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Town of Smithtown

Smithtown Animal Shelter faces public criticism of its kennel conditions. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The Town of Smithtown’s decision to shut down the Smithtown Animal Shelter’s Facebook page is the latest controversy to bombard the already problem-plagued center.

Smithtown resident John Urbancik openly criticized town councilmembers’ decision to take down the shelter’s Facebook page earlier this month at the Nov. 7 town board meeting.

“Before you took down the page, you weren’t promoting the animals,” Urbancik said at the board meeting. “Put it back up and promote the animals. If you want the animals out of there, you need to promote them.”

Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo (R) said the site has been temporarily taken offline alleging that public commenters harassed and cyberbullied town employes by claiming they had failed to provide adequate care for the shelter’s animals.

Shelter dog Dinah was recently adopted. Photo from George Speakman

“It was destroying the self-esteem of the staff who work there every day,” she said. “It’s been shattered with this negativity. It’s hurting our adoption success. It’s hurting the animals. It’s a few people who start these rumors that go all over about the shelter, but they aren’t thinking about the animals.”

Over the last two years, the Smithtown Animal Shelter has been plagued by a series of problems. Former director James Beatty resigned in May 2015, after more than 30 years running the shelter, following months of accusations by Smithtown residents of his animal neglect and cruelty. He was replaced by Rocky Point resident Sue Hansen, who was fired by the town in July 2017 on charges of incompetence and mismanagement which led to a deterioration of the animals’ living conditions.

Urbancik said in a telephone interview with TBR News Media Nov. 10 that the shutdown of the shelter’s Facebook page wasn’t over harassment or bullying, but rather a calculated effort to silence public outcry. He claimed the shelter’s dogs are being neglected, citing they are being left locked inside unclean kennels.

Urbancik has started several Facebook pages of his own to draw attention to his problems with operation of the shelter including “Smithtown Animal Shelter needs a director” with more than 700 followers and “Remove Public Safety from Smithtown Animal Shelter” with more than 70 followers as of time of this publication.

The Smithtown Animal Shelter Facebook page comments, Urbancik’s social media posts, along with others made by animal activists concerned over conditions at the Smithtown shelter, caught the attention of New Jersey resident George Speakman.

The self-professed dog lover traveled more than two and a half hours Nov. 12 after hearing rumors the shelters’ vet was operating without anesthesia and all dogs in the shelter would be euthanized by December.

“I saw the Facebook page before it went down; it was one of the main reasons I decided to travel up to New York to take a look — I wanted to see for myself,” Speakman said. “If it was the way it was described on Facebook, I would have sat outside that shelter and protested.”

“I walked out of there with the impression that these people do nothing but love and care for these animals.”

— George Speakman 

Upon arriving, he said he met with the shelter’s veterinarian, Dr. Susan Zollo, and a kennel attendant.

“I told them about the stories I had heard, and for my own peace of mind, asked if I can look around and see the shelter,” he said. “She was more than happy to accommodate me.”

Speakman said he toured the facility and took a video recording of the kennels and dog park before deciding to adopt Dinah, a female bull terrier and corgi mix who has been a long-term resident of the shelter.

“I walked out of there with the impression that these people do nothing but love and care for these animals,” he said, saying he would highly recommend local residents visit themselves. “They bend over backwards for them.”

Smithtown resident Vicki Feuerstein, a volunteer of the shelter since it was under Beatty’s leadership, said there have been positive changes in recent months at the shelter with proactive leadership and the remaining staff responsible and dedicated to their jobs.

“You have the backbone to make it a really good shelter,” she said.

Feuerstein admitted there is still room for improvement as dogs are spending too much time in their kennels, largely due to a shortage of kennel staff.

“I would love to see more kennel staff, that really affects the life of the dogs,” she said. “ Also, an animal behaviorist.”

Councilwoman Inzerillo admitted the town only has two full-time employees at the shelter, after recent efforts to clean house of troublesome employees. She said there have been conversations with supervisor-elect Ed Wehrheim (R) about hiring two additional kennel staff members once he takes office. In addition, Inzerillo said the town has started extensive renovations to improve the dated shelter.

“We are focusing on moving forward,” she said. “We can’t focus on the negativity. I encourage residents to go and visit the place.”

New York voters will decide whether or not to open up the New York Constitution on Election Day. Stock image

Follow @TBRNewspapers or check #TBRVotes on Twitter for our reporters’ on-the-ground and up-to-the-minute coverage of tonight’s election results.

