Village Beacon Record

Rally against New York State education changes

A protestor stands on North Country Road in Mount Sinai on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Educators, parents and students gathered outside state Sen. Ken LaValle’s Mount Sinai office Tuesday with one clear message: They won’t forget he voted “yes” on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget when it’s their turn to vote in November 2016.

Nearly 100 people rallied in front of the North Country Road office of LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), holding signs letting the senator and the community know they were upset he voted in favor of a portion of the 2015-16 state budget that amended the teacher evaluation system, lengthened the time before teachers can gain tenure and created new designations for failing schools.

Beth Dimino, president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association and a John F. Kennedy Middle School teacher, said her association and other groups coordinated the protest to show the senator they don’t take his vote lightly.

“The purpose of this rally is to remind Mr. LaValle that his vote in favor of Mr. Cuomo’s budget and anti-public education agenda will be remembered by the parents and taxpayers in the November elections,” Dimino said.

A child hoists a sign during a public education protest. Photo by Barbara Donlon
A child hoists a sign during a public education protest. Photo by Barbara Donlon

LaValle, who was in Albany at the time of the protest, was just re-elected to his 20th term in the Senate and will be up for election again next year.

He said in a statement Wednesday, “We improved on what the governor put in his budget proposal and I fully expect we will continue to fix the education piece, with the final result addressing parents and educators concerns.”

April Quiggle, a Port Jefferson parent, said she came out to show how disappointed she is in the senator she always supported.

“I feel betrayed by him,” Quiggle said.

Not one person at the education rally was without a sign. Young children also held signs.

Miller Place resident Erik Zalewski, who teaches in the Middle Country school district, said LaValle and other politicians who voted in favor of the governor’s reform sold out educators and kids.

“It seems money is more important than the children,” Zalewski said.

Lucille McKee, president of the Shoreham-Wading River Teachers Association, joined in to let everyone know she is tired of non-educators making decisions about education.

Halfway through the rally supporters broke out in a cheer: “Ken LaValle you let us down, Ken LaValle you let the students down, Ken LaValle we will not forget!”

Many parents at the picket said they tried numerous times to reach out to the senator by phone and email and never heard back.

Hundreds of cars drove by as everyone protested on the corner of the road. Drivers honked, gave thumbs-up signs and cheered, letting the protesters know they supported them.

Invited INN to hold annual walkathon on Saturday

Volunteer Giovanni Cassino, of Miller Place, helps set the table at the Invited INN soup kitchen at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rocky Point. File photo by Erika Karp

By Erin Dueñas

In order to raise funds to continue 23 years of preparing a warm and nutritious meal to those in need, the Invited INN soup kitchen of Rocky Point will host a walkathon this Saturday, April 25, at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville.

Every Thursday, volunteers at the soup kitchen cook and serve dinner to anywhere from 40 to 70 people who come seeking a fresh-cooked meal and the companionship that comes with eating together. According to Invited INN’s Director and President Carol Moor, the soup kitchen has a “no questions asked” policy on who gets served.

“We don’t check income or anything like that, some people come just for the company. Anyone who shows up gets a meal,” she said. “Everyone who comes is treated with dignity and respect.”

According to Moor, the guests of the Invited INN are a diverse group, including seniors and families with young children, as well as single adults. Although housed in the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, the soup kitchen is ecumenical and any and all faiths are welcome to dine.

The INN, which stands for Interfaith Nutrition Network, is a nonprofit that provides food, shelter and support services to Long Island residents.

Moor said she helped start the soup kitchen more than two decades ago when she was chair of social ministries at Trinity.

“The church recognized a need for a soup kitchen,” she said. “We had the pantry, but we needed something more.”

The very first meal prepared at the Invited INN was served to just six people.

“It’s really grown since then and it’s been very successful,” Moor said. “People aren’t aware that people in their community need this kind of help.”

This is the seventh year the soup kitchen will host the walkathon, the only formal fundraiser it does throughout the year, according to Moor.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck doing a walkathon, and we tend to do very well,” Moor said. “The shrine is a beautiful place to walk and we make some money so it is really a win-win.”

Registration for the walk will begin at 10 a.m. and Moor said walkers can walk as many or as few times as they want around the shrine.

Every penny earned Saturday will go directly to providing the food prepared each Thursday. Running with no overhead and completely by volunteers, any donations the INN receives throughout the year goes solely toward buying food to prepare the weekly dinner.

Donated food items come from organizations such as Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, but the bulk of Invited INN’s monetary donations come from private donors: the congregation at Trinity, as well as from the Rocky Point Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Rocky Point.

Rotary member Tom Talbot said his organization’s intent is to provide help to people and that they enjoy giving to the Invited INN.

“The volunteers are very nice people who are so grateful for our help,” Talbot said. “They run a very important facility in Rocky Point.”

Talbot, who has volunteered at the soup kitchen as a pot washer for 10 years, said that the people who eat there seem to enjoy the meals.

“They are usually very satisfied with the food and it gives them the chance to be social too,” he said. “Some of them come early to make sure they get the same seat they have been sitting in for years.”

Trinity’s pastor Jeffrey Kolbo said that although the Invited INN is essentially a free hot meal program, he has found that it provides much more than that.

“For those who live on a limited income, money saved by eating each week at the Invited INN can be spent on other necessities,” he said. “For those who live by themselves, a night out at the INN breaks the tedium of eating alone. Our volunteers know this and do what they can to build community and feed those who come for our meals.”

To participate in the walkathon or sponsor a walker, contact Moor at 631-744-8686.

Annual 5K walkathon to benefit rescued horses

One of the Kaeli Kramer Foundation’s horses that lives at Brookhaven’s Wildlife and Ecology Center. File photo

Brookhaven’s Wildlife and Ecology Center in Holtsville and the Kaeli Kramer Foundation will host a 5-kilometer walkathon on Saturday, April 25, to help care for rescued horses.

