Town of Smithtown

The Irish Viking Pub in St. James has stood vacant for nearly a decade. Photo by Kyle Barr

The doors have been closed and the windows shuttered on the Irish Viking pub on Lake Avenue in St. James for nearly a decade. Town of Smithtown officials are considering turning the eyesore into a parking lot.

Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously at its May 8 meeting to hire John S. Goess Realty Appraisal Inc. to
appraise the value of 369 Lake Ave. property to see the viability of turning it into a municipal parking lot.

“That building’s been vacant for years,” Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said. “I have to be honest, even when the place was open the place was an eyesore. It’s really time for this thing to become something better.”

Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said that if the property owners agree to sell at the appraised value the town will look to turn the site into a parking lot that would include a center pavilion that could be used by local chamber or civics groups for many different kinds of events.

Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want addressed, along with speeding and safety.”

– Ed Wehrheim

“This will help generate tourism, revenue and aid in the goal to encourage residents to shop local,” Garguilo said in an email.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that the town will wait for a return on the appraisal before moving forward with contacting the property owners. He also said the parking lot could become an aspect of the St. James revitalization project, which is set to begin work early next year after the town installs a sewer system along Lake Avenue.

“Additional parking is a key part of the revitalization efforts and is one of the main issues our residents want
addressed, along with speeding and safety,” Wehrheim said in a statement. “By providing both the parking space and a venue that can be used for small business, markets and showcasing the arts, we can be proactive in our efforts to ensure that Lake Avenue will be an epicenter for arts and entertainment, while maintaining its quaint, historic charm.”

Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said that he expects the appraisal to be completed in three to four weeks.

Nowick said the town hopes to get a grant from the county in order to build the parking lot, if the town wants to acquire the property.

There are two municipal parking lots in the area. One is down the road from the Irish Viking property used by the St. James Long Island Rail Road train station. There is a second municipal parking lot behind Spage’s Pharmacy, hiding behind the front facing businesses along Lake Avenue. Nowick said there is a definite need for more parking along that road.

I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”

— Kerry Maher-Weisse

“Cars often line up on both sides of the road where two cars in opposite lanes cannot pass through after that,” Nowick said. “You really cannot go through, and if you have a truck trying to get through, because there are trucks that need to deliver to King Kullen, it’s nearly impossible.”

Kerry Maher-Weisse, the president of the Community Association of Greater St. James said that while she likes the idea of a municipal parking lot, she also believes that Lake Avenue needs more restaurants to make the area more attractive to both businesses and customers.

“Here we are having people who are very interested to open up business in town, and [the Irish Viking property] would be a great place for a burger joint in the middle of town,” Maher-Weisse said. “I do like the idea of parking, and we want people to walk to places and it is in the center of town. We still want to have more businesses to come in.”

The town is required to buy the property at the appraised value. If the property owners decide they don’t want to sell, Nowick said there is not much the town could do and the only way the town would apply for eminent domain is if the aging building is posing a danger to the community. It would then take several hearings involving the owner.

“He’s still paying his taxes and it’s his property,” she said.

A new playground is being installed at Gaynor Park in St. James. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown officials will pay out more than $13,000 in past-due overtime pay and offer training to settle labor disputes involving more than 25 town employees.

The Smithtown Town Board approved settlements at the May 8 town board meeting for two labor grievances with unionized town park employees related to overtime pay and hiring a third-party contractor installing its new playgrounds.

Currently, Gibbs Pond Park in Nesconset, along with Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James are receiving long-awaited renovations including the installation of new playground equipment. When the town bought the equipment in September 2017, it also hired the installation services of Minnesota-based Landscape Structures Inc. The members of Civil Service Employees Association local union Chapter 852 brought the labor grievance to the town board claiming that said town employees were not notified of the hiring of the third-party company and having an outside company install the playground equipment was a violation of the workers’ collective bargaining rights.

Despite repeated attempts, a representative from the union chapter could not be contacted by press time.

 [I]f somebody is ever hurt on that playground equipment the town is covered in terms of liability because certified people installed them, our guys were not certified.
– Ed Wehrheim

Some of the playground work included groundwork and removal of old playground equipment. The town paid Landscape Structures $144,000 for the installation of the Gibbs Pond equipment, $87,050 for Gaynor Park and $94,000 for Veterans Memorial Park for a total of more than $325,000.

Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said that the notification of hiring the third-party installer was run through the town’s Department of Parks, Buildings & Grounds.

“For the type of playground that was purchased, it requires a certified installer from the company,” he said.

Town officials said that the playground equipment required workers who had Certified Playground Safety Inspector licenses, which are the National Recreation and Park Association produced certifications giving lessons on playground safety issues such as hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods, according to NRPA’s website.

“We put that out to bid to furnish and install that equipment,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “The reason we did that is federal standards have changed in what we are required to do for liability purposes in playgrounds. In this case, when [the third party] installs, the equipment is warranteed. So, if somebody is ever hurt on that playground equipment the town is covered in terms of liability because certified people installed them, our guys were not certified.”

Under the settlement, Smithtown officials agreed with the union that, starting in 2019, the town will provide an opportunity for any town employee who wishes to get licensed to take the necessary classes and become certified. Wehrheim said the town will cover for any associated expenses.

Officials also agreed that in the future the town discuss whether any new playground equipment or playground maintenance will be done by town employees or a third-party directly with the chapter president or other chapter officers.

The town also reached an agreement with parks employees on overtime equalization.

In 2017, unionized workers brought to the attention of the town board, problems with the equalization of overtime pay of parks department employees in 2016. Under current agreement, member employees are allowed an overtime equalization equal to 80 percent of the employee who received the highest overtime pay. Jakubowski said that a mistake in the parks department meant several employees were not given those funds.

The town will pay out the sum total of $13,775 divided among 25 employees who did not receive their proper overtime wages.

From left, Zoey, Emily Ciano, Lucas, Debbi Haupert and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim watch the rose bush being planted May 10. Photo by Kyle Barr

Five-year-old Lucas Cianci watched Town of Smithtown officials plant a rose bush in front of town hall May 10. He could watch, but he wasn’t allowed to go touch it or play in the dirt. Lucas knew the reason why –he has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

Lucas Ciano, 5, enjoys his new Kindle Fire. Photo from Debbi Haupert

“Cystic fibrosis is extremely germ driven, even by bacteria contracted in water and soil, which really is everywhere,” Lucas’ grandmother, Debbi Haupert of Smithtown, said. “[Lucas] knows he’s different. He knows he’s restricted from doing things that other children do.”

Cystic fibrosis is caused by a genetic mutation that causes a thick buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. The mucus traps bacteria inside the organs which leads to infections and extensive lung damage.

Smithtown town officials pledged May 10 to plant 65 rose bushes in the upcoming weeks in honor of National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month this May with the help of several local civic  and community groups.

The story behind the 65 Roses Project dates back to 1965 when 4-year-old Ricky Weiss, who when he first diagnosed with the disease could not say cystic fibrosis, but called it by the closest approximately he could “65 Roses.”

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) also gave Lucas a bag of superhero toys with a Kindle Fire so he can read books without having to pick up books that might have bacteria on them. When Lucas opened the Kindle, there was a personal message on it calling him a superhero.

“You know who else have genetic mutations? Superheroes,” Wehrheim said to Lucas. “You’re our superhero.”

Every day Lucas, a Merrick resident, has to go for airway clearance treatments that can last 20 to 30 minutes at a time. As people with cystic fibrosis get older, the treatment can take as long as four hours.

“You know who else have genetic mutations? Superheroes. You’re our superhero.”
Ed Wehrheim

“It’s a progressive disease, so as the years go by the need for additional treatments increases,” Lucas’ mother Emily said. “Right now, it’s not overwhelming for us, but it’s hard. It’s hard telling [Lucas] to sit still during treatment – he’s just a kid.”

Approximately one out of every 31 people in the United States are carriers for cystic fibrosis, according to the nonprofit Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. If both parents are carriers, there is a 25 percent chance the child will be born with the disease.

Lucas’ mother, Emily Ciano, a graduate of Smithtown High School, said that before she became pregnant she could not imaginethat she or her husband, James, were both carriers for cystic fibrosis.

“I was blindsided with it while I was already pregnant with Lucas,” she said. “It’s overwhelming to find out this information when you could have found out before hand with a simple blood test.”

Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo plants a rose busy in front of town hall May 10. Photo by Kyle Barr

She expressed how important it is for prospective parents to get tested for being cystic fibrosis carriers before they make any decision. The American Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that doctors offer pre-pregnancy screenings to all women.

Ciano said she has marveled at the strides that researchers have made in treating cystic fibrosis, and is optimistic that by the time her son needs more extensive treatment that there will be more options offer to help him.

Many area community organizations have pledged to help spread awareness of cystic fibrosis by joining the town in its 65 roses project. Local leaders including Rob Cartelli, of the Smithtown Chamber of Commerce; Tony Tanzi, president of the Kings Park chamber; Vincent Puleo, of the Nesconset chamber; and Kerry Maher-Weisse, Bill Capurso and Mario Mattera of the Community Association of Greater St. James have all made commitments to planting rose bushes at various plazas and parks in their respective hamlets. Bob Souto and Marie Gruick volunteered the assistance of the Nesconset Civic Association to help with the planting.

Smithtown residents who wish to be part of the 65 Roses project are encouraged to post photos of roses they plant in their yard on Twitter with the hashtag #65RosesSmithtown.

Smithtown school district's administrative Joseph M. Barton building on New York Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Smithtown might finally be coming together, literally. Town officials are getting appraisals of town-owned property as a first step toward consolidating town departments under one roof.

“We need to consolidate, no doubt about it,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Though how we do it depends on how much it’s going to cost the taxpayer. We’re going to look for the most economical way to do it.”

At a May 8 meeting, Smithtown’s Town board unanimously approved retaining the services of Mineola-based Michael Haberman Associates Inc. to perform appraisals of four town-owned and operated buildings. The cost of the appraisals is not to exceed $10,000, and Wehrheim said it will be a few months before the town has results.

I don’t see [ the New York Avenue building] as a plausibility at this moment in time.”

– Tom Lohmann

The properties to be evaluated to determine their real estate value are: 40 Maple Ave. in Smithtown, where the town comptroller and assessor offices are; 124 Main St. in Smithtown, currently home to the engineering department and department of environment and waterways; 23 Redwood Lane, which houses the building department and its neighbor, 25 Redwood Lane, which contains both the planning and community development department.

Wehrheim said that the properties chosen for appraisal are already costing the town money for annual maintenance.

“Those structures are pretty old buildings,” he said. “They require a lot of maintenance in terms of heating, air conditioning, … etcetera. We’re gonna save that much money right off the bat for the taxpayer.”

Councilman Tom Lohmann (R) said that one of the big perks that will come with consolidation will be residents will no longer have to travel a good distance to meet with several different town departments.

We need to consolidate, no doubt about it.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“The other part is one stop shopping,” Lohmann said. “You got to go down to the town clerk, you got to go to the town attorney, the tax receiver’s office, you have the tax assessment, it wouldn’t be a big difficulty. If you have all those entities here you’re not running around all over the place.”

Some town-owned properties are not included in the appraisal because they are simply too large to be included or moving their base of operations would be too costly.

“The highway department’s got big operations, the parks department’s got a big set of operations, waste services is large, those we can’t consolidate,” Lohmann said. “Public safety you won’t because there is too much money invested just with the telecommunications systems.”

There are currently two options for consolidating, according to Wehrheim. The supervisor said the town is looking again at potentially purchasing the Smithtown school district’s administrative offices, the Joseph M. Barton Building on New York Avenue, for moving town hall. The second option is for the town to build an extension onto Town Hall itself.

The highway department’s got big operations, the parks department’s got a big set of operations, waste services is large, those we can’t consolidate.”

— Tom Lohmann

Smithtown United Civic Association, led by President Tim Smalls, presented a proposed plan for downtown revitalization that pushed for Smithtown town government offices being consolidated into the New York Avenue building.

Lohmann said that he believes the school-owned building is not feasible because of its need for extensive renovations.

You’re talking about over $2 million to do cleanup and an abatement there, then a redesign,” he said. “I don’t see that as a plausibility at this moment in time.”

David Flynn, the town’s planning director, said consolidation is not as big a deal for his department in the age of computers and easy telecommunication.