Proposal 1: Constitutional Convention

Yes: 13.38%            No: 86.61%

Proposal 2: Amendment on public pension forfeiture

Yes: 69.19%            No: 30.8%

Proposal 3: Amendment on use of forest preserve land

Yes: 48.63%            No: 51.36%

 

Suffolk County District Attorney

    Ray Perini (R)               Tim Sini (D)
        36.41%                        62.08%

 

Suffolk County Sheriff

 Larry Zacarese (R)      Errol Toulon Jr. (D)
         48.93%                        49.41%

 

Suffolk County Legislator
5th District:
    Kara Hahn (D)              Ed Flood (R)
       63.39%                         36.56%

 

6th District:   
    Sarah Anker (D)      Gary Pollakusky (R)
          54.93%                       45.02%

 

12th District:
Leslie Kennedy (R)        Kevin Hyms (D)
         67.4%                         32.55%
13th District:
      Rob Trotta (R)        Coleen Maher (D)
           67.62%                     32.32%
16th District:
 Susan Berland (D)      Hector Gavilla (R)
          54.93%                      45.03%
18th District:

William Spencer (D)      Dom Spada (R)
          53.12%                      45.65%

Town of Brookhaven

Supervisor

  Ed Romaine (R)        Jack Harrington (D)
        61.91%                        38.06%

 

Councilperson
1st District:

Valerie Cartright (D)   James Canale (R)
          60.3%                      39.66%
2nd District:

   Jane Bonner (C)        Mike Goodman (D)
         63.53%                       36.42%
3rd District:

  Kevin LaValle (R)       Alfred Ianacci (D)
         65.52%                       33.98%

 

Highway Superintendent

Dan Losquadro (R)     Anthony Portesy (D)
         60.32%                      39.65%

 

Town Clerk

    Donna Lent (I)         Cindy Morris (D)
          57.26%                      42.36%

Town of Huntington

Supervisor
Tracey Edwards (D)    Chad Lupinacci (R)
         43.87%                       53.85%

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards conceded to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. “I want to wish supervisor-elect Lupinacci congratulations on a hard-fought race,” she said. “I have no regrets about not running for town board. I could not be prouder [of my party]. We ran together and ran a positive race talking about issues important to us.”

Town Board

Mark Cuthbertson (D)    Emily Rogan (D)
         25.49%                        23.91%

   Jim Leonick (R)             Ed Smyth (R)
          24.92%                        25.6%

Emily Rogan on her loss in her first political race: “Not the way we waned, but I feel so blessed and full of gratitude,” she said. “This is one election. We are not done yet.”

 

Town of Smithtown

Supervisor

  Ed Wehrheim (R)        Kristen Slevin (I)
          56.79%                       7.85%

 

     Bill Holst (D)
          35.07%

“I feel terrific,” Ed Wehrheim said of winning. “It’s been a long, long campaign because of the primary, which was a very tough one, but this is the culmination of all of it. It feels great to be here with all my supporters and family and friends — they’ve been with me the whole way. It’s a great victory for Smithtown in my opinion, a great victory for my supporters and the residents. I’m looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and getting to work in January.”

Town Council

 Tom McCarthy (R)      Lynne Nowick (R)
        22.45%                       24.45%

    Bob Doyle (C)           Tom Lohmann (C)
           9.63%                        9.18%

Amy Fortunato (D)    Patricia Stoddard (D)
         17.62%                      16.44%

All percentages are unofficial results as per the Suffolk County Board of Elections

The Town of Smithtown will have a different look in 2018. File photo by Phil Corso
Tom McCarthy. Photo by Kevin Redding

Voters will have six diverse options when they step into the voting booth to select two candidates to represent them on Smithtown Town Board Nov. 7.

In a sit-down Oct. 26 at the TBR News Media office in Setauket, the six candidates stated their positions on downtown revitalization, traffic and what the biggest issue the town faces looking ahead to 2018.

Incumbent Councilman Thomas McCarthy (R), who is also the deputy town supervisor was first elected to the board in 1997. Incumbent Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R), a St. James resident and former Suffolk legislator for 12 years, is also seeking re-election.

Lynne Nowick. Photo by Kevin Redding

McCarthy and Nowick said they are proud of the work they have done to push forward the downtown revitalization of Lake Avenue in St. James. The issue in other areas, the incumbents said, is sewers for the town’s business districts. With New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) promising $40 million in state funds, it’s a project they said is slowly but steadily moving forward.

“We need to continue what we are doing,” McCarthy said. “We have a five-year plan that is the best five-year plan we’ve ever had.”

