillance.

Pizza with a side of punch
A 37-year-old man from Greenlawn was arrested in Huntington on April 12 and charged with disorderly conduct, fighting and violent behavior. Police said he punched a man in the nose in front of Little Vincent’s Pizzeria on New York Avenue in Huntington at about 2:15 a.m.

Hulk smash!
A 28-year-old man from Huntington was arrested in Huntington on April 10 and charged with criminal mischief, with intent to damage property. Police said that at 3:15 p.m. on March 30 he kicked the bumper and ripped off the passenger side mirror of a 2010 Honda Accord on Park Avenue. He also threatened a male victim with a hammer.

Female struck
Police said a 27-year-old man from Huntington was arrested in Huntington on April 12 and charged with third-degree assault, with intention to cause physical injury. The man struck a female victim in the face at about 2 a.m. in East Northport at 2nd Avenue and 4th Street. He was later arrested on Route 25 and Round Swamp Road in Huntington.

Cop kicked, spat on
A 16-year-old female from Huntington Station was arrested in Huntington on April 11 and charged with second-degree harassment. Police said she kicked a uniformed officer in his legs at 11:50 p.m. on Tuthill Street. She also later spit on the police officer at the precinct.

Shoplifter caught
An 18-year-old East Northport woman was arrested in Huntington on April 7 and charged with petit larceny. Police said she stole assorted items from Walgreens on Larkfield Road in Commack on April 4 at 9:40 a.m.

Wallet, phone taken
Someone removed a female’s wallet and phone from Finley’s of Green Street in Huntington at 1 a.m. on April 12. Police said the complainant reported that a wallet containing credit card, her iPhone, cash, driver’s license were stolen.

Woman struck
A female bartender at The Dublin Jack in East Northport on Larkfield Road reported a male suspect struck her across the face at 3:20 a.m. on April 11. There were no injuries.

Jewelry lifted
An unknown person stole assorted jewelry from a home on New York Avenue in Huntington sometime between April 6 at 9 p.m. and April 10 at 7 p.m. There are no arrests.

Scammed
A White Hill Road resident in Lloyd Harbor reported to police on April 7 that he or she was the subject of a scam. Someone called the home claiming they were from the IRS.

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The proposed budget for 2015-16 includes funds for a new elevator at the high school. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Now it’s up to the voters.

Port Jefferson school board members adopted a 2015-16 budget on Tuesday night that would raise the tax rate 1.62 percent, matching the state-imposed cap on how much it can increase.

The $42.4 million budget proposal has not changed much since it was first presented to the community earlier this year. It would increase staffing levels — bringing in additional teachers for English as a second language, a groundskeeper and teaching assistants — and put $1.25 million toward constructing a new elevator at the district high school.

The elevator project is so costly because in order to build a lift that is up to code, the district will have to construct a wider elevator shaft as well as new lobbies on each floor.

Another driver of the budget increase is funding to have an ambulance present at Port Jefferson lacrosse and football games, a safety measure proposed in response to the death of a Shoreham-Wading River High School student-athlete following a football game against John Glenn High School in the fall.

But it won’t be all increases — the school district is expecting to see a 4 percent decrease in state teachers’ retirement system contributions next year.

Although the tax levy would only go up 1.62 percent, the budget-to-budget increase would top 5 percent, due to staffing and capital costs. However, Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister explained during a budget presentation on Tuesday, the district would draw $1.3 million from its debt service fund to offset the increase. That fund contains leftover monies from completed bond projects.

If voters approve the budget in May, the tax rate would increase to $144.67 for every $100 of assessed value on a property.

Also on the ballot will be a proposition to create a new capital reserve fund aimed at replacing roofs at the three schools. Leister said the district would put surplus dollars leftover at the end of each school year into the new capital reserve fund to support roof replacements, which would be staggered so that those new roofs don’t eventually have to be replaced all at once.

According to Leister’s presentation, the district would need a community vote to use money from the fund, once it is established.

The district will hold a budget hearing on May 12 in the high school auditorium.

Library members in Port Jefferson and Comsewogue approved the two districts’ proposed budgets on Tuesday. Stock photo

Comsewogue and Port Jefferson library district members approved both institutions’ 2015-16 budgets on Tuesday. The Port Jefferson Free Library budget passed with 106 votes in favor and nine against. Comsewogue Public Library’s budget passed with 104 votes in favor and 19 against.

