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Poquott

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Volunteers with the Setauket Fire Department respond to a fire in Poquott Aug. 16. Photo by Bob O'Rourk

The Setauket Fire Department was called to a two-story home on Singingwood Lane in the Village of Poquott at 10:31 p.m Aug. 16, according to Setauket Fired Department public information officer Bob O’Rourk.

Half of the rear deck was fully involved and almost spread to the inside of the house, O’Rourk said. Quick action by the fire department kept flames from getting past several rafters and inside of the structure. As a result, any serious damage inside was prevented.

Firefighters checked the deck roof as well as the house roof for any fire extension. Interior walls were also checked to ascertain that no fire damage reached the interior.

The Stony Brook and Terryville fire departments also responded for mutual aid. Town of Brookhaven fire marshals were on scene to determine the cause of the fire. Results of that investigation are pending.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A east of Old Coach Road. Photo by Steve Antos

Sometimes what seems like a simple solution to an issue can lead to pesky problems.

New York State Department of Transportation workers were on the site of a stormwater retention pond, also known as a rain garden, on Route 25A in Setauket July 10 investigating reported problems. Richard Parrish, stormwater management officer for the Village of Poquott, sent a letter June 18 to follow up with a conversation he had with NYSDOT Regional Director Margaret Conklin, on issues with the newly installed rain garden that is causing problems for Poquott residents.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes.”

— Richard Parrish

Among the issues Parrish cited is that after it rains the pond is filled up to 4 feet deep with standing water. He also said the structure is made of earthen walls and an earthen base and is not fenced in, which can present a danger to people and wildlife. In the letter, he provided the example of a deer stuck in the rain garden a few weeks ago, and residents needed to enter it to release the animal.

He also stated in his letter that he believed the retention pond is not compliant with stormwater regulations under the federal Clean Water Act as it has no controls for capturing sediment or preventing the distribution of sediment and contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes,” Parrish wrote, adding this was the cause of most of the complaints village officials receive.

Parrish said Conklin was immediately responsive to the issue of mosquito control as a Suffolk County Department of Health Services vector control unit came the day he spoke with her. He said road and safety issues still remain.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the organization advocates the use of small rain gardens at the ends of streets leading into the harbor to contain road runoff. It is one of the biggest challenges impacting water quality. However, he agreed the Setauket one is poorly designed, a safety hazard and is not compliant with the federal Clean Water Act.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden.”

— George Hoffman

The Route 25A rain garden had recently been installed as a temporary solution to deal with roadway flooding.

Hoffman said rain gardens are an environmentally friendly way of handling stormwater, replacing traditional recharge basins like sumps and storm drains. The retention ponds are more beneficial as they are built differently.

“They are generally constructed in a small depression composed of porous soils and planted with native shrubs, perennials and flowers and work by slowly filtering rainwater through the soils and plants and filtering out nitrogen and other pollutants,” he said.

Hoffman said the spot, off Route 25A east of Old Coach Road, is not ideal for a rain garden. The site directs water runoff onto the side of the roadway and is not conducive to natural drainage.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden,” Hoffman said.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for NYSDOT, said workers were at the site in early May to remove invasive Japanese knotweed and other debris to improve the drainage.

“NYSDOT has cleaned invasive vegetation and other waste out of storm drains as well as diverted water off the road to the shoulder as part of a short-term plan to curb flooding along Route 25A,” Canzoneri said. “We continue to investigate options for a more permanent solution.”

Dee Parrish will begin her third term as Poquott mayor. Photo from Dee Parish

Voters in the Village of Poquott said yes to the future while keeping the status quo.

Chris Schleider. Photo from Chris Schleider

Incumbent mayor Dee Parrish and sitting trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider, who ran on the Future ticket in the June 19 village election, retained their seats.

Parrish defeated challenger John Richardson 240 to 204, according to village Deputy Clerk Cindy Schleider. Richardson is a board trustee who is currently serving his first term.