During her first term in office, Nowick said residents have reached out to her primarily regarding quality of life issues. If re-elected, she said she plans to focus on addressing the continuous need to improve the town’s roadways, sidewalks, parks and beaches; areas where she feels she can make a difference, as she said her ability to push revitalization is limited.

“I am frustrated with the landlords of these [downtown] buildings,” Nowick said. “We can’t have a community that’s alive unless the buildings have stores. What can we do to entice the landlords to bring in new businesses?”

Bob Doyle. Photo by Kevin Redding

Their Republican primary challengers have kept their names on the ballot because they said they believe the town needs sweeping change. Nesconset resident Bob Doyle, who served for more than 37 years in law enforcement and is a U.S. Army veteran, has joined with Tom Lohmann, of Smithtown, a former member of the New York City Police Department and current investigator for the county district attorney’s  insurance crime bureau. The pair is still running on the Conservative party line.

“First and foremost, the first thing you have to do is a comprehensive master plan done with the inclusion of the community,” Lohmann said. “By far, the biggest topics of concern are the downtown business district is dying and traffic.”

Tom Lohman. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Conservative candidates, if elected, said they want to update the town’s comprehensive master plan to include all hamlets, in consultation with civic groups and local businesses. Lohmann said to do this he would start up quarterly community meetings in different hamlets so town officials could sit down with residents to hear concerns and get feedback. Doyle vowed to seek a traffic study in conjunction with state and county officials, using the latest technology to find a solution to improve flow on Smithtown’s roadways.

“Traffic, bar none, is the biggest issue,” Doyle said. “Residents are extremely frustrated with the flow of traffic in Smithtown.”

His sentiments were echoed by Nowick and two other challengers.

Democratic candidates Amy Fortunato, a Smithtown resident of 30 years, and Patricia Stoddard, a retired Smithtown school district teacher, are both eyeing seats on the town board. They said the main issues of Smithtown are downtown revitalization, traffic and government reform, much like their opponents.

Amy Fortunato. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I think we need an overall town survey,” Fortunato said. “What type of stores do we want? What do we want to see downtown? We need a comprehensive master plan that would distinguish the business district using town code.”

McCarthy countered that there is funding proposed to be set aside in both 2018 and 2019 to help update and overhaul the town’s codes, which have not been updated in decades.

However, Stoddard said the need to update town code is similar to the need to update the town’s master plan — something citizens have begun on their own.

Patricia Stoddard. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We need a master plan so we have something to build toward,” Stoddard said, pointing to Smithtown United Civic Association’s recently released draft proposal that focused on the district’s New York Avenue building. “It seems like a really good start using smart growth.”

Both Democratic candidates said the Smithtown town board has been more adversarial than cooperative, with town board meeting agendas being difficult to understand and public details on capital projects hard to come by. They vowed to improve transparency through increased communications on the town website and social media.

The two candidates elected to the town board will each serve a four-year term and receive an annual salary of $68,500 based on the proposed 2018 budget, posted on the town’s website.

Smithtown councilman Edward Wehrheim, Independent candidate Kristen Slevin and Democratic candidate William Holst are racing for Smithtown supervisor Nov. 7. Photos by Alex Petroski

As a promise of change hangs over the Smithtown supervisor election, residents will have three very different options when they enter the voting booth Nov. 7.

On the heels of his victory over 40-year incumbent Pat Vecchio in the Republican primary in September, Councilman Edward Wehrheim (R) faces off against Democratic candidate William Holst — an assistant county attorney and former Suffolk County Legislator — and Independent candidate Kristen Slevin — a local business owner and political newcomer — as the race for the top position enters its final stretch.

The three candidates sat down at the TBR News Media office in Setauket Oct. 19 to discuss their stances on a variety of Smithtown-related issues.

Wehrheim, a lifelong Smithtown resident who has voiced his discontentment with the way Vecchio has run town hall for the past five years, is halfway through his fourth term on the board. He vows to get more work done than his predecessor, if elected, and proposed all  elected town officials be considered full-time employees.

Pat Vecchio. File photo

Wehrheim said he will hit the ground running and work diligently to make sure long-dormant downtown revitalization initiatives — like bringing sewers to Kings Park, apartments to Smithtown  and working with civic groups to turn the New York Avenue school property into something fitting for the town  — are pushed forward as quickly as possible.

Wehrheim also wants to make Smithtown’s government more transparent for residents.

