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Town of Smithtown

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

By David Luces

The Town of Smithtown has received nearly $100,000 in grant funding it will use for critical infrastructural projects to improve the area’s water quality and revitalize downtown business districts.

Smithtown officials received notice at the end of December 2018 it received $97,375 from the Regional Economic Development Council of Long Island. The majority of the funding will be used for a stormwater management plan to protect Stony Brook Harbor and approximately one quarter will be used to further the town’s revitalization plans for St. James.

“”We’re excited to begin implementing these studies and we couldn’t be more grateful for the many ways this funding will benefit our residents.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The bulk of the grant,  $72,375, will be used to undertake a stormwater management feasibility study for the town-owned Cordwood Park off Harbor Road in Smithtown. Working together with the villages of Head of the Harbor and Nissequogue, the town looks to continue the preservation of the water quality in Stony Brook Harbor by creating and then implementing new stormwater and erosion control plans.   

Russell Barnett, the town’s environmental protection director, said stormwater runoff has always been a concern because of the high likelihood of contaminants in the water.

“Stormwater carries everything with it,” he said. “It’s important to protect the quality of water in the harbor.”

Barnett said Stony Brook Harbor is the cleanest harbor on the North Shore of Long Island and many people use it for boating, fishing and bird watching. As part of the study, he hopes to capture stormwater for testing, accurately map stormwater routes, improve drainage infrastructure and look to protect the natural river bed from further erosion.   

“This has been an issue for quite some time,” Barnett said. “We have the funds now to study the situation and hopefully fix the problem.”

This is an opportunity for residents to have voices heard on how they would want their communities to look like in the future.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town also received a $25,000 grant for its St. James Visioning Study, whose aim is to economically and visually revitalize the business district and restore its place as a cultural and social hub of the community.

“We’re excited to begin implementing these studies and we couldn’t be more grateful for the many ways this funding will benefit our residents,” Supervisor Edward Wehrheim (R) said in a press release.

In conjunction with the visioning study, the town is making plans for community outreach that include input on the modernizing of town and hamlet zoning maps. The future plans intend to shape the physical, social, environmental and economic future of these communities.

Town spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said the Smithtown council members are looking for help from the community.

“This is an opportunity for residents to have voices heard on how they would want their communities to look like in the future,” Garguilo said. “This is their chance to have the ultimate say.”

In addition to these projects, the town hopes to organize community engagement meetings this spring where residents will be encouraged to voice their opinions on various topics including changing zoning, modernizing master plans for each hamlet and future town development.

A screenshot of the Town of Smithtown's website as it appeared Jan. 8.

By David Luces

Town of Smithtown officials are looking for input from the community on what they would like to see in a remodeled town website.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said in a statement that the redesign of the town’s website is long overdue.

“Many residents have asked that our website be a little more modern, easier to use and visually appealing,” Wehrheim said. “We hope this survey will give those who have suggestions or ideas the chance to share them with our web design team and later the community.”

Smithtown’s website was last updated eight years ago, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo.

Many residents have asked that our website be a little more modern, easier to use and visually appealing.” 

— Ed Wehrheim

“One of the primary things I’ve wanted to see get done was the remodeling of the town’s website,” she said. “I spoke with our IT director and he agreed with the plans to update the website.”

When it came to decide how the town would update the website, Garguilo said the town board considered a few options, including WordPress and other web-design services. However, it decided to stay with CivicPlus, a web development business that specializes in building city and county e-government communication systems that currently maintains the website.

“We have worked with them for quite some time,” she said. “They offered to upgrade our current web page and we thought it would be more efficient.”

As part of the remodeling, the town has put out a survey for residents to complete by Jan. 11.

Kenneth Burke, the town’s IT director,   said the main goal of the survey is to see what residents like and don’t like in a new website.

“We want to address residents’ needs and kind of build a road map of how we are going redesign the website,” Burke said.

The community survey consists of 10 questions that ask respondents to answer how frequently they visit the town’s website, the ease of finding information, what pages they visit the most often and what features they would like to see included in the redesign. There is also a section where residents can give written answers to any special needs they have regarding webpage browsing and suggested changes.

He estimated the redesign would be approximately a six-month project and hopes to roll out the new website in June.

“We want to address residents’ needs and kind of build a road map of how we are going redesign the website.”

—Kenneth Burke

The town has also reached out to local online groups, such as Smithtown Moms, to get their opinions on a new website. Once the final results of the survey come in, town employees will start data mining and compiling content for the new website.

Garguilo said the content creation side of the new website should take about four to five months to be completed because of back-end organizing, which includes record transfers and archival data. The new interface should take less time to be completed.

“We are working on a 30-second teaser video for the Town of Smithtown,” the town spokesperson said. “It will be like an about us video right off the bat when you get on the website.”

Garguilo said that the video will include  important facts and pictures of landmarks to showcase the town.

Another plan the town has is the creation of an app that can work in conjunction with the new website.

“Lets just say a resident wanted to report something — they can go to the app and fill out a form — and that’ll be sent right to our system,” Garguilo said. “This will lead to faster results and hopefully residents are happier.”

To participate, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/SmithtownWebsiteRedesign through Jan. 11.

Town moves forward with design, engineering for Lake Avenue despite uncertainty of future site hookup

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials aren’t willing to risk wasting any time, so they are forging ahead with plans to sewer downtown St. James.

Smithtown town board voted unanimously Dec. 11 to issue a request for proposals for engineers to plan and design a sewer system for the Lake Avenue Business District this coming January. Three days later, the town hired Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting to prepare the documents needed to do so.

We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “If we waited another two weeks, we’d be pushing back our timeline.”

