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Felicia Chillak

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Poquott residents are protesting the village board trustees approving a 5-year bond for a community dock. File photo

Plans to build a community dock continue to cause waves in the Village of Poquott.

Approximately two dozen Poquott residents rallied Aug. 25 on Route 25A in East Setauket to protest the village trustees’ decision to rescind a resolution for a 10-year bond to pay for construction of a village dock in favor of a five-year bond.

“Hopefully, we are at a point we can actually build the dock.”

— Jeff Koppelson

The protesters have been against the dock’s construction for nearly a decade.

The mayor and trustees called an emergency meeting Aug. 23 after more than 200 residents signed a petition requesting a referendum vote on the dock plans. In July, the board voted for a 10-year bond instead of their original plan for a five-year note after tabling the decision earlier in the year when bids came in higher than predicted. The original plans were estimated to cost $150,000 but did not include Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps. The new cost of the dock will be approximately $255,000.

In an email to residents after the Aug. 23 vote, Mayor Dee Parrish explained the reasons for the change from a 10-year to a 5-year bond noting the construction of a dock had been “a known work in progress since 2010.” She said residents were first sent a survey in 2010, and the village mailed out two additional surveys in following years. The majority of village residents answered they were in favor of a community dock, according to the mayor, which will be built in California Park at the end of Washington Street and will measure 128 feet by 4 feet. The board of trustees officially began planning efforts in 2015.

“The dock plan was in forward motion since then and the decision we faced was not whether or not to put it to a vote, but rather how to pay for the construction,” Parrish wrote. “The recent petition for referendum was challenged, and the village attorney recommended that the five-year bond would ensure that project move[s] forward as originally planned by the board.”

Trustee Jeff Koppelson said the board had considered a 10-year bond to reduce the annual cost to Poquott residents, but once they became aware of the petition for a referendum, moved forward with the original five-year plan.

John Richardson, a village trustee who ran for mayor this year, said the village attorney informed him the residents would not be able to request a referendum given the five-year bond, and he voted “nay” for the new payment plan. Under New York State law, a request for a referendum would be allowed with a 10-year bond.

“Hopefully, we are at a point we can actually build the dock,” Koppelson said.

“I’m representing what people want. If they’re paying for it, they should have a say in it.”

— John Richardson

Richardson said he is concerned because the bond was not put out for a bid, and he believes residents should be able to vote on whether or not they wanted a dock and how to pay for it. He also said the feedback he has received from residents is that they are worried about maintenance and insurance costs.

“I’m representing what people want,” Richardson said. “If they’re paying for it, they should have a say in it.”

Felicia Chillak, who ran for trustee this year, went door to door with others to collect signatures for the petition requesting a referendum. She said the residents who signed were a mixture of those who wanted a community dock and those who didn’t, but all believe it should be voted on. Chillak said she had 30 days after the July 19 board meeting to turn the signatures into the village clerk, and as of Aug. 16 the petition had 196 names. She was then notified by the state Comptroller’s Office due to Aug. 18 falling on a Saturday, she could submit the paperwork by Aug. 20.

Chillak then presented the village clerk with an amended petition with 207 signatures. She said the petition needed the signatures of more than 20 percent of Poquott voters, and a recent voter registration list from the Suffolk County Board of Election that she obtained lists 802 registered voters reside in the village. However, at the Aug. 23 meeting, Village Attorney Joseph Prokop questioned the validity of some signatures.

Chillak said some people were hesitant to sign the petition or participate in the Aug. 25 rally.

“This is a serious issue in this village,” she said. “Even when we were getting petitions signed, residents were afraid of the mayor seeing their signature in fear of retribution.”

According to Parrish’s email, village officials and residents have organized multiple community events, including the Poquott Community Association’s Lobster Bake, with the intent to raise money for the dock. To date, $20,000 has been raised. The village also acquired three floating docks valued at $16,000 at no cost. Parrish said an average household will see a $123.20 a year increase in their taxes to pay off the five-year bond.

Poquott residents are protesting the village board trustees approving a 5-year bond for a community dock. File photo

As residents prepare to vote in the Village of Poquott June 19, candidates still see a proposed dock and communication among the village’s biggest issues.

Dee Parrish

Incumbent Dee Parrish is running for a third term as mayor on the Future ticket along with current trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider. Both were appointed by the mayor in 2017 after former trustees, Michael Schaefer and John Mastauskas, resigned.

Sitting board member John Richardson is challenging Parrish for mayor and is running on the We the People ticket along with trustee candidates, Felicia Chillak and Dianna Padilla.

Parrish, an accountant, said she has not raised village taxes for the last three years. When she entered office in 2014, she said there was $86,000 in the village’s account and now there is nearly $154,000, a savings the board accomplished while improving village parks, roads and drainage.