“We need to have information or public relations officers there so the public has more access to the work sessions and they know what’s going on,” he said. “Right now, it’s not clear what’s going on in the agendas. The agenda has 75 items, labeled A to ZZ, and nobody understands that. We need more clarification. Whoever is elected to supervisor has to do what’s right for the community.”

Admitting that Smithtown has “a very closed board,” the Republican candidate said he will advocate for more teamwork and openness to allow board members to push legislation of their own. He proposed a business advisory council made up of members from the chamber of commerce, civic groups and local businesses to make new development plans.

“The problem, though, has been that the current town board and the supervisor, in particular, either do nothing or come up with plans that are totally unrealistic in terms of what is appropriate for the area,” Holst said in response to the town’s lack of downtown revitalization. “I think it takes somebody with my background — one who understands land use, knows what is going to be possible in a certain area and has a sense of community.”

Holst, who was president of the Smithtown school district board from 1992 to 1993, touted his experience consolidating two high schools into one to fix declining enrollment. He said, similarly, in downtown Smithtown, “you have to sell off existing [town] buildings and consolidate them to New York Avenue.”

The Democrat also cited that he created the Downtown Revitalization Citizens Advisory Panel during his term in the Suffolk County legislature  representing the 12th district. As a former vice president and president of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce,  Holst said he worked to get paved public parking behind stores on the north side of Main Street — an example of his revitalization experience.

“I think I’m the best person for the job to get people to come to a consensus and make things happen,” Holst said.

He questioned the commitment of Slevin, the 40-year-old owner of Yottabyte Craft Chocolate and Candy in Smithtown, who got on the ballot after gathering more than 1,500 voter signatures across party lines this past summer. She has freely admitted to never setting foot inside town hall.

“I’m an outsider — a regular person,” Slevin said. “When I decided I wanted to get involved with the town, I started watching everything online.”

The Town of Smithtown will have a different look in 2018.
File photo by Phil Corso

Slevin said she never entered this race thinking she would actually win but is proud to be a voice for the 75 percent of people, mostly young adults, who don’t vote in the local elections or involve themselves in politics at all. She pointed to Vecchio’s reign as “a perfect example” of depriving an entire generation of the opportunity to lead and bring new ideas forward.

It’s [not that] my generation that doesn’t care about local politics. It’s because we’re taking care of our kids, our parents, struggling to hold onto a job, continuing our education, and getting advanced degrees,” she said. “When you have [Vecchio] running the town for 40 years, — my entire life — you just take it for granted. Then one day, you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, the whole house is falling down. How did I miss it?’

If elected, she wants to implement term limits and proposed council districts for   board members to improve elected officials’ accountability. Slevin said she’d like to see Smithtown be, “a small town USA that maximizes our spot on the Washington Spy Trail” with elements of Sag Harbor and Northport Village — mixed communities that are walkable, bikeable and pet-friendly.”

Even if she is not elected, she hopes any and all Republicans and Democrats out there feeling disenfranchised by local governments continue to stay active in their parties.

The three candidates stood on common ground in regard to the prevalence of opioid and heroin in the town. Wehrheim said local government has a role in it and plans to make education seminars and hearings on the topic mandatory among town council members, while Holst agreed it was a problem that needed to be addressed.

Slevin said although in Smithtown “we don’t talk about these things,” she’s glad there has been an open dialogue on it within the last year. She wants to not only address people’s access to the drugs but also the psychology behind why they’re taking them.

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The issue of the newspaper that you now hold in your hands or are reading on an electronic device is an annual superstar. Only once in each year do we publish a comprehensive preelection section that speaks to the upcoming races. We invite the opponents together to our offices for each local race and pepper them with questions until we feel we have a good handle on them. This section is the distillation of many hours of interviews with the candidates and follow-up research, putting together the information that we are privileged to learn. Then we share that information with you.

We go even further. After careful consideration, sometimes over a period of many days, we will come to a conclusion as to whom to vote for and tell you what we think and why. These are our endorsements and may be found on the editorial pages in the back of the paper. We also include a sample ballot so you can walk into your polling place and know the layout on which you will mark your choices.

We are the only community newspapers that span three towns in Suffolk: Brookhaven, Smithtown and Huntington. So as you can imagine, there are a good number of races in which we need to be involved. In two of these towns, there will be a new day for there are open seats at the top of the ticket for the first time in more than a score of years. In Huntington, longtime Supervisor Frank Petrone decided not to run again, and so Edwards is giving up her seat on the town board, as she and state Assemblyman Lupinacci compete to lead the town. Candidates for the two town board seats are incumbent Cuthbertson and challengers Smyth, Leonick and Rogan. Berland, too, is leaving her seat on the board and trying for a Suffolk County legislative seat, running against Gavilla. Kennedy is challenged by Hyms for her seat in the legislature.