“Of course, it will make some difference, but in the current world where people use phones and computers for communication it means less than it would of 20 years ago,” he said. “Would it be more convenient to meet with somebody, sure.”

Whether or not Flynn and his department moves is all going to come down to comparing the costs of keeping the buildings or consolidating them.

“It all depends on running out the costs for both scenarios, how much the cost is for heat, light, water and other kinds of maintenance,” he said. “I think you estimate it either way and see what the costs are.”

One contested board of education seat has Mandi Kowalik pitted against Christopher Alcure

Smithtown school district's administrative New York Avenue building. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Kyle Barr

The school year is almost finished, and while students are sitting at the edge of their seats ready for summer, their parents and other Smithtown residents are being asked to vote May 15 on the school budgets and board elections.

The Smithtown Central School District is including new security measures in its proposed 2018-19 budget, which sets aside funding for new security guards for all seven elementary schools.

The school district adopted its budget of $244,913,464, which represents a 2.32 percent increase, or additional $5,546,259 more than this year’s budget.

“The board and administration believe we have met our promise to the community to preserve student programs while optimizing budget efficiencies to remain fiscally responsible,” Superintendent James Grossane said in a statement.

The board and administration believe we have met our promise to the community to preserve student programs while optimizing budget efficiencies to remain fiscally responsible.”
– James Grossane

The school district’s security was one of the larger areas receiving a funding increase under the proposed budget. The suggested security upgrades include vestibules in all school entrances that will be constructed over the summer as well as full-time, unarmed security guards for all elementary schools.

“Full-time security guards began on May 1 in all district elementary schools and will continue as part of the budget moving forward,” Grossane said.

The budget will also maintain all current programs while transitioning to universal elementary school start and end times from 9:20 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. It will allow the district to offer new elective courses at the high school including adding Advanced Placement Capstone Research in addition to the existing AP Capstone program.

If approved, the 2018-19 budget represents a 2.95 percent tax levy increase, which is within the district’s state tax levy cap. Because the district stayed within the tax levy cap, it only needs a simple 50 percent majority vote to pass the budget.

In addition to security, the district is looking to add one additional school psychologist, social worker and guidance counselor to its staffing.

The ballot will include a proposition for the use of capital reserve funds to complete a number of repairs and renovations in the district. This includes repairs to the tennis courts at Smithtown High School East and West, window replacement in the Accompsett Middle School and roof and skylight repairs at the Smithtown Elementary School.

Smithtown board of education

Two seats on the Smithtown school board have come up for re-election but only one race is contested. Newcomer Mandi Kowalik is competing against incumbent trustee Christopher Alcure for a trustee seat. Incumbent and current board President Jeremy Thode is running again for his seat unopposed.

Christopher Alcure. Photo from Alcure

Alcure is finishing his second term on the board and he is looking for a third.

“I am running for re-election in 2018 as there is still more to be accomplished,” Alcure said.

Alcure is a 15-year Smithtown resident where he currently operates a small business. In addition, he works as project manager at CA Technologies based in Islandia.

Alcure said he has two daughters currently enrolled in Smithtown schools. His experience raising his kids as well as his six years on the board, including three years as board president, has given him plenty of experience to deal with today’s challenges.

“I am battle tested and I have thick skin,” he said. “These are very important qualities for public service. I survived the economic downturn where the board had to make difficult decisions in terms of balancing the budget and making sensible cuts to programs that would not overly impact students.”

Alcure said he wants to focus on investing in additional security options for Smithtown schools, maintaining low class sizes and improving district facilities.

“I’m looking for ways to continue to improve educational opportunities for students, at all levels, on the path toward college and career readiness,” Alcure said.

Mandi Kowalik. Photo from Kowalik

Kowalik is a 14-year resident of Smithtown and a published author of the children’s book titled “Stella, Or Star: Coping with a Loss During Pregnancy.” She has worked as a school teacher for nursery school through sixth grade for 13 years before leaving to raise her three children. She has worked on a number of school committees including as area representative and member of the board for the Teacher Center of the West Hamptons.

Kowalik has one son starting kindergarten this September with two younger daughters she plans to enroll in the district.

“Our school board needs a mom with school-aged children,” Kowalik said in a statement. “My family will be attending Smithtown schools for 16 more years. I am very heavily invested in the welfare of the district.”

