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Huntington

Blue Devils edge Newfield, 21-14

Huntington’s Eric Sands almost single-handedly spoiled a second straight homecoming. After the Blue Devils running back racked up four touchdowns last week in a 28-23 edging of Smithtown West, he tallied two of three Huntington scores in a 21-14 win over Newfield Oct. 14.

“We played hard physically,” Newfield head coach Nick Adler said. “But we made too many mental mistakes and the game comes down to who makes the least mistakes. Today we were not that team and we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The Wolverines got on the board early when senior running back Terrell Thomas broke away with the ball in Newfield territory and covered 64 yards on his way to the end zone. Senior Jacob Newell successfully completed the point-after kick attempt to put his team up 7-0.

Newfield quickly racked up penalties to start the second, and Huntington quarterback John Paci made the Wolverines pay for the costly errors with a 46-yard touchdown run.

“We left everything out on the field; we play really hard, we practice hard, our only concern is we’ve got to fix those mental mistakes, it kills us every game,” senior lineman Zachary Ferrari said.

With the game tied 7-7 heading into the halftime break, Newfield knew it needed to make some adjustments to come away with the homecoming win.

“All we need to do is focus better and we can’t choke like on a fourth-and-5,” Ferrari said. “We really need to improve on that in the next two weeks we are really going to see if we can get it going.”

Unfortunately, Newfield couldn’t get it going against Huntington, and Sands was too much for the Wolverines to handle. He scored on runs of 3 yards and 20 yards in the third quarter to put Huntington out front 21-7. He finished the day with 153 yards on 21 attempts.

“All these teams are good, and we’re not going to be able to overcome and win a game against a team like that when we make that many mistakes,” Adler said. “This is a great team we played, but we have to regain our focus. The season’s not over and I look forward to next week.”

Junior wide receiver Anthony Cabral scored the Wolverines’ only other touchdown late in the third on a 5-yard pass from Newfield’s sophomore quarterback Maxwell Martin.

Newfield fell to 1-5 in the Division II standings while Huntington improved to 4-2 with its third straight win. Newfield hosts North Babylon (5-1) Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. before hosting Smithtown East (1-5) Oct. 27 in the last game of the season.

“We should come out the way we practice, with more energy and more focus,” senior lineman Christopher Vidal said. “I was very confident, and I still am very confident in my team. I know we can make a comeback. It’s just all about how much we really want it.”

Jen Holden contributed reporting

Huntington Hospital volunteers pose with MD Anderson Cancer Center nurses in Houston. Photos from Meghan Billia

Huntington nurses went to work and rolled up their sleeves to help out the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Three Huntington Hospital nurses stepped forward to answer a call for aid from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The Texas hospital had put out a nationwide request for volunteer nurses to provide relief for their own staff members impacted by the storm.

“I got into nursing because I wanted to help people,” Meghan Billia, an oncology nurse at Huntington Hospital, said. “When you hear there’s a greater scale on which you can help people, it feels like something you should do.”

Billia, of Huntington, stepped up for the first time as she knew firsthand the havoc that storm and flooding could wreak on one’s personal life. She had lived on the South Shore of Long Island when Hurricane Sandy hit Oct. 22, 2012.

ER nurse Demetrios Papadopoulos, of Bellmore, traveled to Houston from Sept. 9 to 16 with Billia.

“When I got down there, the first thing I asked was if I could work every day,” he said. “Houston is a lovely city, but I’ll go down another time to see it.”

Papadopoulos said he learned that roughly 70 percent of the employees of MD Anderson had been affected in some way by the storm. To further add to its problem, the Houston hospital had been forced to cancel approximately 300 surgeries scheduled the week that Harvey hit.

Meghan Billia stands with co-worker and friend at MD Anderson. Photos from Meghan Billia

“They were adding on 100 cases a week in order to catch back up,” Papadopoulos said. “In addition to being understaffed, they were overbooked.”

The volunteers were given a one-day crash course on MD Anderson’s computer systems then immediately scheduled to work up to 12-hour shifts. By taking over Houston nurses’ schedules, Huntington Hospital’s staff was providing much-needed time for them to file insurance claims on flooded homes, begin ripping out damaged floors and sheetrock, and grieve the death of loved ones.

“We were covering nurses who were affected by the hurricane personally,” Billia said. “It’s not often you get to go somewhere and help other nurses. You usually go to help the patient. This was helping the staff and giving back to fellow nurses.”