Smithtown Township has the same open top position since Vecchio lost the Republican primary and will not be running for supervisor for the first time in 40 years. Instead the residents will have Holst, Wehrheim or Slevin as their new leader. The voters will also choose two board members among Fortunato, Doyle, McCarthy, Nowick, Lohmann and Stoddard.

Brookhaven, in contrast, has no open seats but plenty of competition. Incumbent Romaine is facing a challenge from Harrington for supervisor. In our coverage district, incumbent Councilwoman Cartright is running against challenger Canale, and incumbent Bonner is being opposed by Goodman. For the county Legislature in our Brookhaven area, we have incumbent Anker versus Pollakusky and incumbent Hahn challenged by Flood. Also in play is the Brookhaven Town superintendent of highways position, as incumbent Dan Losquadro is challenged by Portesy.

Two of the most closely watched contests in Suffolk County are for district attorney and sheriff. Both of those positions are open seats. Police Commissioner Sini is running against Perini for DA and Stony Brook University Deputy Police Chief Zacarese is opposed by Toulon in the race for sheriff.

On top of our usual duties at TBR News Media, we interviewed them all. It was exhausting but exhilarating, as we learned more than we already knew from the incumbents and a great deal about the challengers. We heard about the issues that are on the minds of the North Shore community. The electorate is concerned about the escalating opioid epidemic that is killing hundreds, particularly of our younger people. Residents also continue to be frustrated about high property taxes, public safety — especially as it relates to the insidious growth of gangs, the traffic in Smithtown, the homeless in Brookhaven and the brain drain that is the result of not enough high-paying jobs and affordable housing.

We also tell you our opinion of a constitutional convention. We oppose it, fearing a Pandora’s box containing many evils.

We are always impressed that residents will come forward to run for public office. Campaigns are a lot of work, and being a public servant has its tribulations. This year, more than most others, we are further impressed by the high quality of candidates. We urge you to do one of the two things you are allowed only if you are an American citizen. Please be sure to VOTE.

P.S. The other is to serve on a jury.

A rendering of the proposed Country Pointe Woods development, if state approval is given to build in Smithtown. Photo from Beechwood Organization

By Kevin Redding

The remains of a demolished hospital on the northwest corner of Routes 347 and 111 could soon become the site of Smithtown’s newest residential community for all ages.

A Jericho-based residential developer, the Beechwood Organization, has proposed plans to build Country Pointe Woods, a 69-unit condominium community on the property of the former Smithtown General Hospital. The hospital was shut down in 1999 and the land has been vacant since then. For more than a decade, various developers have eyed the abandoned lot — seen by some residents as an eyesore — as the potential site of their projects, but all plans up until Beechwood’s have fallen through.

The award-winning home builder’s proposal was approved by Smithtown Town Board at its July 12 meeting and is currently under review by the New York State Attorney General’s Office. If approved, the developer would construct villas and townhomes with a starting price tag of $600,000. The units within the community range in living space sizes from 1,395 square feet to more than 2,400 square feet. The site plan  also includes  a 1,500-square-foot clubhouse with a fitness center, lounge, outdoor pool, sun deck and gated entrance, as well as lawn maintenance and snow removal.

Of the 69 homes proposed, the plans call for 56 units,  or approximately 80 percent, to be age-restricted to buyers 55 and older. The remaining 13 units, or 20 percent, will be open to all ages, according to the developer.

If approved by the state, pre-construction sales will begin offsite at Country Pointe Huntington sales center in November with first occupancy slated for summer 2018.

“Country Pointe Woods in Smithtown gives those who are just starting, downsizing or working nearby the benefits of condominium living in a central North Shore location,” said Michael Dubb, CEO and founder of the Beechwood Organization, in a press release. “They will have brand new energy-efficient homes built to our signature quality construction with the amenities our buyers tell us they value the most.”

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R), who voted to approve Country Pointe Woods’ site plan application in July, said condominiums are needed in the town.

“Frankly, we have a fair number of homeowners that are emptynesters, whose
children have all grown up or gone to college [or are ] in the workforce,” Wehrheim said. “I get at least a couple calls a month asking me where they’re developing nice condos because they all want to sell their single-family home and move into them.”

During the town board’s meeting over the summer, it was discussed that the abandoned sewage treatment plant on the grounds of the former hospital had been removed and most of the site was cleared for development.