Trustees Poupis and Schleider received 235 and 241 votes, respectively, beating challengers Felicia Chillak, who received 199 votes, and Dianna Padilla, who garnered 204, according to the deputy clerk.

An issue of contention in the village for the last few years has been the proposal of a community dock, which all Future candidates support despite tabling a vote on the dock earlier this year due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said in a previous interview with TBR News Media.

Poupis and Schleider, who were appointed to their positions by the mayor in 2017, said they felt it was important to get the stamp of approval from their fellow residents.

William Poupis. Photo from William Poupis

“One of the things about being appointed you don’t necessarily feel that you have the mandate of the people behind you,” Schleider said in a prior interview with TBR News Media. “I was honored by Dee asking, but I think it’s important to have the voice of the people to elect the official.”

The day after the election Poupis said he looked forward to getting back to work with his fellow village board members.

“There’s lots of work ahead,” Poupis said. “We got a village to bring together. We got a lot of great ideas about incorporating some things into our standard once-a-month village meetings, maybe having some town hall meetings every other month, so that people in an unofficial forum can come in, speak freely, voice concerns, with those concerns voice some solutions and as a group work together to find the common goals.”

On the Facebook page Poquott Life Matters, Richardson thanked those who supported him, Chillak and Padilla.

“The plans and ideas we spoke about on your doorstep, I truly hope will become a reality in the future of our village,” Richardson wrote. “As a trustee, I will continue to be your voice on the board. I welcome all concerns big or small.”

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

By Rita J. Egan

As the Village of Poquott board of trustees budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, the cost of a proposed dock is still at the forefront of a few residents’ minds.

At an April 12 village public hearing, board members approved the 2018-19 preliminary budget. The village plans to spend $533,839 in the upcoming fiscal year, about a $34,000 increase over the last period. The preliminary budget stays under the tax levy increase cap, with an anticipated tax rate of $15.41 per $100 of assessed property value.

Treasurer Ron Pulito said it is estimated about $34,000 of the budget will be to pay the first installment of a five-year note for the village’s proposed dock. This amount would be taken from the village’s fund balance. The dock was originally estimated at $150,000 but the board opened bids at the beginning of the April meeting and the proposals were higher than anticipated.

“We have a good budget next year with question marks next to what happens with the dock, and we’re staying under the cap.”

— Ron Pulito

Pulito said there will be an estimated $47,000 deficit the current fiscal year, which would leave approximately $55,000 in the village fund balance. He said he does not expect much change in costs like snow plowing and garbage collection, and he said not much would be needed from the fund balance in the future for those items. He said while the budget includes funding for the dock it didn’t include any work on village hall.

“We have a good budget next year with question marks next to what happens with the dock, and we’re staying under the cap,” Pulito said.

Resident Felicia Chillak said she was concerned that the fund balance isn’t as high as past years and asked what would happen if there was a microburst storm like the one that hit the village a few years ago. She said the first day of cleanup after the storm cost the village $30,000.

“I personally feel [it’s better] to leave the fund balance and raise the taxes a little bit, if that’s going to keep us on the safer side,” Chillak said.

If the board decides not to go ahead with building the dock, the treasurer said the budget would break even. Pulito said if the board does go forward with the construction and more funds are needed, the village may be able to apply for a loan with a longer payment period.

“If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it,” resident Cindy Davis said. “You don’t go ahead. You don’t bust your budget for something like this.”

A decision on dock bids was tabled until May. The board will vote on the final 2018-19 budget in an upcoming meeting.

Engineer Charles Voorhis describes the planned community dock in Poquott and answers residents’ questions at a Jan. 5 planning board meeting at Emma Clark Library. YouTube screenshot from Village of Poquott

While the divisiveness over a proposed community dock in the Village of Poquott may be lessening, some are keeping a watchful eye on the plans.

A handful of residents attended a Jan. 5 village planning board meeting at Emma S. Clark Public Library to hear a presentation given by village engineer Charles Voorhis. The managing partner of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis was on hand to discuss the design of the proposed dock, which is planned for California Park at the end of Washington Street.