Kowalik said she wants to focus on security as well as the mental and physical well-being of students.

“The security of our students and staff are the most important issue that we are currently facing,” she said. “I am prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our school safe.”

The board candidate said she believes
students need time to socialize without adults actively interacting and closely monitoring them. While she said the district has explored this at some levels, she would like to continue to explore further avenues for it.

Go vote

The budget vote will take place May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Depending on your election district, residents can vote at the Smithtown Elementary School gymnasium, the St. James Elementary School gymnasium, the Nesconset Elementary School gymnasium or the Accompsett Elementary School gymnasium.

Attorney Philip Butler, an associate of Weber Law Group, explains a puzzle that might be inside one of Puzzle Break's escape rooms. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

A new interactive game center has the green light to excite and perplex Smithtown Main Street shoppers this coming summer after eight months of extensive negotiations with town officials.

Puzzle Break Long Island will offer escape-the-room style games for individuals eight years of age and older in its new Smithtown location. Participants, working in teams of up to 12 people, are stuck inside a room and must work together to solve a number of unusual puzzles in order to make it out of the room within a one-hour time limit.

We got into the escape room business because we wanted to bring people together in a fun, interactive environment.”
– Ian Kelly

“We got into the escape room business because we wanted to bring people together in a fun, interactive environment,” said Ian Kelly, general manager of Puzzle Break LI, said in an email statement. “We’re excited to bring a fun, family friendly establishment to Smithtown that’s good for everything from birthday
parties to corporate team building events.”

Smithtown Town Board members voted unanimously April 26 to give the project a special exception permit to create the 4,432-square-foot game center located in the shell of what once was Cornet Music on Main Street. The building was zoned for retail use only, and the company was required to demonstrate meeting 17 zoning requirement to allow the game center to open as well as a parking variance.

“This was one of the more enjoyable applications because the applicant and the town were on the same page,” said Bram Weber, an attorney with Melville-based Weber Law Group representing Puzzle Break LI. “I know Smithtown is looking for new ways to have vibrant downtowns, and this is a perfect use

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he is excited to see if this new type of business in the area will help increase traffic to Smithtown’s downtown businesses.

“I think it’s going to be good for the business community.”
– Ed Wehrheim

“I think it’s going to be good for the business community,” Wehrheim said. “I think we have to move toward things like that, that make a destination point for the business district. Generally, once you have them there like this, they’ll use one of the restaurants, ice cream parlor or something like that.”

The company hopes to build four different puzzle rooms, each with its own theme and challenges. In its current Syosset location, the escape rooms themes are modeled after “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” a carnival, exploring inside an ancient Egyptian tomb and one is based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

Representatives for Puzzle Break LI said renovations are getting underway, with hopes of opening for business this summer. Their puzzles are harder than your average crossword, according to Kelly, with only a 15 percent managing to successfully escape.

“Our escape rooms are definitely challenging,” he said. “Our escape rooms bring people together without the use of Siri or Google. Yes, that means people actually interact with one another.”

Surplus funds to be used to redesign Bellemeade Ave parking lot

A new playground is being installed at Gaynor Park in St. James. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A trio of Smithtown parks are finally getting their day in the sun as upgrades are underway for the first time in two decades.

Joseph Arico, Smithtown’s park maintenance director, said town employees are working to finish updates already underway to Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconset, and Gaynor and Veterans Memorial parks in St. James before schools let out for the summer. The capital projects are expected to come in at or below the approximately $1 million budgeted, according to Arico, and the leftover funds will go toward town’s redesign of the Bellemeade Avenue municipal parking lot.

“It has been a long time in coming,” he said. “I’m going to say that Gibbs Pond park, the last time work was done there was probably at least 15 to 20 years ago at the minimum.”

It has been a long time in coming.”
— Joseph Arico

Joseph Andreoli Park, commonly referred to as Gibbs Pond park, will be receiving a completely new playground set including one specifically made for younger children. The old rubber matting which covered the play space is being stripped and replaced with Classic Turf, which Arico said looks more like a synthetic grass “shag rug” than traditional artificial turf.

“When [the matting] gets old and you have to repair it, it never looks the same,” the parks director said. “There were patch marks all over the place, you could see the old and the new.

