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Bruce D’Abramo

Incumbents Bruce Miller and Bruce D’Abramo won new terms on the board of trustees. Photos by Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village residents cast their ballots in favor of the status quo June 19.

Incumbent trustees Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller won their seats back in an extremely tight race Tuesday, leaving challenger Kathianne Snaden the odd-candidate-out in a three-way battle for two positions.

Miller lead the way garnering 382 votes. The margin between D’Abramo and Snaden was just four votes — 345 for the incumbent to 341 for the challenger. Village Clerk Robert Juliano said the count included all absentee ballots, and as of Wednesday morning he had received no notice of a request for a recount. Snaden said in a phone interview she intended to request a hand count of the ballots in the coming days based on the slim margin.

“I’m ready to get back in the harness and keep pulling on the rope,” Miller said in a phone interview, thanking the community for supporting him. He also congratulated his colleague D’Abramo and thanked Snaden for running what he called an energetic and clean race.

He secured his third term on the board, after previously spending 12 years on Port Jefferson School District’s board of education. Miller ran on his willingness to advocate for residents of the village, especially regarding the potential property tax implications of an impending settlement with Long Island Power Authority to handle a years-long legal battle about the plant’s property tax assessment, which the utility has contended is too high based on current energy output and demand at the power station. He has also been a staunch opponent of financial assistance packages being awarded by the Suffolk County and Brookhaven Industrial Development Agencies, which have led to the construction of multiple large-scale apartment complexes in the village during the last several years.

D’Abramo earned his fifth two-year term as a trustee with his narrow victory.

“Couldn’t be happier,” he said in an email. “I love this village and love being a trustee. I’m looking forward to the next two years.”

During the campaign, he touted his experience as a buildings and grounds superintendent for two East End districts, in addition to his years as the board’s liaison to the village Building and Planning Department, all part of his 35 years of municipal experience, he said.

“I think I bring an important talent to the Village of Port Jefferson,” he said of his experience in overseeing large construction contracts and projects, making sure they were completed on time and on budget, D’Abramo said during a meet the candidates event.

Snaden said in a phone interview she still intends to be engaged in trying to improve the community despite the defeat.

“It was a close race,” she said. “The fact I was [four] votes away only shows there is a need for what I can bring to the village. I definitely plan to stay active and involved in the community. I’m not going anywhere.”

Village of Port Jefferson board candidates, from left, Bruce Miller, Kathianne Snaden and Bruce D’Abramo at the Village Center for a meet the candidates event June 12. Photo by Alex Petroski

The future of the Village of Port Jefferson was on the minds of those at the Village Center June 12.

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a meet the candidates event Tuesday to help taxpayers get a feel for their options on the June 19 ballot. Three candidates are vying for two open seats to serve on the board of trustees, positions that carry two-year terms. Incumbents Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller are each seeking re-election, while village resident Kathianne Snaden is making her first bid for the position.

D’Abramo is looking to secure a fifth term on the board, having first been elected in 2011. He touted his more than 35 years of municipal experience as an asset to the village, specifically his time as a superintendent of buildings and grounds for two East End school districts.

“I think I bring an important talent to the Village of Port Jefferson,” he said of his experience in overseeing large construction contracts and projects, making sure they were completed on time and on budget.

He has served as the village board’s liaison to the Building and Planning Department during his tenure on the board, and said he had a vision for improving uptown Port Jeff when he first took office, and is looking forward to finally seeing construction get started. The village has obtained several grants and completed the necessary steps to get a handful of concurrent revitalization efforts underway in the
near future.

On one of the more pressing issues facing the village, the prospect of decreasing future revenue as a result of a pending settlement in a legal battle with the Long Island Power Authority over the utility’s contention its
property taxes are overassessed on the decreasingly necessary power plant in the village. D’Abramo said he has supported settling the case, rather than fighting it out and risking a loss in the dispute, which would require back pay from taxpayers to LIPA. He also said he supported the idea of building new apartments both uptown and downtown, as they replaced blighted structures, and cited their occupancy as evidence of demand.

Others, like Miller, have taken issue with the tax arrangements reached between the developers of the apartment projects and the town- and county-run industrial development agencies. The agencies are municipal arms that help fund building projects in areas deemed in need of economic development in exchange for decades-long tax breaks.

“I must emphasize that oversized zoning and almost complete lack of tax revenue because of the Brookhaven and Suffolk County Industrial Development Agencies’ giveaways will deny Port Jefferson revenue when we need it the most,” Miller said.

Miller is seeking his third term on the board, after spending 12 years on the Port Jefferson School District board of education. He touted his aversion to IDA deals and his organizing of a grassroots committee to galvanize support for repowering the plant, as a means to increase its value, as evidence of his willingness to
fight for residents. He said the issue has been on his radar for more than 20 years. He said he ultimately supported settling the case.