“I actually ran the village for the last three years like a business, because [my husband and I] have our own business, because that’s what really needed to be done to keep us on track on the budget, to keep spending to finally doing things cheaper,” she said, adding her family owns an environmental consulting company.

Richardson, a New York City firefighter, said his reason for running for mayor this year is the same reason he ran for trustee in 2017 — he feels residents cannot speak freely at public hearings.

John Richardson

“I feel that people should have more say in what’s going on,” he said. “I know we elect our officials to make decisions for us. But if people are griping about it … and they’re not being heard, maybe there’s more to it.”

Chillak, a realtor, and Padilla, a Stony Brook University ecology professor, want residents to feel comfortable speaking up, something they feel some villagers are hesitant to do. One issue they say needs more community input is the proposed community dock.

Parrish, who is in favor of the dock, said due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected, the board is holding off on a vote. She said the idea of a dock developed from a simple pier, where people could fish and dock boats, to a bigger project due to the village having to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and required lighting.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said, adding she will be affected by the decision too.

Richardson, Chillak and Padilla said the dock should be put to a referendum, so residents can vote on it instead of the board making the decision.

Felicia Chillak

“I believe everybody should have a voice, whether you agree with me or don’t agree with me let’s talk about it,” Chillak said.

Both Schleider, a teacher, and Poupis, vice president of operations for a nationwide drilling company, said they feel the board is open to residents’ comments on the docks and other issues. Poupis said he hopes to put a procedure in place to make it even easier for them.

“I just wish for every complaint [that] you had three potential ways to repair it,” the current trustee said he asks critics.

While Padilla said she believes residents should have more input when it comes to a dock, she is against it. The challenger said it can be environmentally damaging, including disrupting living creatures at the bottom of the water during installation and its shade negatively impacting fish and shellfish.

“There is no need for this dock,” she said. “There are nearby docks that people can use. This is not going to be a place where people can tie up their boats. It will be for loading and unloading only.”

All three challengers also have concerns as to whether or not the dock is financially responsible, especially with the board considering taking $34,000 from the village’s fund balance for the first installment of a five-year note.

“I’m not saying the dock is not an option,” Chillak said. “I’m saying let the people decide, and we will openly discuss.”

Chris Schleider

Schleider, who said he became trustee to show his kids the importance of civic responsibility, is in favor of the community dock.

“I think that the village hasn’t spent money on something like this in a long time,” he said “It’s nice to have a centerpiece for the village to utilize.”

Poupis said the dock would draw more people to the village and possibly increase real estate values.

“It’s being able to look at the village and trying to project out where it’s going to be in five or 10 years,” he said. “That’s where you really separate someone who is just sitting in the mayor’s chair versus someone who is actively looking at the growth of the village.”

The We the People ticket said many who have spoken out against the board have received code violations. While they don’t deny that violations exist in village homes, some infractions are similar to neighbors who haven’t been reported.

Parrish said the building department, code enforcement, public works and the board meet every week. The mayor said any complaints the village clerk receives from residents are given to code enforcement, which inspects the problem and decides what to do. Parrish said everyone is given an appropriate amount of time to address the issue.

Dianna Padilla

Richardson said he was targeted after running for trustee last year. When he applied to renew a permit to work on his balcony, he said he received it and then the permit was rescinded by the village attorney. He said he needed an extension because once he started working on the balcony it needed more work than anticipated. He alleged code enforcement is unfairly cracking down on people. While he believes there are issues that need to be addressed, he feels there is overregulation, and the village should reach out to residents before penalizing them to fully understand what is going on.

“There’s always a different side to every story,” he said about reaching out to potential code violators. “I think in a village with only 357 households we have the capacity to do that as a village and a community.”

Parrish said when Richardson asked for an extension to continue working on his balcony, the village court discovered he never closed out a 2003 permit for a second floor on his home and therefore he doesn’t have a current certificate of occupancy. Richardson said the building inspector approved and signed off on his CO April 20, and he is waiting for the village to approve it.

William Poupis

All the candidates are in agreement that improvements need to be made to Walnut Beach. Parrish said they are cleaning the beach up and are thinking of bringing in sand to replenish it. Padilla said replenishing the beach with sand may not be the answer as it’s environmentally unsound because dredge spoils can smother anything aliveunderneath it.

Incumbent Schleider said the beach brings back many happy memories for his in-laws, and he hopes the spot will be preserved for his children to visit one day.

“It’s one of the things I am most passionate about is maintaining that shoreline we have,” he said.

The Village of Poquott will hold its annual election Tuesday, June 19, at Village Hall, located at 45 Birchwood Ave. The polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m.

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