He said his hope is the new Classic Turf will be easier for town employees to fix and maintain in the future. Work at Gibbs Pond is about 80 percent complete, according to Arico, and is anticipated to be finished by mid-May.

In St. James, the construction vehicles sitting in Gaynor Park’s parking lot serve as a clear sign to residents of the nearly $500,000 in upgrades that are underway. The town’s two existing tennis courts are being resurfaced while the adjacent basketball court is getting enlarged from half court to full regulation size. A new playground was in the process of being installed April 20, which must be finished before the grass turf and brickwork can be done. Arico said he hopes construction will wrap up by the end of May.

“We should be close, but it’s hard to say based on how the weather goes from here forward,” he said.

If we are going to make these capital investments, we have to make sure we do it the right way to get the most longevity out of our investments.”
– Tom Lohmann

The town has set aside nearly $310,000 to improve Veterans Memorial Park off Moriches Road in St. James. While the park received updates to its fields recently, it will also be getting a new playground set and artificial grass surface, according to Arico. Construction will be starting shortly, with the aim of finishing by June.

“The water park playground will also be resurfaced so kids don’t get scraped-up knees,” he said. “It’s a big deal.”

Once all three projects are completed, Arico said there should be several thousand dollars left over to go toward the town’s other capital projects including the redesign of Bellemeade Avenue municipal parking lot off Smithtown’s Main Street. Originally slated only for resurfacing, Councilman Tom Lohmann (R) said a quick review of the lot showed drainage improvements and street lighting were needed.

“If we are going to make these capital investments, we have to make sure we do it the right way to get the most longevity out of our investments,” Lohmann said.

Arico and the councilman have pulled several town departments together to engineer plans to redesign the town-owned land to improve conditions and reconfigure the layout of spaces, hopefully, gaining a few.

“I think once it’s said and done, we will have a lot of people taking advantage of the lot,” Lohmann said.

Lake Avenue business district's water main work slated to begin in May will be postponed

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

By Kyle Barr

The assessment for sewers in St. James Lake Avenue business district may be arriving on the town doorstep soon.

It’s only been days since Smithtown Town Board voted April 10 unanimously to pay $24,000 to H2M Architects + Engineers to provide a study of whether installing a dry sewer line is economically viable. Yet, George Desmarais, the wastewater department manager at H2M, said the assessment would be finished in about a month.

“What we’re looking at right now putting a [sewer] district within the commercial area, which would be just south of Woodlawn Avenue between Patricks Way, north of Route 25A,” Desmarais said.

“What we’re looking at right now putting a [sewer] district within the commercial area, which would be just south of Woodlawn Avenue between Patricks Way, north of Route 25A.”
— George Desmarais

He went on to explain the study will look at how much sewage wastewater is produced by the commercial business district to determine what is needed, and the cost of installing dry sewer mains at the same time as the water mains.

At a public meeting hosted by the Community Association of Greater St. James, Desmarais and town board members discussed the sewers and other upcoming projects for St. James.

Although the town board has $2.4 million set aside for water main installation from its 2018 capital budget, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) stated that the town is still looking for additional funding for the dry sewer lines.

“What we do not have, what’s not budgeted for is funding for a dry force main for future sewers,” Wehrheim said. “I have been in discussions with higher levels of government to go after some funding methods on how we might possibly come up with enough funding to do that.”

Wehrheim said he had a sit-down meeting with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) to discuss possible sources.

Wehrheim asked St. James residents to agree with putting off the  water main project, originally slated to begin in May,  for one year so they could install everything, including the dry sewer lines, all at once. He said it would be more economical for the town and better for businesses.

“All this is being done while the roads are still open, while the concrete is up, because we’re not going to do it any other way,” he said.

The planned dry sewer lines will be gravity fed lines using the areas natural slope, according to Desmarais. The pump station for the sewers is planned to be a 30×30-square-foot area, but the exact location of the station has not yet been determined.

All this is being done while the roads are still open, while the concrete is up, because we’re not going to do it any other way.
— Ed Wehrheim

Wehrheim previously stated he was looking to negotiate with Gyrodone LLC to use the treatment station it proposes to build on the Flowerfields land, the property off Route 25A in St. James that is often used to host community festivals.