The application was approved under several standard conditions and requirements, such as building permits from the town and the installation of a fence along tree-clearing limits.

Residents on a closed Smithtown-oriented Facebook group were mixed on the proposal. While some applauded the development’s proposed location, others voiced concerns over it.

“Traffic was always an issue with either entrance to the hospital and I don’t see how it could be any better with condos,” said Lee Buxton Brooks, a former Smithtown General employee. “The intersection doesn’t need any more traffic because it can’t handle what it has now.”

But James Brako-McComb spoke in favor of the proposal.

“Higher density developments like these are the types of developments we need to keep millennials on the island,” Brako-McComb wrote.

Steve Gardella, too, spoke up for young adults who might occupy some of the condominiums.

“If you don’t want traffic — people who stimulate the economy and help make the town what it is — then continue to allow Smithtown to die and lose its citizens to towns that aren’t stuck in the 1950s,” Gardella said.

Susan Mahoney said the development’s demographic is crucial to the town’s survival.

“The older generation are people that you want to keep here since most of them will spend their money in restaurants, theaters, etc.” Mahoney said. “And it is better than that ugly lot.”

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio presented the town's 2018 tentative operating budget this week. File photo by Susan Risoli

Smithtown homeowners may find themselves in an enviable position as Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) looks to cut taxes for the second straight year.

Vecchio presented his $105 million 2018 proposed Smithtown Town budget at a brief 46-second special town board meeting Oct. 3. There was no public discussion of the budget, as town board members were seeing the nearly 200-page document for the first time.

“Ostensibly, the proposed budget is now theirs; the [town board] can change it or do anything with it they would like,” Vecchio said. “My experience is that they’ve never changed it.”

Overall, the proposed budget contains an increase of $2 million over the 2017 budget, but will reduce the town taxes for the average homeowner by $1.05, down from $1,269.88 per year to $1,268.83 per year for a home with an assessed value of $5,500. It falls well under the state tax cap of 1.84 percent.

Vecchio said he prepared a structurally balanced budget in which incoming revenues match the recurring expenditures, a measure he achieved by implementing cost cutting initiatives and long-range planning.

First and foremost, the supervisor pointed to careful control of town employees’ salaries.

“We have not replaced employees who have retired,” the supervisor said. “When we do rehire employees, we rehire them at a lower salary.”

While positions have been lost through attrition, the 2018 budget does not call for the layoff of any existing town personnel.

Smithtown town officials also gradually implemented a new policy of leasing
vehicles used by various departments, such as parks and highways, instead of outright purchasing them.

“It’s saved us a lot of money,” Vecchio said. “There’s a big outlay when purchasing a vehicle for a municipality, plus then there’s maintenance.”

Other cost-saving measures taken by the town include replacing streetlights with LED lights and sharing services for emergency dispatching, according to the supervisor.

The proposed budget has set aside $4.4 million for the 2018 road program, which in addition to $1.1 million in state funding, will allow for road improvements and repaving over the upcoming year.

Vecchio said the town is in a good fiscal position with a Triple A bond rating and a $17 million surplus in its general fund.

“What’s the benefit, residents might ask, of having a $17 million surplus?” he said. “The benefit of having that money in surplus is your bond rating. Your interest rates on bonds are always lower when you
have reserves.”

The supervisor has proposed allocating $600,000 of the town’s surplus funds towards the highway budget to supplement continued roadway improvements. A similar measure was approved in the 2017 budget which appropriated $602,000 for roadways and later approved $2 million specifically for improvements to Lake
Avenue in Smithtown.

A public hearing on the 2018 proposed budget will be held at the town board meeting on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Residents can review a line-by-line budget breakdown on the town’s website at www.smithtownny.gov.

Owl Hill estate is located south of Sunken Meadow State Park in Fort Salonga. Photo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Standing for decades as the hamlet’s best-kept secret, an old, secluded manor nestled within a sprawling stretch of property in Fort Salonga has come out of hiding — with a price tag of $6.45 million.

The Owl Hill estate, located at 99 Sunken Meadow Road, spans 27.63 acres and is the largest parcel of 1-acre residential-zoned land in Suffolk County. It is up for sale for the first time in more than six decades. It’s now the most expensive property in Fort Salonga.