While rolling up their sleeves and putting in long hours at the hospital, the volunteers also said it turned out to be an unexpected learning experience.

“There are parts of MD Anderson that are highly specialized,” Papadopoulos said. “I got to see what they have and what they are capable of. They had a few ideas that I hope to bring back here.

MD Anderson is nationally ranked as the No. 1 hospital for adult cancer treatment by U.S. News & World Report.

Billia said working in oncology she learned about a different style of IV pump and equipment that allows chemotherapy to be administered differently to cancer
patients. She brought a sample product back to Huntington Hospital for staff members to review and discuss.

Both first-time volunteers said they were surprised, and nearly overwhelmed, by the appreciation and gratitude of MD Anderson’s staff. Papadopoulos said Houston staff members attempted to take him out to dinner on his last night in the city, while Billia was given a few small presents for her hard work including a T-shirt.

A third nurse who volunteered, Shaneel Blanchard, could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Gerard Brogan Jr., the executive director of Huntington Hospital, said he fully supported the actions of his employees taking time to volunteer in Texas.

“I’m very proud of our dedicated staff who went down to Houston to help the people
affected by Hurricane Harvey,” Brogan said in a statement. “As a hospital that turned into a community resource during Hurricane Sandy with caregivers who constantly go above and beyond for their patients, it’s not surprising that our staff would feel compelled to help people whenever they can.”

Billia and Papadopoulos said they have both stayed in touch with those they met while volunteering. Papadopoulos hopes to make a trip down once the city has recovered, while Billia is keeping in touch via text messages.

The Huntington Lighthouse is one of 11 overlooking the Long Island Sound in which the U.S. Coast Guard is looking to replace and update the foghorn system. Photo from Pamela Setchell

A proposed plan to change the foghorn at Huntington Lighthouse is already raising alarm among North Shore boaters.

The U.S. Coast Guard is awaiting final approval to switch out the lighthouse’s foghorn from the current automated system to a new boater-operated model. Shifting the responsibility for operation of this essential safety device to the watercraft owners has raised objections from both residents and Huntington Town officials.

“This is not something that should be installed here at all due to the nature of the boating community,” said Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society. “The Town of Huntington encompasses five harbors and 5,000 boaters. A lot of those 5,000 boaters are inexperienced.”

The lighthouse’s foghorn is currently activated by a sensor, according to Mark Williams, officer in charge of the Aid and Navigation Team for the Long Island Sound. Williams said the sensor sends out a signal that measures for half-mile distance, if fog or other weather conditions cause visibility drops below a half-mile the foghorn will activate and sound until it clears.

The Coast Guards’s plan is to switch this sensor-activated system out to a new Marine Radio Activated Sound System, known as MRASS for short, in 11 lighthouses overseeing the Sound is an attempt to save time and money on maintenance. In addition to Huntington, other locations on the list include Montauk Point and Orient Point.

“The equipment out there is old, antiquated and almost impossible to find replacement parts for now,” Williams said. “We are going with a new system that the U.S. Coast Guard has tested and approved.”

The MRASS system requires a lighthouse’s foghorn to be activated by boaters with a
Marine Very High Frequency Radio, commonly referred to as a VHF radio, by turning to the 83A frequency and touching the key, which activates the radio fives times, equally spaced apart. Once this signal is received, Wiliams said the lighthouse’s foghorn will sound for the next 30 minutes.

Both Williams and Setchell agree that Huntington Lighthouse is distinctive and unique compared to the many other lighthouses where the new foghorn is proposed, given its close proximity to residential communities and services mostly recreational boaters.

Setchell said as an experienced boater that she fears the new foghorn could be problematic as watercraft owners are not required to have a VHF radio onboard under New York state law — and some recreational boaters don’t. Also, her concern is it places the burden of raising alarm on an individual already in distress.

“When you are lost in the fog in a boat, it’s frightening because you have no idea where you are,” she said. “To sit there and think an inexperienced boater will have the wherewithal and calm to grab their VHF radio, remember to go to 83A, and key the mike five times is ridiculous.”

Williams admitted there is no requirement for boaters to own a VHF radio, but it is highly encouraged.

“There might be small boaters who don’t have anything,” he said. “But we hope vessels of that size with little equipment are not out in the fog or restricted visibility weather.”