“I have been aggressive and smart in supporting Port Jefferson’s tax base,” Miller said.

Snaden has lived in the village for 13 years and sends three kids to the school district. She identified herself as a homemaker while also running a freelance photography business, and previously worked as a litigation paralegal. She shed light on why she decided to make a run for a trustee seat.

“I have a deep appreciation for small-town life, family-owned small businesses, and a safe and very welcoming community where children and families can flourish, and older folks can feel secure in their future,” she said.

Snaden added that she was initially inspired to run in the aftermath of a safety scare at the high school earlier this year, during which rumors and innuendo ran wild. She said she helped organize a town hall meeting that produced comprehensive feedback, which she later presented to the school district.

Snaden said she was supportive of settling the LIPA case as well. She said she’d like to see the village have more of a voice in discussing IDA tax breaks for development in the village, but like D’Abramo, said she was in favor of apartments if the other choice is blighted properties.

Polls will be open June 19 at the Village Center from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson Village taxpayers will have the opportunity to hear from the three candidates seeking seats on the board of trustees Tuesday,  June 12 at 7 p.m. in the Wayfarer room at Port Jefferson Village Center, located at 101 East Broadway. The candidates at the event, hosted by The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, will give opening and closing statements and take part in a question-and-answer session.

The election will take place June 19 and will feature incumbents Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller as well as challenger Kathianne Snaden.

Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Two village trustees are unopposed for re-election this month, each with his own goals for improving Port Jefferson.

Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller are seeking a fourth term and a second term on the village board of trustees, respectively.

Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Bruce Miller is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Miller wants to keep up his work to get the Port Jefferson power plant upgraded, known as repowering. The aging power plant runs on outdated technology and many residents and officials fear the loss of its significant property tax revenue if it were to shut down without being rebuilt.

“It’s something that I’ve been doing for about 20 years,” he explained, between his work on the Port Jefferson school board and with the local group Grassroots Committee to Repower Port Jefferson. “I want to try to see this thing through. I think it’s very important to the community. I have other interests but I have I think significant expertise in this area and think that I can benefit the people of the village.”

Miller is also interested in environmental issues, and said he has been working with the village’s conservation committee on making the village more energy-efficient and on strengthening the power grid in Port Jefferson to better withstand storms. He is helping put together a proposal to receive grant funding for a microgrid, which would be independent of the regional grid and rely on its own power-generating resources — and thus keep the community, which includes two hospitals, going during power outages.

For those who may vote for him, Miller said he strives to “keep in mind [the idea of] a small maritime New England village.”

Bruce D’Abramo is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Bruce D’Abramo is running for re-election. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The other candidate, D’Abramo, is running for two more years because “I love what I’m doing in Port Jefferson and I love the difference that we’re making.”

He said his top priority in the past and in a new term is to “turn uptown port Jefferson around into a community that we can all be proud of.”

One thing he is particularly proud of accomplishing in his third term, however, is in the downtown area: the beautification of Old Mill Creek.

The polluted creek winds through the west side of lower Port, including under Barnum Avenue and behind Village Hall, before flowing into the harbor. In addition to being contaminated by chemicals that had been dumped at an industrial site in Port Jefferson Station and had traveled through the groundwater, it was plagued by invasive plant species. But in the last year, the village put a plan into action to clean up the creek, improve its flow and remove the invasive species and replace them with native ones.

Another project he is proud of is using money left over in last year’s budget to pave additional streets in the part of the village referred to as the “poets section,” which includes Emerson Street, Longfellow Lane, Hawthorne Street and others.

“Every time we can put some money into the infrastructure, we’re doing something that’s going to last for a while; that’s going to make a difference,” D’Abramo said.

To the voters going to the polls later this month, the trustee said, “If they’re interested in seeing upper Port Jefferson change, then consider voting for me.”

Voting is at the Port Jefferson Village Center on June 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is also a village judge seat on the ballot, to complete the three years remaining on the term of Justice Peter Graham, who died in office in October, a few months after being re-elected. Graham, who was known for his colorful personality, had served the village for more than 30 years.

Bill Glass was appointed to replace him in the interim, and the lawyer is running for election to stay in that role. He faces challenges from Tara Higgins and Scott Zamek.

Port Jefferson code Chief Wally Tomaszewski. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Code enforcement officers in Port Jefferson will get a raise for the first time in several years if they approve their first union contract next week.

At the Jan. 4 village board of trustees meeting, the board approved the new agreement, settled upon a couple of years after negotiations began. The Port Jefferson Constable Association union must still ratify the contract to finalize it.

The new agreement would be retroactive to June 2014 and run through the end of May 2018, Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said in a phone interview. With part of the contract being retroactive, so is part of the proposed pay increase — the union members would receive an extra $1.50 for each hour they worked between June 2014 and the end of May 2015; and another $1.75 per hour worked from June 2015 and onward.