Owl Hill estate, a 6,500-square-foot home in Fort Salonga, was built at the turn of the 19th century and includes features such as a library. Photo from Douglas Elliman Real Estate

The 6,500-square-foot home, whose construction began in 1897 and doors opened in 1903, sits surrounded by a serene haven of wooded forest and towering oak trees. The house has been occupied, and maintained, by the same Manhattan-based family for more than half a century as a summer and weekend residence. Maya Ryan, the current owner, who was unable to be reached for comment, recently decided it was time to pass the property onto another family or developer — according to Owl Hill’s listing agent Kelley
Taylor, of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Taylor said she’s lived around the corner from the property for more than 20 years and never heard of it until recently.

“That’s where the ‘hidden’ comes from in hidden gem,” Taylor said, calling the Owl Hills house one of a kind. “It’s pretty remarkable — like nothing you’d expect to see in Suffolk County or on Long Island. It’s never been developed on.”

The palatial estate, which the listing agent compared to Theodore Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill home in Oyster Bay, is only 50 miles from New York City and contains more than 20 acres of completely untouched land. There hasn’t been a single renovation to the property since the 1940s when its
occupants expanded the kitchen.

The interior of the home speaks to the architectural elegance of a bygone era with original tiger oak and mahogany hardwood floors. There are five en suite master bedrooms and three staff bedrooms, with a soaring fireplace in each, as well as an expansive music/living room, a wood-paneled dining room and a massive basement. Outside, there’s a wrap-around porch and a two-car garage, all within what Taylor calls a magical forest.

It’s pretty remarkable — like nothing you’d expect to see in Suffolk County or on Long Island. It’s never been developed on.”

—Kelley Taylor

As for potential buyers, she said she’s seen a majority of interest from developers, including one evaluating the property as the site of a 55 and better community. But, she said, the owner has preserved  3.75 acres of the property under New York State’s Transfer of Development Rights.

“A big family would certainly love the generousness of the estate, as would anyone who appreciates the particular beauties of well-made historic homes,” said Dawn Watson, public relations manager at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “It’s quite extraordinary and the parklike property is expansive and lush.”

In March, the Town of Smithtown and the county raised a $1 million grant to be used to preserve a portion of the Owl Hill property for open space.

Smithtown scholar Corey Victoria Geske said although the property has been around so long, there still isn’t a lot of information in regards to its historical details.

“Owl Hill is another example of beautiful architecture in Smithtown for which the architect, to my knowledge, is as yet unknown,” Geske said. “This is the kind of house that deserves that kind of research attention because it’s so special with regards to interior detail and its location, built high on the hills of Fort Salonga.”

The Town of Smithtown will have a different look in 2018. File photo by Phil Corso

No clear winner has emerged in the Smithtown Republican primary for town supervisor as a narrow 39-vote margin at the close of polls Sept. 12 left the outcome undecided, pending a count of absentee ballots.

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) holds a razor-thin lead on incumbent town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R), 2,822 votes to 2,783, in the unofficial election results posted Sept. 13 by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

“By definition, it’s too close to call,” said Nick LaLota, the Republican commissioner for the county board of elections. “The number of paper ballots outstanding exceeds the margin of victory by machine. It is literally too close to call.”

LaLota said the board of elections has received 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have been postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

“I am confident that we will remain victorious once they are opened,” Wehrheim said Wednesday morning.

The councilman said his campaign, along with Smithtown Republican Committee Chairman Bill Ellis, ran an extensive absentee voter outreach campaign leading up to the primary race.

“A lot is going to depend on how the absentee ballots go,” Ellis said in a phone interview. “We worked aggressively and I believe a lot of the absentees we had contact with voted for the entire team.”

LaLota said he anticipates by Sept. 25 the Suffolk County Board of Elections will have all the voting machines and paper ballots to be checked, and will have given sufficient notice to both campaigns in order to begin counting absentee votes.

The process of counting paper ballots involves opening each absentee envelope, allowing the ballot to be reviewed by a board of elections inspector and campaign observers, potentially including attorneys representing the campaigns. If there are any objections to the validity of a ballot it will be recorded.

The final outcome of the primary race may remain unknown until late September.

“With 300-plus ballots, I’d assume it’s going to take a few days,” LaLota said. “Attorneys have been known to gum up the process.”

Vecchio wrote the primary’s outcome was “still questionable” in an email statement, and that he was uncertain about the odds of being declared the Republican candidate after the absentee ballots were counted.

This is not the first time Vecchio has been challenged by his own party in a primary for town supervisor. In 2013, he faced off against former town councilman Robert Creighton (R) and prior to that, Jane Conway in 2005. In both of these primaries, Vecchio had a decisive victory at the polls.

“Against both Jane Conway and Bob Creighton, the results were substantially in Mr. Vecchio’s favor,” Ellis said. “Never has he lost on the [voting] machines to anyone.”