Setchell said the residents near the lighthouse, along with the boating community, fear a user-operated system could become the “focus of pranks” by drunken or irresponsible parties. If the signal is keyed in repeatedly, the foghorn will continue to sound for a full 30 minutes from the last time it was activated — with no immediate shutoff.

Huntington Town officials have raised their own concerns about whether changing the foghorn system is in the best interests of the boating community.

“The town shares the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society’s concerns about whether a boater-operated foghorn is appropriate for an area that is almost exclusively used by recreational boaters,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in statement. “We look forward to working with the Lighthouse Preservation Society, the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht and Boating Clubs and the Coast Guard to address the issue of a new foghorn that will increase boater safety without unnecessarily intruding on the serenity of those who live along the shore.”

The Town of Huntington has filed a letter with the U.S. Coast Guard outlining its concerns for consideration before the plan is approved.

The same MRASS foghorn plan was proposed for the Huntington Lighthouse in 2009, according to Setchell, but was tabled due to overwhelming public objection after less than a week.

The system has been widely installed across northern New England, according the Williams, with very few complaints.

Any individual or organization who either supports or has concerns about the proposed foghorn replacement can write to the U.S. Coast Guard by sending an email to  mark.p.williams@uscg.mil.

By Bill Landon

After what was argued to be a questionable call, Smithtown West’s football team couldn’t catch Huntington, falling 28-23 in the Bulls’ homecoming game Oct. 7.

On Huntington’s last possession of the third quarter, the offensive line stood and the line of scrimmage to start play, but decided instead to let the clock expire. What went unnoticed at field level was Huntington’s center bending over and touching the ball before he decided to stand up and let time tick off the clock.

Up in the press box, an assistant coach radioed head coach Steve Fasciani, who told player David Gonzales to pick up the ball and run with it. The wide receiver took off for the end zone, and officials blew their whistle at the 30-yard line, but Fasciani argued it was a live ball. After a 25-minute conference which including sourcing the rulebook, the ruling on the field stood that there was no touchdown.

“I have no problem with how our guys played in the second half today; all heart. They played tough and they took the next step in my opinion.”

—Steve Fasciani

In the fourth quarter, Smithtown West quarterback Kyle Zawadzki found wide receiver Chris Crespo open over the middle, who turned it up field for the touchdown with just over three minutes left to play. Kicker Matthew Villano scored on the extra-point kick attempt to pull Smithtown West within five, but Huntington took over and let the clock unwind.

“They play power football and they’re very good at it, but our second half — with how our defense played — was a huge step for us,” Fasciani said. “I have no problem with how our guys played in the second half today; all heart. They played tough and they took the next step in my opinion.”

Running back Eric Sands led the way for the Blue Devils, and after a long run down to the 2-yard line, he sealed the deal by punching into the end zone two plays later. Senior Nat Amato split the uprights for a 7-0 lead.

The Bulls struggled with their running game, and went three-and-out on their first three possessions against a formidable Huntington defensive unit.

Utilizing the hurry-up offense, Huntington connected on three consecutive pass plays to move the chains to the 15-yard line. Sands once again made his way into the end zone, racing down the right sideline and breaking a tackle before sauntering into touchdown land. After a low snap, holder Luke Eidle was able to gather it up and Amato struck again to put his team out front 14-0 with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter.

Smithtown West made progress up the field, but the Blue Devils defense forced a turnover, and Sands got the call once more as the junior raced 19 yards for the touchdown. Amato, perfect on the day, gave Huntington a 21-0 advantage with just under 10 minutes left until halftime.

“We thought they were identical to us with their offense — they’ve got a lot of talented skill players — but we knew coming in we were going to have to stop [Kyle Zawadzki].”

—Steve Muller

“[Eric Sands] was a monster in the beginning of the game,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said. “We thought they were identical to us with their offense — they’ve got a lot of talented skill players — but we knew coming in we were going to have to stop [Kyle Zawadzki].”

But the coach said he knew his team couldn’t stop him.

“He’s very, very good, an outstanding athlete,” Muller said. “Since can’t stop him, you have to bend him a little bit.”

Zawadzki made that hard to do when he dropped back to pass Crespo, crossing over the middle, who made the 36-yard touchdown catch. Crespo struck again on a handoff, punching it in for the two-point conversion to trail 21-8 with less than seven minutes left in the second.