Moving forward, the officers from the Code Enforcement Bureau would receive an hourly bump of $0.25 each new year of the contract, meaning they would get a raise in June 2016 and June 2017.

The few dozen staff members covered under the proposal includes code enforcement officers and sergeants as well as appearance ticket officers, D’Abramo said. The union does not include code Chief Wally Tomaszewski or three lieutenants in the bureau.

According to both village officials and the union, it has been a while since the officers received a raise.

Port Jefferson Constable Association President Tom Grimaldi has been a code officer for more than seven years, he said, and the last salary increase was “way before I got there. Probably at least 10 years ago.”

D’Abramo noted that before the proposed raises kick in, the pay for code enforcement officers is $16 per hour. For sergeants, the pay is $18.25 per hour, and appearance ticket officers currently get $13.50 per hour.

The contract is “a long time coming,” Grimaldi said.

And D’Abramo said village officials are happy to put the negotiations behind them so they can finally “give the code officers, who do such a good job for the village, the kind of remuneration” that is comparable to such officers in other villages.

The constables have been particularly visible recently with some high-profile incidents in Port Jefferson Village.

In mid-December, a Belle Terre man was killed when he lost control of his Lamborghini while driving up a steep East Broadway hill and crashed into a pole near High Street. Officer Paul Barbato was the first on the scene, finding a “horribly mangled vehicle with a person still alive inside,” Trustee Larry LaPointe reported at a board meeting shortly after the crash. Barbato got inside the car and attempted CPR on 48-year-old Glen Nelson, but the driver later died.

“You can only imagine the scene he came upon,” Mayor Margot Garant said on Jan. 4.

In a phone interview, Tomaszewski said Barbato “tried desperately to save his life. Believe me, his boots were filled with blood.”

Code enforcement officer James Murdocco. File photo by Elana Glowatz
Code enforcement officer James Murdocco. File photo by Elana Glowatz

A couple of weeks later, on New Year’s Day, patrolling code officers James Murdocco and John Vinicombe responded to an overdose at the Islandwide Taxi stand near the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station.

LaPointe said at the board meeting on Jan. 4 that Murdocco administered the anti-overdose medication Narcan and “saved the person’s life by doing so.”

Tomaszewski described another recent incident in which officer Gina Savoie “thwarted a burglary” on Crystal Brook Hollow Road. He said after Savoie took action and called for police assistance, the two suspects, who are from Coram, were arrested for loitering.

“My hat goes off to the code enforcement bureau,” Garant said at the most recent board meeting. “They’re out there handling things that are unimaginable for us to even contemplate.”

Old Mill Creek and its banks have been cleaned up. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Elana Glowatz

Old Mill Creek is almost back to its old self.

Old Mill Creek and its banks have been cleaned up, enticing a duck to swim in it Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Old Mill Creek and its banks have been cleaned up, enticing a duck to swim in it Tuesday. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Restoration work on the troubled waterway in downtown Port Jefferson is nearing completion, and its look has drastically changed. Previously choked with vegetation, the sloped banks of Old Mill Creek have been cleared out and replaced with native freshwater plants, and Holbrook-based contractor G & M Earth Moving Inc. has added rock supports.

“These are the exact type of plants that belong along a freshwater stream like this,” village Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s going to be very interesting to see what it looks like next spring.”

The project, which began earlier this year, is geared toward improving water quality in the creek, which discharges into Port Jefferson Harbor. Work included removing built-up sediment that was impeding water flow; installing water filters; and repairing a blocked pipe that channels the creek underneath Barnum Avenue but in recent years had caused flooding during high tides and storms.

Old Mill Creek has been polluted and dirty for a long time. Photo from Steve Velazquez
Old Mill Creek has been polluted and dirty for a long time. Photo from Steve Velazquez

Water quality is important at Old Mill Creek because it affects the health of the harbor. But over the years the creek has been battered by invasive plants, flooding and pollution. The former Lawrence Aviation Industries, an aircraft-parts manufacturer in Port Jefferson Station, was the site of illegal dumping for many years and the hazardous chemicals traveled down-gradient through the soil and groundwater, with some of it seeping into Old Mill Creek.

The village’s restoration project includes filtration, and D’Abramo said one of the final steps to completing the work is installing a catch basin along Barnum Avenue to collect stormwater runoff before it rushes into the waterway.

Old Mill Creek starts on the west side of the village, near Longfellow Lane and Brook Road, passes the Caroline Avenue ball field and streams under Barnum. When it emerges on the other side, it goes past Village Hall and turns north, running under West Broadway and into the harbor.

D’Abramo expects the restoration to be completed before the end of this year. In addition to installing the catch basin, the contractor is also replacing a brick walkway along the side of the creek.

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