Voorhis said the proposed fixed dock would be 128-feet long and 4-feet wide, and at the end, would include a landing area measuring 6-feet wide. The engineer said the dock will include water service, solar panel-powered rail lighting for nighttime and an ADA access ramp made of concrete.

During high tide, a beachgoer could walk up the stairs on the north side and down the stairs on the south side, according to Voorhis, and during low tide villagers could walk underneath. There will be a 30-foot gangway that will serve as a transition from the dock to a 30-by-8 foot float which will make it easier to get into boats, especially smaller recreational crafts.

“I will say that this is a very straightforward installation,” he said. “It’s very similar to what you see for recreational piers for residential homes around the harbor.”

“It’s very similar to what you see for recreational piers for residential homes around the harbor.”

— Charles Voorhis

Ted Masters, interim planning board chairman, said the design meets the criteria described in Chapter 64 of the village code. At a Oct. 26 public hearing, the village trustees made amendments to the chapter per suggestions made by the planning board. According to the Oct. 26 meeting’s minutes, the required water depth to build a dock was changed from 4 feet to 3 ½ feet, and the width of the dock was changed from not to exceed 3 ½ feet to 4 feet and may exceed where needed to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Voorhis said the depth of the water is taken into consideration to ensure any floats for the dock will not rest at the bottom of the waterway and 3 ½ feet is adequate.

After the engineer’s presentation, the meeting was open for public comments and questions.

“I’m just concerned about people who have difficulty maneuvering, putting steps in their way,” Cindy Davis said, after asking if there would be railings, which Voorhis said there would be.

Another resident asked what can be done to prevent icing on the dock. Voorhis said the village is addressing whether or not the dock will need bubblers, which circulates water when there are freezing conditions, and the village is looking into options as far as powering them if needed.

Roger Flood, of Poquott, asked how the dock would be moved and stored in the winter. Voorhis said large cranes are used in many areas including Port Jefferson Harbor, and he suggested an upland location for storage either in the parking lot, since its not used as much in the colder seasons, or a grassy area.

After the Jan. 5 meeting, board trustee Jeff Koppelson said in a phone interview there has been less public debate about building a community dock, a topic that disrupted prior meetings as many questioned the financial impact of installing one.

“The board of trustees are very conscious of what we have to do to keep an eye on the money angle,” he said, adding a notice was recently posted on the village’s website regarding costs.

The board is looking into a five-year bond for $150,000, according to the post, and the payments would be $32,475 per year. The first two years could be paid off if the board approves the moving of $50,000 from the fund balance plus the $16,160 from the Poquott Village Community
Association.

In order to pay the remaining balance of the bond, there would be a tax increase for each household of $80 per year for three years. There would also be the maintenance cost of the dock at $2,075 a year for the village, which would include general maintenance, the floats being removed from the water in the winter and additional insurance.

A few in attendance questioned whether enough or proper notice was given regarding the Jan. 5 meeting. Masters said another public planning board meeting regarding the dock is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at Poquott Village Hall. Residents can also send comments to village hall if they are unable to attend. Dock plans and minutes from past meetings are available for viewing at Poquott’s village hall and posted on its website.

The Three Village Historical Society hosted its annual Candlelight House Tours Dec. 1 and 2, Visions of East Setauket: Then and Now. The Friday night event ended with a reception at St. James R.C. Church’s parish center, which is home to a presepio, a tableau of life in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, assembled by Rev. Gerald Cestare.

This year the tour provided participants the opportunity to step inside homes that are of local historical importance or sit on property that is considered as such in East Setauket and Poquott. Each of the homes were dressed up for either Christmas or Hanukkah by local decorators and included both indoor and outdoor holiday accents.

Candlelight House Tour decorators were Allison Butera, Donna Howard, Nancy Munch, Susan Malkan, Lynn Sabatelle, North Suffolk Garden Club and Open House Country Flowers & Interiors.