Huntington responded when quarterback John Paci hit a hole, broke outside and raced 51 yards down the right sideline before he was forced out at the 14-yard line. Sands finished the play by breaking free of two would-be tacklers and finding the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game. Sands said he couldn’t take all the credit for the scores.

“My line, they’re excellent,” he said. “They’re my leaders and I can’t say enough about them. They played great; I can’t do it without those guys.”

Smithtown West fumbled the ball four minutes into the third, and Smithtown West running back and linebacker Matthew Caddigan recovered it. Zawadzki scored on a keeper, taking the ball five yards for the only third-quarter score.

“I thought we played a sloppy second half,” Sands said. “But [Smithtown West is] a competitive team.”

The Bulls drop to 2-3 in the Suffolk County Division II standings while the Blue Devils improve to 3-2. Huntington hopes to spoil another homecoming when the Blue Devils travel to Newfield Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. Smithtown West will face off against crosstown rival Smithtown East the same date and time.

Neither rain nor political pressure was going to stop proud Italian-Americans from marching along Huntington’s Main Street in honor of Christopher Columbus.

Huntington Town’s annual Columbus Day Parade was held Oct. 8 as spectators gathered in groups under storefront awnings, waving small red, white and green flags and some wearing “Save Columbus Day” t-shirts.

Paradegoers were treated to a series of floats, marching bands and vintage cars. Cries of “Viva Italia” filled the air. This year’s grand marshals featured Robert Fonti, legislative liasion for Suffolk County and a longtime parade committee member; and Sal “The Voice” Valentinett, of Bethpage, of “America’s Got Talent” fame.

Honored guests were Lou Kron, owner of Madison Steak House in Hauppauge, for his generous donations to the Sons of Italy over many years; and Lou Gallo, locally known for dressing up as Christopher Columbus and a strong supporter of Italian-American heritage, according to parade chairman Keith Wilson.

Thousands flocked to the annual Long Island Fall Festival, hosted by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and Town of Huntington, in Heckscher Park from Oct. 6 to 9. The event was lively Saturday as unseasonably warm weather brought attendees out to enjoy a variety of live performances, street vendors, carnival rides and games. Rainy weather thinned the crowd later in the weekend, but did not stop the festivities.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, at center, announces the town’s partnership with two organizations to aid Puerto Rico. Photo from Town of Huntington

Huntington town officials have set up two partnerships to make it easier for local residents to send donations and supplies to Puerto Rico.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) announced Oct. 3. that the town will be working in collaboration with both the American Red Cross’ Hurricane Maria relief effort and Long Island Hispanic Business Roundtable, Inc. in Oyster Bay in an effort to get much-needed funds and specific supplies to the victims.

“We are a giving community,” Edwards said. “We have always responded, and I am absolutely confident that the people in our community will respond to support people who critically need these supplies to survive. We are asking all Town of Huntington residents, both businesses and our community members, to help.”

Edwards said the town will accept donations of specific, needed supplies at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, at 1264 New York Avenue in Huntington Station. Requested donations include
water, batteries, flashlights, portable lanterns, diapers, baby wipes and feminine products. Supplies can be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, or after hours donations can be made by scheduling an
appointment with Edwards’ office at 631-351-3175.

Edwin Perez, of Long Island Hispanic Business Roundtable, is also helping the town with working out the specifics of transporting all donations. Perez reached out to Liberty Moving and Storage in Commack, who has agreed to pick up items collected at the resource center and deliver them to a central facility in Hauppauge, overseen by the New York National Guard as part of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) New York Stands with Puerto Rico initiative.

“People have reached out and asked if I was going to do anything for my American homeland,” Perez said. “I was able to reach out to my network and say, ‘Huntington is standing with Puerto Rico.’”

The Red Cross is reporting that there are nearly 400 volunteers in Puerto Rico who are helping to reconnect families and distribute relief supplies, including food and water. International Red Cross workers are also
restoring electrical connections and installing satellites to help Puerto Ricans get in touch with family members and access vital information.

“There people really need a lot of things,” said Rosa Moya, representing Latinos Unidos de Huntington. “People are panicked. They are getting frustrated. If we can do something for them, it will be very appreciated. This is the time we need to step up for Puerto Rico.”