If Wehrheim remains victorious, he will be running for Smithtown town supervisor on the Republican, Conservative and Independent party lines in November.

Wehrheim currently has approximately $59,000 available in his war chest to spend on the general election, according to the 11-day pre-primary financial disclosure report filed with New York State Board of Elections.

“We won’t start campaigning until [the absentee ballots] are opened,” Wehrheim said. “Once they are open and the decision is finalized, then we will begin to carry on for the general election if we are the successful candidate.”

The winner of the Republican town supervisor primary will face off Nov. 7 against Democratic Party candidate William Holst and Kristen Slevin, running under her own None of the Above campaign.

Smithtown Town Hall. File photo

Four Republican candidates — two incumbents and two challengers — are ready to face off Sept. 12 to get their name on the party line this November. There are two seats that are up for grabs on the Smithtown town council, each for a four-year term.

Bob Doyle. Photo by Nicole Garguilo

Bob Doyle

Doyle, 66, of Nesconset, has 37 years in law enforcement under his belt. He  is a former Suffolk homicide detective and served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. He created what became the Suffolk County gang task force and has spent most of his career bringing MS-13 gang members to justice.

As president of the Country Pointe Homeowners Association, he  has experience running a large sewer treatment plant. Doyle said he is determined to bring sewers to the three downtown hamlets.

If elected, Doyle said he wants to restore the town’s infrastructure — including its curving roads and sidewalks — bring in smart business development to the downtown areas, and create a more transparent town board.

“Don’t you want to elect a new team that has the leadership, the vision and the energy to accomplish that?” Doyle said. “I’m hoping, ultimately for a clean slate because we need to get the job done for the citizens of Smithtown. I’m ready to hit the ground running once I’m sworn in.”

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

Tom Lohmann

The former member of the New York City Police Department and current investigator for the county district attorney’s  insurance crime bureau said he’s stepping into the political arena for the first time because he’s unhappy with how his town’s government has operated in recent years.

“Smithtown used to be the town that most townships wanted to emulate,” Lohmann, 59, a Smithtown native, said. “We had bustling downtown districts and it was just a great community. But over the years, I don’t think the town has kept up with the influx of people and our streets, ball fields and marinas are not what they once were.”

Lohmann said he hopes for a more transparent, committed and cohesive town board if elected.

“We still don’t even have sewer systems,” he said. “In good conscience, I was no longer going to stand by. I have the work experience and leadership to do things. I’ve always been a doer and the time for talking is over, it’s now the time for action.”

Tom McCarthy. File photo

Tom McCarthy

McCarthy, a former local business owner who has served on the town board since 1998, wears a lot of hats at town hall. He has spearheaded multiple recent projects, such as planting more than 100 trees throughout Smithtown, pushing the infrastructural rebuilding of Lake Avenue in St. James, and has been evaluating the possible purchase of the administrative building from the Smithtown school district.

The Nesconset native also serves as deputy town supervisor and is actively working to develop sewers with $40 million in state funds, which will be split between Kings Park and Smithtown.

He said he would look forward to another four years on the board with Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and Nowick.

“We just want to continue making Smithtown greater,” McCarthy said. “Financially, we’re in the best shape the town has ever been in, we have a triple A bond rating, and a tax decrease coming up in 2018. There’s so much positive going on right now and it is not time for a change.”

Lynn Nowick. File photo

Lynn Nowick

A lifelong resident of St. James, Nowick, a former county legislator and tax receiver for Smithtown, followed in the footsteps of her father, the late Councilman Eugene Cannataro (R), when she ran and was elected to the town board in 2013.

In her 22 years as an elected official, Nowick said she has been a strong advocate for open space and preservation, in areas like Head of the Harbor and the Nissequogue River. She championed much of the current sewer project and revitalization efforts in Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James.

If elected, Nowick said she wants to continue to keep taxes low, get sewers into the downtown areas and maintain Smithtown’s quality of life — which she considers to be a major priority among residents.

“When it comes down to it, it’s about the parks, the beaches, the golf courses, sidewalks, roads, and if we can get sewers and our downtowns back up, it’s going to be a bonanza for the town,” Nowick said.

Go Vote

Polls will be open for primaries Sept. 12, 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. Town of Smithtown residents are eligible to vote in the town council race if: you are a registered Republican, are at least 18 years old, have lived at your current address at least 30 days before the election, and not been in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

To double check if you are registered to vote, check on the state’s website at voterlookup.elections.state.ny.us/votersearch.aspx.

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