Registration, which costs $20 per person, begins at 9 a.m., and the walk kicks off at 10 a.m. Individuals, families, or teams that raise $50 and more do not have to pay the registration fee. Prizes for most enthusiastic walker, creative team and money raised will be awarded. There will also be entertainment, such as raffles, Help-a-Horse puppet show and face painting.

The Kaeli Kramer Foundation, which houses unwanted horses and provides humane education classes at the center, is competing for one of five $10,000 grants from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

For more information, or to pre-register for the event, visit www.kaelikramerfoundation.org/pledge or call 516-443-9861. A rain date is set for April 26.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone shakes hands with a veteran after signing two bills into law, as other officials look on. Photo by Rohma Abbas

A roomful of veterans and lawmakers gathered in Northport on Monday morning to salute the signing of two new Suffolk County bills aimed at protecting veterans and the public against acts of stolen valor.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed the legislation, which was spearheaded by Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), into law. One of the bills makes it illegal for individuals to fraudulently represent themselves as decorated veterans to members of the public in order to solicit donations or obtain money, property or other benefits. The law makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison.

The second law imposes stiffer requirements on veteran nonprofit groups that solicit donations in Suffolk County. Such groups will be required to disseminate financial information to the public about how their fundraising dollars are being spent.

The laws were born out of a joint effort of many veterans, Spencer said, namely John Cooney, the commander of the Northport American Legion Post 694 and Tom Kehoe, former Northport Village Board. Both men held Spencer’s “feet to the fire” to get the legislation drafted, particularly after what Cooney described as instances in Huntington Town in which individuals fraudulently represented themselves as veterans for personal gain.

“The needs of our veterans and the desire to give on part of our residents can create vulnerability, as organizations and individuals have sought to take advantage, to profit from these circumstances,” Spencer told an audience of veterans at the Northport American Legion. “The two bills that we sign here today will work in conjunction to ensure our charitable dollars go where they should go — to support our veterans.”

A number of local leaders attended the conference, including Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilman Gene Cook (I), Northport Village Mayor George Doll and Northport Village Police Chief Ric Bruckenthal. The village police chief lost his son, Nathan Bruckenthal, a U.S. Coast Guardsman, who was killed in a terrorist-suicide bombing in Iraq 11 years ago this week.

“Why are we here today?” Bellone, who is also a veteran, said. “Because the notion that someone would step forward and put themselves out as a veteran of this country in order to raise money to benefit themselves is an absolute disgrace and it is something that we cannot under any circumstances tolerate. And it’s a disgrace when you have young men like [Nathan] Bruckenthal, who has family who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country and you have men like that all across our country.”

Nonprofit groups seeking to solicit donations on behalf of veterans must register with the county’s Veterans Services Agency before doing so, and that process would be enhanced under this new legislation. Those groups would now have to submit information on how the funds they’ve raised benefited veterans, and they would need to provide a slew of new documents, including federal and state tax returns and the names of the group’s board of directors. The Office of the Suffolk County Comptroller would work with the Veterans Services Agency to review the information, and the agency would ultimately decide whether to approve or deny an application.

Individuals would be barred from fraudulently representing records of military service, and anyone who makes mention of their military service must provide, upon demand, proof in the form of credentials or identification of their veteran status. The Veterans Services Agency can deny or revoke a group’s registration certificate if it’s deemed that someone from the group violated the federal Stolen Valor Act.

“This is a great example of veterans coming together and working with our committed legislators to provide and protect,” Cooney said. “To protect the valor and the integrity of those who have served. And to ensure that funds go to those veterans that legitimately need assistance.”

Gerard Tegins mugshot from SCPD

Police allege a young man drove drunk, blew through a stop sign and crashed into a house early on Saturday morning, causing extensive damage.

The suspect, 20-year-old Gerard Tegins, was driving a 2002 Hyundai SUV south on Harrison Avenue in Miller Place when, at about 2:30 a.m., he passed a stop sign without stopping at the corner of Parkside Avenue, according to the Suffolk County Police Department. Tegins then lost control of the SUV, went across several lawns and crashed into the living room of a house on Parkside.

Police said no one in the home was injured, though the residence suffered extensive damage.

The driver was treated for minor injuries at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, police said. He was the only one in the vehicle at the time of the crash.

Tegins, a Port Jefferson Station resident, was charged with driving while intoxicated, speeding, reckless driving, running a stop sign and failing to stay in a lane.

The defendant’s attorney, Commack-based Michael Alber, did not immediately return a call for comment.

Max Schneider mugshot from SCPD

Suffolk County police caught up to the Miller Place man who allegedly robbed a Rocky Point bank on April 14, but the man didn’t go down without a fight.

Max Schneider, 26, was arrested on April 16 in Huntington at approximately 5:45 p.m., after the Suffolk County Police Department’s Pattern Crime Unit and Larceny Task Force detectives spotted him pulling into the parking lot of the Walt Whitman Mall, according to police.

Schneider allegedly attempted to escape detectives, but in the process collided his 2012 Honda Civic with two police vehicles.

Officials allege he is the man who entered the Capital One bank on Route 25A in Rocky Point shortly after 9 a.m. on April 14 and gave a teller a note demanding money. Police said he then fled on foot with an unknown amount of money.

Police arrested and charged Schneider with third-degree robbery; criminal mischief; reckless endangerment; and violation of a parole warrant.

Attorney information for the defendant was not immediately available.

According to online New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision records, Schneider was convicted of third-degree robbery in 2013.

Schneider will be arraigned in Suffolk County District Court in Central Islip on April 17.

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.”

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.

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.”

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