In coordination with government and nonprofit partners, the Red Cross is helping to distribute water, ready-to-eat meals, fresh fruit and vegetables, tarps and comfort kits. Emergency distribution of water has been provided to several vulnerable communities which were running out of water. The Red Cross has already mobilized more than 250 tractor-trailer loads of relief supplies to help aid Puerto Rico. Red Cross teams are also assessing what the community needs, and providing health and mental health services.

To make a monetary donation to the Red Cross, residents can visit the town’s website, www.huntingtonny.gov, and click on the  red heart at the top of the home page. The link will lead to a microsite on the Red Cross web page, where by following the prompts residents can choose from a drop-down menu how they want their donations to be used. The default setting will send money to Hurricane Maria victims, but money can also be marked for victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Town of Huntington officials want to ensure that Italian-Americans can celebrate their culture with pride this Columbus Day weekend.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) made a vow to protect the Christopher Columbus statue overlooking  Huntington Village against a growing movement to remove what have been referred to as controversial historical monuments.

“The Town of Huntington took on the crusade of putting the statue here,” Petrone said. “We are not removing the statue. The town board feels very strongly about this; we are not removing it.”

Huntington’s Christopher Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington’s Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years, according to Petrone. It was commissioned by Sam Albicocco, a Huntington resident of Italian-American heritage, and its costs were financed by contributions from local residents.

The supervisor said he felt it was necessary to make a public statement in wake of a growing movement at the national and state levels to remove public monuments to controversial historical figures, such as Confederate war leaders and Christopher Columbus.

In August, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) assembled a committee to consider possible removal of “symbols of hate” throughout the city, including statues of Christopher Columbus, as national debate raged over taking down Confederate monuments.

Shortly after the committee was announced, The New York Times reported the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park was defaced with its hands stained by red paint and graffiti, which included the words “Hate will not be tolerated” on the pedestal.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community,” said Robert Ferrito, state president of the Sons of Italy. “It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

Ferrito said his Italian-American fraternal organization is working with other organizations throughout the state to ensure that all monuments to Christopher Columbus are protected and the holiday remains unchanged.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community. It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

— Rob Ferrito

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) recalled how his own father, an immigrant, was one of many Italian-Americans who faced strong discrimination during World War II and the years that followed and spoke of how it relates to the proposition of tearing down the statue.

“I was proud as a young boy to be an Italian-American,” Suozzi said. “We are going to make sure people realize Christopher Columbus gave so much to our country, just like Italian-Americans gave so much to our country, and we are not backing down.”

The announcement by Town officials comes on the eve of the annual Long Island Fall Festival in Heckscher Park, which is traditionally kicked off each year with a wreath laying at the Columbus statue.

“As anyone who has viewed the parade knows, it is not only about one man,
Christopher Columbus,” Petrone said. “It is about the millions of Long Islanders of Italian extraction who take pride in their heritage and their contributions to our town, our Island, our state and our country. Here in the Town of Huntington — a town that values diversity and inclusiveness, and, above all, history — we have no plans to cancel the parade. And we certainly have no plans to even consider taking down this statue.”

The wreath laying will be held Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. The town’s annual Columbus Day parade will be held on Oct. 8 starting at 12:30 p.m. and travel along the length of Main Street.

Petrone said that the town had not received any written objections to the parade or ceremony as of Oct. 1.

Darryl St. George at a RAP Week press conference earlier this month. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Democrats are looking to heal a party rift by working together to push towards securing the town supervisor seat up for grabs this November.

Centerport resident Darryl St. George has put out a call for his followers to support Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) in her campaign for Huntington Town Supervisor. Edwards beat St. George in the Sept. 12 primary, 3,482 votes to 1,664 votes, to win the Democrat line in the general election.

The political hopeful said he was initially disappointed by his loss but with time to reflect has put it in perspective.

“It was the first primary for a Democratic town supervisor and 1,600 people came out to vote for us,” St. George said. “It was still a loss, but it was a win in that sense. We got that many people to come out and be involved in the process.”

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

St. George said he has sat down with Edwards to talk over the key issues that came up in the primaries and their campaign platforms. They were able to find some common ground, according to the challenger, who said they were in agreement on the need for term limits for elected officials, campaign finance reform, a comprehensive review of the town’s master plan with environmental considerations, and aggressively attacking the problem of heroin/opiate addiction.