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

Poquott’s village hall is finally back in business a month after the June 20 election for two board trustees.

Debbie Stevens, one of the five candidates for the position, dropped a lawsuit against the village before a July 19 hearing. Stevens came in third with 178 votes, while New York City firefighter John Richardson won one seat with 195 votes and incumbent Jeff Koppelson the other with 180 votes.

Debbie Stevens

Stevens had disputed the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. She also had an issue with voters with dual residency being able to vote, and Mayor Dee Parrish’s son being an election inspector. Due to her challenging the election results, the Suffolk County Board of Election recanvassed ballots June 29.

Attorney Scott Middleton of Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP represented the village in the case. He said before the election Poquott’s village attorney called the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials and asked about residents who registered less than 10 days before the election and was under the impression that if a person was generally qualified to vote, taking into consideration that they were a U.S. citizen and met the age requirements, they could vote.

“It’s a village election,” Middleton said. “People aren’t thinking about an election in June, everybody thinks about November. Village elections are held in March or June. By the time [residents] are starting to think about it, and they want to exercise their right, if they just moved into the village, it may not be within that 10-day window. That’s why I think that the advisory opinion of NYCOM is that they can be permitted to vote as long as they qualify.”

Middleton said an elementary error in the lawsuit was that Stevens only named the village even though she was required to name all four candidates in it to proceed. Stevens said this was something she didn’t want to do, especially when it came to Richardson, who she ran with on the Peace Party ticket. If she won the lawsuit, a new election would need to take place.

“The corruption continues and that was really why I did this,” Stevens said. “It wasn’t to overturn the election.

I didn’t want that.”

Another factor in her decision to drop the case was the village cancelling meetings since the lawsuit was filed. The owner of Smoothe Laser Center and Medi Spa in East Setauket said she felt dropping the lawsuit was what’s best for the village.

“I’d rather opt for peace than justice,” Stevens said.

Richardson was sworn in as trustee July 12, while Koppelson took his oath July 19 after the lawsuit was dismissed. In an email, Koppelson said the board members accomplished a good amount at their July 20 meeting after not assembling for a few weeks.

“I have to say that the best thing about this meeting was that there seemed to be a desire among everyone to cooperate and stay task-oriented,” Koppelson said. “There were few if any contentious issues. I am optimistic that we can all work together, and if that happens, there will be little blowback from the residents who have been consistently oppositional, angry and disruptive.”

Stevens said she plans to continue attending village hall meetings, and hopes she can play her part in creating better communication between residents and the board members. For the last three years she feels residents have been extremely divided in Poquott.

Stevens said she has been thinking about next year’s election for two trustees and mayor.

“I’m not even sure of that answer,” she said when asked about running again. “I’m doing a lot of thinking. I know in my heart of hearts that I want what’s best for the village.”

After losing by two votes, newcomer is challenging validity of ballots

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

t seems the dust hasn’t settled yet after Poquott’s June 20 election for two trustee seats.

While challenger John Richardson emerged as a clear winner for one seat, it was a tight race between newcomer Debbie Stevens and incumbent Jeff Koppelson for the second spot. Stevens recently filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead to review the results.

Debbie Stevens

At the end of election night, Stevens had a slim lead over Koppelson before absentee and 10 contested votes were counted. Official results were delayed and not announced by the village until the next day, after election inspectors retained by the village and certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections completed the count at Poquott’s Village Hall. Koppelson was declared the winner with 180 votes, while Stevens received 178.

After Stevens challenged the results, the village brought the ballots to the headquarters of the board of elections in Yaphank June 29, where the votes were hand counted by board staff members and certified by  county election commissioners Nick LaLota (R) and  Anita Katz (D).

LaLota said the village clerk handed over the ballots to their bipartisan team, and they hand counted each ballot, and their results were the same as the village’s count. However, the board of elections was not involved in any decisions involving the disputed ballots.