The Port Jefferson budget, which totals $4.33 million, will increase annual taxes by about $10.80 for the average village resident. The budget includes a $107,000 transfer to the library’s capital fund for facility improvements, as the library nears the finish line on forming a strategic plan for how the institution will serve members in the future. That plan includes improving the facilities and considers possible uses for an adjacent residential property on Thompson Street that the library recently purchased.

In Comsewogue, annual taxes will increase by about $11 for the average resident under the approved $5.58 million budget.

The Comsewogue district residents also elected a new trustee, Corinne DeStefano, with 116 votes. The candidate, who ran unopposed for a five-year term, is the wife of Comsewogue school board Trustee Robert DeStefano. A lifelong resident of the district, she works in quality assurance for software corporation CA Technologies.

Pol pitches bill to broaden alternative energy use

State Sen. Carl Marcellino is behind new legislation aimed at aiding schools to go green. File photo by Elana Glowatz

School districts looking to go green could see more green for it, if proposed state legislation to help school districts pay for alternative energy projects makes its way through Albany.

New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) has sponsored legislation that would strengthen the state’s support for alternative energy in school districts. Currently, there’s state building aid available for the installation of wind and solar systems, but Marcellino’s legislation allows all types of alternative energy systems to be eligible for building aid.

Also, currently, only alternative energy systems that meet an 18-year payback window are eligible for aid, but Marcellino’s proposed law removes that requirement, according to Debbie Peck Kelleher, director of the state Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.

“It would allow all systems to get the building aid,” Kelleher said.

Most districts see an average reimbursement between 70 to 75 percent of the project cost, she said.
In an interview last week, Marcellino said school districts turning to alternative energies provide a boon to taxpayers, because of energy savings in utility costs over time.

“It’s a win-win all the way around.”

Marcellino’s legislation has been referred to the Senate’s education committee, and has support from assemblymen Chad Lupinacci (R-Melville) and Andy Raia (R-East Northport).

Long Island school officials have pondered solar panel installations, and some districts have embarked on projects of their own.

Last year, Miller Place school district green-lighted a $4.3 million project to install solar panels on the roofs of its four school buildings. The project qualified for $3.7 million in state aid, according to Danny Haffel, the executive director of energy solutions on Long Island of Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin-based technology and energy-savings solutions company that the district worked with. Haffel added that the project would save the district more than $243,000 — close to half of its utility budget — in annual energy costs.

Under the contract with Johnson Controls, the district, which would lease the panels for $362,528 a year over 15 years, would be guaranteed those savings, so that in case the savings are not realized through the solar panels, Johnson Controls would foot the bill.

“The Miller Place school district’s decision to pursue alternative energy projects including solar power will not only benefit the environment, but is anticipated to produce financial savings for the district,” Superintendent Marianne Higuera said in a statement. “If the use of alternative energy sources like solar can produce bottom-line cost savings for other school districts or municipalities like it is projected to do for our school district, then this option may be beneficial.”

Beefing up state aid to school districts for these kinds of systems is a good thing, Haffel said in an interview this week.

“What would be really cool and to me would make sense — which would in the long run help every school district and every taxpayer — is to make all renewable work 100 percent aidable and that the school district would receive 100 percent state aid,” he said. “Now you have no electric bill, and you just helped out the taxpayer for the rest of their lives.”

School administrators in Huntington and Northport-East Northport have considered going solar.

Julia Binger, president of the Northport-East Northport school board, said her district had discussions in the past about going solar, but found it to be too cost prohibitive. With this new legislation, combined with what officials have said is a drop in price for solar panels, going solar is “a question that would be worth reconsidering,” Binger said.

In Huntington, school board member Tom DiGiacomo noted that the district’s aging roofs could make solar costly for the district. But it’s still worth considering, he said.

“I think that we need to look at renewable energy as a way to saving money for school districts,” he said. “Quite honestly, the state should be empowering the school districts and the taxpayers ultimately to find ways to save money by using [renewable] energy.”

Suffolk County Historian Peter Cohalan, flanked by New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and current and former Brookhaven Town officials, cuts a cake in honor of the town’s 360th anniversary. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Brookhaven town officials past and present along with New York’s lieutenant governor came out to celebrate the town’s 360th anniversary on Monday.