“I am able to go back to my supporters and say, ‘This is the candidate we need to get behind,’” St. George said. “In my view, I will do everything I can to help her win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

Edwards will face competition from the Republican candidate, current State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Nov. 7.

Both Democrats agreed that the voter turnout for the Sept. 12 primary was disappointing. There were only 5,000 registered Democrats who cast their ballot for town supervisor candidate out of the more than 50,000 party members registered to vote in the Town of Huntington.

“A long-term project for me as a veteran and a history teacher is to do everything I can to get more people involved in the political process,” St. George said. “We can’t continue to accept low voter turnout as a reality.”

“In my view, I will do everything I can to help [Tracey Edwards] win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

— Darryl St. George

The Northport High School teacher said he hopes to hold a meeting with young leaders sometime in October to discuss what role they play in the politics, how they can get more involved and have a voice in local issues.

His strong belief that active participation is key to the democratic process is part of what inspired St. George to get involved in politics. He first contemplated running for a seat on Huntington town board in 2015, before declaring in February 2017 he would be launching a campaign for town supervisor — months before Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced he would not be seeking re-election.

St. George’s decision spurred what will be remembered, at least by many voters, as the first Democratic primary for Huntington Town Supervisor.

“I have a profound sense of gratitude for all the people that came out and participated in this historic event in the town, which includes Tracey’s supporters,” the political hopeful said. “But a special thank you to my supporters, I’ve come to see them as an extended family.”

While St. George said he did not have any specific plans for the future, residents may still see and hear his name.

“I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to stay involved and do what I can to fight for what I believe in,” he said.

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington homeowners can anticipate to see taxes increase in 2018, but town officials have pieced together a plan that won’t require piercing the state tax cap as opposed to 2017.

Huntington Town’s budget will slide in just under the state-mandated 1.84 percent tax levy increase cap with its proposed $194 million spending plan for 2018..

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) presented his last and final budget proposal at the Sept. 15 town board meeting, calling for a $4.2 million spending increase compared to 2017.

The single largest driving factor behind the town’s budget hike is high health care costs for town employees, according to Petrone. Town personnel salaries and benefits “is the single biggest influence on municipal budgets,” reads the proposed 2018 budget, citing it accounts for more than 50 percent of the town’s major expenditures. The state has predicted health care insurance premiums will rise by 8.3 percent, which would cost the town an additional $22.5 million in 2018.

To help cut back these costs, Petrone has proposed to reduce the number of full-time town employees through attrition for a second year. So far this year, the town has eliminated six positions, for a savings of $400,000 in paid salaries and benefits, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act.”

— Frank Petrone

Successful changes in two of the town’s ambulance districts — Huntington and Commack — will result in residents seeing decreased taxes for ongoing services. Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps began billing patients’ insurance companies in 2016, a move that was followed by Huntington this year and resulted in a significant increase to its revenue. Carter said residents without health care insurance will not be billed by either company, as those costs continue to be covered by the town.

The preliminary budget calls for $16.6 million in capital spending on local projects, holding steady at 2017 levels. These capital projects include $3.75 million to begin construction of the James E. Conte Community Center at the former Armory in Huntington Station and $3 million to construct a new animal shelter adjacent to Mill Dam Park in Halesite.

Town officials have already unveiled plans to build its first of two spray parks, or interactive water playgrounds, in 2018 — one in Elwood Park in memory of New York City Police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo who was killed in the line of duty in 2017, and one next to the Conte Community Center.

Other major projects included in the 2018 preliminary budget are improvements to Manor Park in Huntington Station, restoration of the waterfront bulkheads in Halesite and $1 million toward improvement of the Huntington sewers.

In issuing his final budget, Petrone called for changes to the state’s Tax Cap Act.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs, such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act, and to develop new economic drivers, like the formation of special improvement districts which deal with issue-specific concerns and solutions, and the establishment of new Business Improvement Districts to further enhance our small business communities,” the supervisor said.

Petrone called for specific programs or capital projects to be approved by voters in a town referendum vote, then excluded from tax cap calculations, otherwise he feared programs could be discontinued to stay under the cap.

For 2017, Petrone got residents’ support in piercing the tax cap by approving a 2.85 percent tax increase for his $191 million budget. The supervisor had claimed it was necessary in order to maintain the town’s services along with social, youth and art programs without severe cuts.

Residents will have the chance to share their input on the proposed 2018 budget at the Oct. 17 town board meeting.

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