“If we do the concrete and asphalt, we’re just going to spend the money haphazardly and then 10, 15 years again, they are going to come back and say ‘we need more money’” Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy said. “We have to do this smart.”

Deborah Powers, owner of Hither Brook Floral and Gift Boutique in St. James, was concerned that the construction would disrupt her business when work would be done on the roads and sidewalks.

“I’ve been through roadwork before, I know what it’s going to do, and it’s not going to be pretty,” Powers said.

Wehrheim mentioned that the town was looking at means of doing the construction without interrupting daily business.

“We’re looking at the percentage cost for doing the paving at night. I think that’s something that very much will be feasible,” he said. “The other thing that we’re looking at instead of having this be spread out among contractors, is to see if we can come up with enough funding by putting this out as one request for proposal and have a larger contractor come in who can subcontract the work so that would speed up a project like this.”

By Sara-Megan Walsh

More than 95 Smithtown-area teens rolled up their sleeves to help ready Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve for visitors.

The Town of Smithtown hosted a volunteer cleanup for high school and middle school students at the Commack park April 21 in honor of Global Youth Service Day, also a day ahead of Earth Day. The teens were put to work helping clean up the pollinator and butterfly garden, clearing fallen branches and debris from the apple orchard and sprucing up the animal pens.

Jeff Gurmin, director of Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve, and his staff provided educational lessons on the rescued animals while the students were performing the cleanup. One of these lessons involved learning the importance of Mason bees in the ecosystem and installing new nesting jars for the bees inside the pollinator gardens.

Fire & Ice Hookah Lounge in Smithtown is a short distance away from Paul T. Given County Park. Photo from Google Maps

As the popularity of vaping products grows, Smithtown officials are considering ways to keep the products out of children’s hands.

Smithtown Town Board has plans to consider changing town zoning laws to restrict any store whose primary purpose is the sale of any e-liquid, vape product or indoor smoking from opening up within 1,500 feet of schools, churches or public parks in an effort to dissuade teens from using these types of products.

“For this age group, it’s very unhealthy and easily accessible,” said Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R), who helped sponsor the ordinance. “They kind of market it like candy, and they name the different flavors after candy names. So It’s very appealing to kids.”

If approved, the restriction would not be retroactive, so it won’t  affect any current  businesses near schools, parks or churches. Inzerillo said she hopes that the zoning change will effectively dissuade these shops from opening near commercial districts.

“Lucky for Smithtown, most of our parks, churches and schools all are close to our main streets,” the councilwoman said.

The town is still waiting on an environmental impact study to be completed by the state on the effect of the proposed ordinance. After that, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that the town attorney may need to look at any adjustments, but he believes the ordinance will go through.

“I think it’s going to pass, yes,” Wehrheim said. “I believe having [vape and hookah shops] in a close proximity to church or a school is problematic.”

We’ve seen an increase in youth under the age of 21 who use these products, which is very concerning, because that is sometimes seen as a gateway into more serious substance use.”

— Matthew Neebe

Matthew Neebe, director at nonprofit Horizons Counseling and Education Center, said that while there have been limited long-term studies on whether or not vape products have negative health effects, he believes these products can harm children’s development.

“We’ve seen an increase in youth under the age of 21 who use these products, which is very concerning, because that is sometimes seen as a gateway into more serious substance use,” Neebe said. “I think this step a good place to start. Kids tend to participate in things that are convenient for them.”

Amar Patel, owner of Fire & Ice Hookah Lounge near Paul T. Given County Park in Smithtown, has had his own troubles with the town. His business is temporarily closed while they renovate the building to bring it into compliance with Smithtown fire codes, but he plans to reopen soon. Patel said that vape and hookah get an unfair reputation from the rest of the community.

“I don’t think [the Town of Smithtown] supports any tobacco product, smoking or anything” Patel said. “I mean my personal opinion, I would say when it comes to hookah lounges it’s more of a hang out, where you go after dinner. Almost like you are going to a cigar lounge, then go about your day.”

Patel said he believes that cigarette use should be a bigger concern than hookah lounges or vaping, stressing that he does not believe hookah use is addictive unlike
smoking cigarettes
.

The zoning ordinance is expected to be voted on at the April 26 town board meeting.

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