“When you think about 360 in geometrical terms, you’ve gone full circle,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said on Monday, a day before the town’s April 14, 1655 founding date. “And this town has come full circle since the day six people, one from Southold and five from New England got off a small boat and landed in Setauket and saw land they wanted to make home.”

The first town zoning map, which was created in 1936. Photo by Barbara Donlon
The first town zoning map, which was created in 1936. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The event highlighted the town’s history and featured the original Town of Brookhaven zoning map, a 1936 artifact that doesn’t see the light of day much due to its delicacy, according to Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell. Partygoers, including many local historical societies, also enjoyed a slide show of photos from historic landmarks and homes across the town.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) was also at the party and presented the town with a proclamation of appreciation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

“I spent the entire day out in Brookhaven [National Lab] then in Stony Brook and stopping in various towns and villages,” Hochul said. “What an amazing quality of life you have here.”

Hochul reflected on celebrating her own town’s 150th anniversary and made jokes about the vast age difference.

Brookhaven Town Board members were also on hand to celebrate the event. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) who represents the district where the town was founded spoke highly of the celebration.

“Tonight was an evening of celebration and reflection on a rich history in Brookhaven,” Cartright said in an email. “I was extremely honored to be present representing CD-1 and Setauket, where much of Brookhaven’s history originated.”

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Port Jefferson’s Corey Carnahan makes a catch at the plate before firing the ball to second base for a pickoff attempt in the Royals’ eighth inning, 6-5 loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Fresh off their three-game sweep of Greenport last week, the Port Jefferson baseball team, at 6-0 in League IX, looked to keep their winning ways when they hosted Southold (5-1) Monday afternoon.

The Royals struck first and led by four runs before Southold rallied late to tie the game at 5-5 and force an extra inning. Southold scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth, and the team’s defense held it down to win 6-5 and hand Port Jefferson its first loss of the season.

Port Jefferson’s Kristopher Cheslock fields a throw from catcher Corey Carnahan in the Royals’ 6-5 extra-inning loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson’s Kristopher Cheslock fields a throw from catcher Corey Carnahan in the Royals’ 6-5 extra-inning loss to Southold Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

“We stayed in the game,” Kluender said. “We had a couple of errors, but we got over those. They have a couple of guys who can hit the ball and they can field the plays.”

With the game only a few pitches old, play was stopped as the trainers examined Royals starting pitcher Benjamin Kluender. With a back strain, he remained in the game only to take a line drive to his foot in the next inning. Hobbling around the mound, Kluender shook it off and got back to the business at hand and retired the side.

Port Jefferson senior James Murphy crossed the plate first on a Southold error at the bottom of the inning, for the first run of the game.

“We both came in with the mentality that we’d fight to the end, and that’s what happened,” Murphy said. “We expected them to be tough. We played well and everyone did their part.”

Southold drove in a run in the top of the second to tie the game with the go-ahead runner on first. On the next pitch, Southold’s base runner took off to steal second, as senior catcher Corey Carnahan threw a bullet to the second baseman for the pickoff play, retiring the side.

“Southold is certainly a strong team in this league — they played a very clean baseball game today,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “They were pretty much what I expected in terms of their talent level.”

Port Jefferson sophomore Ryan Walsh punched a line drive to right field to load the bases in the bottom of the third, and sophomore Sean Griffin showed patience at the plate as he drew the walk. His RBI brought home Matthew Keresztes for the lead, and Kluender smacked a sacrifice fly to right field to give his team a 3-1 advantage, leaving runners on second and third.

With two outs, sophomore Kristopher Cheslock battled at the plate, looking to keep the inning alive. He ripped one deep to left center that almost went out, but both runners were able to run home standing up for a two-run double. With the scores, the Royals broke out to a 5-1 lead.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty well today and we had strong pitching and good cuts at the ball,” Cheslock said. “But I thought we could’ve cleaned up our infield today.”