Stevens’ attorney George Vlachos of George C. Vlachos & Associates in Central Islip, said the village was served with a show-cause order last week to appear in court. A hearing will be held in Riverhead July 19.

Vlachos, who was originally retained by Stevens and Richardson to monitor the election, said he and his client have taken issue with the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. He said all the votes, no matter when the voter registered, were counted.

Jeff Koppelson

The attorney said he also questions whether the ballots were secured after the polls closed. He said he was on hand at Village Hall until the end of the night June 20, and there were approximately five or six ballots that were mismarked and had to be interpreted as far as what the voters’ intents were. He said he only saw one of those ballots presented to the board of elections. The lawyer said he remembers one ballot the night of June 20 where a voter chose three candidates instead of two. Vlachos said that ballot was not brought to the board.

LaLota said he had heard about the mismarked ballots before the recount, but didn’t see any major issues.

“There were up to two ballots that required a minimal review by the bipartisan team, but they easily came to a conclusion,” he said.

Koppelson declined to comment until after the matter is resolved, and Vlachos requested his client not talk directly to the press.

Vlachos added that many people from the village have offered to pay for his services to get to the bottom of the matter.

“This may just be the tip of the iceberg,” the attorney said. “I’m doing whatever investigation I need to do. I’m not sure what’s going on in Poquott, but I’m going to find out.”

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

Poquott residents headed to the voting booths June 20 with concerns over a future community dock and a lack of communication between residents and the village board.

With five candidates to choose from for two trustee seats, incumbent Jeff Koppelson and newcomer John Richardson garnered the most votes with 180 and 195 votes, respectively. Challenger Debbie Stevens, who ran with Richardson on the Peace Party ticket, received 178, while incumbent Harold Berry had 170 and Angie Parlatore came in fifth with 28 votes.

Results of the election were not finalized until early Wednesday afternoon. Village clerk Joseph Newfield said there were 306 voters and 84 absentee ballots. The counting of the ballots continued late into the night and 10 absentee ballots were challenged. The village met with the Suffolk Board of Elections Wednesday at noon and all ballots were verified and counted.

In a previous interview with The Village Times Herald, Koppelson said he was hoping to continue the work he accomplished in his first two years, citing the repairing and repaving of roads in the village, beach cleanup and working on plans for the dock. He said he was satisfied with the work he had accomplished with the mayor and his fellow trustees. 

Jeff Koppelson

“We want to continue our progress,” Koppelson said. “We’ve made a lot of good progress along with the mayor. We have a mission with what we want to do with Poquott.”

Richardson, a New York City firefighter, said in a previous interview he felt there was a lack of transparency in the village, and he would like to be “a conduit for the village and the residents.”

He said his background as a firefighter would be an asset to the village. 

“I work in a firehouse with 14 people,” he said. “I can definitely say I’m a team player, I have good communication skills. I will stand by what my platform is.”

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

While this year’s Poquott Village election for two trustees may not be as contentious as years past, plenty of important community issues remain at the forefront for residents. Plans to build a community dock and communication between the board and villagers are at the top of the list.

During the June 20 election, residents will choose from five candidates to fill two available seats, including two incumbents — Harold Berry and Jeff Koppelson — and three newcomers — Angela Parlatore, Debbie Stevens and John Richardson.

John Richardson

The newcomers

Richardson, a New York City firefighter, and Stevens, owner of Smoothe Laser Center and Medi Spa in East Setauket, both said there is a lack of communication between the current village trustees and residents. The two are running under the Peace Party ticket and have signs around the village that read “Your Village, Your Decisions.”

“I think there has been a lack of transparency, and there has been a lack of public input,” Richardson said in a phone interview.

Stevens said when she attends village hall meetings, residents are given the opportunity to state their question or comment, but discussions rarely follow.

“In all the 26 years I’ve lived here, I have never felt such an air of such divisiveness,” Stevens said in a phone interview. “And I just want the opportunity to be the voice of the residents, and to bring back peace, and be on a board of trustees who will really listen to the residents’ concerns.”