Port Jefferson pitcher Benjamin Kluender, who threw all seven regular innings, hurls the ball from the mound in the Royals’ first loss of the season, an extra-inning 6-5 loss to Southold at home, Monday. Photo by Bill Landon
Port Jefferson pitcher Benjamin Kluender, who threw all seven regular innings, hurls the ball from the mound in the Royals’ first loss of the season, an extra-inning 6-5 loss to Southold at home, Monday. Photo by Bill Landon

Southold answered back in the top of the fourth inning by driving in three runs to draw within one, 5-4, and on an overthrow to home plate, a Southold runner scored from third to tie the game at 5-5.

Port Jefferson followed with a missed opportunity at the plate with a runner in scoring position, and with the batter caught looking, the go-ahead run on second was stranded.

Rosen said Southold is the team’s strongest opponent in the league, and he thought his team could keep pace even though it was the first time the Royals have seen the Settlers this season.

“Moving forward, I think we can certainly hang with them,” he said.

Neither team threatened in the seventh to force an extra inning.

Port Jefferson relief pitcher Neil Alvarez, a lefty, took over at the mound, and Southold opened the inning with a deep hit to centerfield for a double. A sacrifice fly advanced the runner to third, who scored on another passed ball at the plate for a 6-5 advantage.

Still trailing by a run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Royals had their backs against the wall. Kluender battled in the box, and was hit by a pitch. Stealing second base proved too risky, so Kluender didn’t venture far from the bag.

Port Jefferson’s final batter struck out and the Royals were handed their first loss of the season. Although Kluender was left stranded on base, his coach was impressed with his performance overall, and especially from the mound.

“He tweaked his back a little bit, he gets hit with a come-back and yet he’s willing to battle back and throw 88 pitches today,” Rosen aid. “Ben had an awesome performance today.”

Port Jefferson is now tied with Southold and Pierson/Bridgehampton for first place in the league at 6-1. The Royals will take to the diamond Wednesday on the road and finish up at home on Thursday with first pitches for both games slated for 4:30 p.m.

“Often you look at the immediacy of the game — winning or losing as to whether it’s a success or not,” Rosen said. “A loss in a close game isn’t the worst thing because you can learn from it.”

A sign at Congressman Lee Zeldin’s press conference in Comsewogue on Sunday, April 12, speaks against standardized testing. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Congressman Lee Zeldin announced to Comsewogue teachers, parents and students on Sunday that he is working on a way to reduce state testing, amid a renewed local push against the standardized exams.

The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, which Zeldin (R-Shirley) is co-sponsoring, has “strong bipartisan support,” he told the crowd at Comsewogue High School. “This legislation would roll back state-mandated testing to pre-No Child Left Behind levels.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin talks about a bill that would reduce standardized testing during an event in Comsewogue on Sunday, April 12, as Superintendent Joe Rella looks on. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Congressman Lee Zeldin talks about a bill that would reduce standardized testing during an event in Comsewogue on Sunday, April 12, as Superintendent Joe Rella looks on. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 required states to create assessments for basic skills in select grade levels. Before the controversial No Child Left Behind, New York State students were tested in both English language arts and math in three different grades, for six total tests. Now students take those exams each year in grades three through eight.

The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act aims to reduce the number of tests to previous levels — so they would be administered once in grades three to five, once in grades six through nine and once in grades 10 through 12 — based on the belief that it would allow for more curriculum flexibility, giving students more time to learn and helping to nurture their creativity.

Gina Rennard, a Comsewogue parent and wife of school board trustee Rick Rennard, has had her children “opt out” of the standardized tests, something many parents have done in opposition to the Common Core Learning Standards and linked state tests.

“These tests are developmentally inappropriate,” Gina Rennard said. “The grades for these tests come out after the students have already gone onto the next education level, therefore the tests have no bearing on their education plan. So why are we torturing them?”

Superintendent Joe Rella hosted the press conference, and said the only goal of testing is “to put public schools out of business and have [charter schools] for profit, because there is nothing about improvement here.”

Rella said he will not stop fighting for change.

The gathering came just a couple of weeks after Rella and Comsewogue school board members considered a proposal to refuse to administer state exams unless the state delivered more education aid and reduced the weight of student test scores on teacher and administrator evaluations. But after the idea created buzz in the community, the officials nixed the proposal on the advice of legal counsel.

Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella speaks against standardized testing during an event with Congressman Lee Zeldin on Sunday, April 12. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Comsewogue Superintendent Joe Rella speaks against standardized testing during an event with Congressman Lee Zeldin on Sunday, April 12. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

State Education Law gives the education commissioner power to remove school officials from office if they willfully disobey rules or regulations, and withhold state aid from schools where such action takes place.

Patchogue-Medford Superintendent Michael Hynes said at the event that the pressure on both students and teachers is far too intense.

“If you look at countries whose education systems are performing well, they are doing the opposite of what we’re doing right now,” Hynes said. The crowd roared in agreement.

Jennifer Jenkins moved her family to Comsewogue because of the schools, but said she is no longer confident in the education her kids are getting.

“To have so much of the curriculum based on the testing forces the teachers to focus on standardized testing as a part of the year’s goal,” she said. “Then the teachers have less of an opportunity to build their own curriculum around what’s best for their individual students.”

Zeldin said he is optimistic about the bill’s future in Congress.

“This is where you hold your elected officials accountable, and we will make sure we are doing everything within our power up in Albany and down in Washington to do it on behalf of these kids.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine file photo

A state assemblywoman from Ithaca is pushing to provide state aid to municipalities that host four-year, residential State University of New York colleges and universities, and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is signing onto the cause because of the potential financial relief it could bring to Long Island.

The legislation, introduced by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) on March 24, seeks to offset the cost of providing public safety services to state schools, which are currently tax-exempt. The move came shortly after Romaine vowed to work with the New York State Board of Regents to seek a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, for the Stony Brook and Setauket fire departments, which both serve SUNY Stony Brook University.

Lifton, who represents the cities and towns of Ithaca and Cortland — which host SUNY Cortland and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University — called the lack of aid a big issue for her municipalities.

“There is a deficit there that we need to makeup,” she said, noting that the state’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, or AIM funding, has decreased over the years.

The legislation earmarks $12 million in aid for the host municipalities, and establishes a formula to distribute the aid based on the cost of public safety services, how much AIM funding the community already receives and the student population.

Lifton said there are a lot of rental properties in Cortland, so the police and fire departments “provide more than the normal amount of services.” In the City of Cortland, firefighters are paid, but Cortland Town firefighters volunteer their time.

While the legislation currently doesn’t propose aid be rewarded to a fire districts like those in Stony Brook and East Setauket, Romaine still said he was supportive of the idea.

“We think this is a solution,” Romaine said.

Like in Cortland, Brookhaven officials have been dealing with off-campus rental properties, which university students often inhabit. Over the last two years, the town has tried to curtail illegal and overcrowded rentals in the Stony Brook and Setauket area by strengthening its codes, increasing fines and working with the university to educate students about illegal rentals. The town also hired additional investigators to stay on top of the issue.

While Romaine said the legislation would help Brookhaven, he continued to advocate for “some contribution to the fire districts involved so their taxpayers don’t have to bear that burden.”

Romaine also said he hopes Long Island’s state representatives would support the legislation, and that at some point along the line, a PILOT agreement is established.

State Assemblyman Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) did not return requests for comment.

Stony Brook Fire Department Commissioner Paul Degen, who works as a town investigator, said 50 percent of Stony Brook Fire District’s tax base is exempt, which has made things financially difficult at times as the department has spent money retrofitting trucks and adequately training volunteers.

“It is what it is, but it would be nice if 50 percent of our district paid their fair share,” he said.

According to records from Stony Brook University, alarms requiring a fire department unit on the scene have dropped since 2012 when single detector activations, which are investigated by university fire marshals and don’t require fire department presence, were implemented in May 2012.

In 2012, the Stony Brook and/or Setauket departments were on scene for a total of 137 alarms. In 2013, the number drastically dropped to 25.

While there has been progress, Degen said he would like to see more incentives to attract department volunteers, which aren’t easy to come by these days. The department currently has 72 members, and more than half of them are over 50 years old.

One idea, he said, would be to offer some sort of tuition break or benefit to volunteers, which could help attract students to the department.

“All of that needs to be visited,” he said.

Romaine, Lifton and Degen expressed similar sentiments about the universities, saying they play important roles in the host communities, which welcome them, but still shouldn’t burden the taxpayers.

“All I’m asking for is some kind of remuneration,” Romaine said. “The full burden should not fall on the taxpayer. That is just not fair.”

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