Richardson, who has lived in Poquott for 16 years, said the village has felt polarized in recent years. He said residents haven’t been included in votes for plans that significantly affect their lives and homes. He said while meetings may be published in the paper, the trustees do not use their email system to notify residents as often as they should.

Debbie Stevens

To get approval to build a community dock, according to Richardson, residents were asked to fill out and return mailed surveys, rather than participate in a vote.

He said those that did not have a resident’s name on it were thrown out.

When it comes to the construction of a community dock, both feel there needs to be more input from residents.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what the Poquott residents think,” Stevens said.

Richardson said his background would be an asset to the village, and he wants to work with the mayor as “a conduit for the village and the residents.”

Stevens said her experiences as a business owner and her work with charities, which includes fundraising for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, are assets because she has the listening and communication skills to bring everyone together.

“I would really love to restore the communication between the Poquott residents and the board of trustees and the mayor,” she said.

Parlatore, a full-time patient care specialist and a resident of Poquott for 18 years, said she is the most neutral of all the candidates, as she is not aligned with anyone. However, like Richardson and Stevens she said communication is suffering in the village. She said when it comes to the dock no one is sure what the majority of the residents want. She said the survey prevented many from expressing their true opinions because it wasn’t anonymous, like a vote would have been.

Parlatore said she feels fortunate to live in Poquott and would like for it to continue to be a wonderful village to live in.

“I feel that I’m good at communicating with people and trying to find common ground between a group of people who are trying to aim in one direction,” she said.

The incumbents

Berry, a 33-year resident of Poquott, and Koppelson, a 45-year resident, are running under the Continuity ticket, and said they should be reelected because they get things done in the village.

Seeking his second term, Koppelson said he hopes the two can continue their progress with the other trustees as well as Mayor Dee Parrish. Berry, the village’s deputy mayor who is currently completing his second term as trustee, said the two plan to work on the community dock, continue improving village roads and cleaning up Poquott beaches among other projects.   

Harold Berry

Koppelson said the trustees have been making a number of improvements around the village while staying within the budget. According to the former psychiatric treatment program director, Poquott has had a budget surplus for the third year in a row.

When it comes to village roads, there have been many improvements as well as plans to resurface more roads in the near future, something Berry said was neglected before Parrish was mayor.

“For 12 years before Dee got in, roads and repairs were basically non-existent, they just weren’t done,” Berry said. “So the roads deteriorated greatly.”

Both candidates said they would be in favor of a community dock, which is still in the planning stages. The project would cost $150,000. Koppelson said while he understands some residents may not want their taxes to increase, he said the trustees can find other ways to pay for it. He said due to the surplus, village taxes will not increase significantly.

“The bottom line is we’ll be able to pay back the principle over the five years just out of the surplus we’re running and saving money by doing a lot of the work ourselves,” Koppelson said.

He also said community members organized an event and donated $16,000 towards paying for the dock, which will pay for the interest cost of the bond for the first two years.

Jeff Koppelson

Berry said the dock will  allow boaters and fisherman to easily pull up to it to load and unload their boats, unlike now when they must use a dinghy or kayak to get to their boat.

“The boaters and the fisherman are getting older,” Berry said. “It’s just a matter of ease of getting to your boat and safety.”

Koppelson said there are additional benefits to constructing a dock.

“It will be well used but also it will definitely increase real estate prices,” Koppelson said. “I really do think people will benefit from it in the long run.”

The two pushed back on the challengers’ claims village hall doesn’t properly communicate issues and upcoming votes to residents. In addition to sending out emails, Koppelson said the meetings are open and any hearings on a proposed law are published in The Village Times Herald for two consecutive weeks. Videos of the meetings are also posted on the village’s website the following day and minutes are voted on at the next meeting.

The Village of Poquott elections will be held at Poquott’s Village Hall, 45 Birchwood Avenue, June 20 from noon to 9 p.m.

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