Town officials are hoping to have the plans and funding necessary to sewer Lake Avenue’s business district by next summer, which the $2.4 million replacement of St. James’ aging water mains is slated for, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. Replacement of the business district’s water mains has already been delayed once by the town with a desire to complete both infrastructural projects at the same time while the roads are ripped up.

“We are going to sewer because we are opening the ground already,” Garguilo said. “We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

Smithtown officials will need to have these design and engineering plans in hand and submitted, as well as other necessary documentation, in order to receive the $3.9 million grant from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a nonspecific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance, announced by New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in October.

“We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town does not have any official agreement with developer Gyrodyne LLC, according to Garguilo, to access the sewage treatment facility it has proposed building as part of its plans for the Flowerfield property in St. James. The developer has proposed plans to construct a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and day spa, two medical office buildings and a 220-unit assisted living complex. It is currently completing the final environmental review to present to the town’s planning board for approval.

“If we need to, we’ll find another sewer plant, hook into Kings Park or another pump station,” Garguilo said.

Many St. James business people and civic leaders have stated while they are excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said the town could plan to doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, previously stated the civic group believes the community will benefit more from construction.

The Town of Smithtown's Whisper the Bull statue as decorated for the 2017 holiday season shows the Happy Hanukkah sign that was destroyed. Photo from Corey Geske

Whisper the Bull has long been an iconic landmark in Smithtown, standing at the west entrance of town at the intersection of Routes 25 and 25A, but recently is gaining attention at the state level.

Smithtown resident Corey Geske announced the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has determined the Whisper the Bull statue is officially eligible for the New York State and National Register of Historic Places. Geske called on Town of Smithtown officials at their Dec. 11 meeting to sign off on and complete the application that could protect the statue for generations to come.

“I’m bullish on seeing downtown revitalized with historic preservation leading the way,” she said. “So, let’s get Whisper registered.”

I’m bullish on seeing downtown revitalized with historic preservation leading the way.” 

— Corey Geske

Geske said it was in 2017 she first proposed a three-part conceptual plan for revitalization of downtown Smithtown to elected officials. One key component was the creation of a historic corridor along Main Street/Route 25A starting at the western edge with the bull statue.

“It’s comparable to the Charging Bull on Wall Street, the famous sculpture that brings in tourists from around the world” she said. “We have something to be very proud of, it’s a world-class sculpture.”

The concept of creating a statue for Smithtown was first conceived in 1913 by town founder Richard Smythe’s descendant, Lawrence Smith Butler, while he attended the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. He asked a fellow student Charles Cary Rumsey for help, who came up with depicting the centuries-old legend of Smythe riding the town’s boundary on a bull to claim it.

Geske said she uncovered the sculpture’s history when drafting the nearly 80-page report in April to be submitted to the state for a determination on whether it was eligible to be named a historic place.

New York State’s Registry of Historic Places is an “official list of buildings, structures, districts, objects, and sites significant in the history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture of New York and the nation,” according to the state’s website. Four criteria considered by the state in evaluating the statue include: whether its associated with events that have made a significant contribution to history, associated with the life of a significant person, if it possesses high artistic value or yields information important to history.

The cement platform on which Whisper the Bull stands has a crack. Photo from Corey Geske

Geske said she received a letter in July from the state parks department that Whisper is eligible, but the Town of Smithtown must be the applicant as they are the official owner of the statue.

“We will be moving forward with the approval on that,” town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said. “Once it’s on the registry, we will be applying for grants to take better care of it.”

One immediate concern of both Geske and Smithtown’s elected official is a crack visible on the cement pedestal on which the 5-ton sculpture rests. It is visible immediately along “Smithtown” in the inscription and can be seen running from front to back of the platform. Garguilo said the town has plans to repair the base this upcoming spring under the direction of Joseph Arico, head of the town’s parks department.

“It’s our understanding any restrictions the historical register would require [to] be maintained pertain to the bull itself, not the base or anything around the base,” she said.

If Whisper the Bull is approved as a state historic place, Geske said it would be the first phase before applying to have it placed on the national registry. She hopes to follow up by seeking historic status for other Main Street buildings, including the 108-year-old Trinity AME Church on New York Avenue, the 105-year-old Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church on Juniper Avenue and the 265-year-old Arthur House.

Town of Smithtown officials and St. James veterans give their respects at the rededication of the Vietnam War memorial Nov. 21. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

On Thanksgiving eve, as many prepared for the holiday fest, Town of Smithtown officials
and St. James community members came together to give thanks to a set of veterans who often feel forgotten.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) led the rededication and blessing of the Vietnam War memorial at St. James train station Nov. 21. The town’s parks department employees have recently completed cleaning up, adding features to and landscaping the Sherwood Brothers monument after its condition was brought up by Councilman Tom Lohmann (R).

Ed Springer, commander of American Legion Sherwood Brothers Post 1244 of St. James, speaks at the Nov. 21 ceremony. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“We’re very appreciative for what Tom and the town did for us here, it will be remembered for a long time to come,” said Ed Springer, commander of the American Legion Sherwood Brothers Post 1152 in St. James.

The supervisor said the town engaged in conversation with the Long Island Rail Road over making improvements at the railroad station, like improving the landscaping and painting the trestles and underpasses as part of the Lake Avenue revitalization efforts. During a site visit, Lohmann said he rediscovered the overgrown monument.

“When I started talking to people about the memorial, they asked, ‘What memorial are you talking about?’” the councilman said. “That’s the point. You couldn’t see it. It was overgrown and in complete disrepair.”

When the town sent its park employees to begin taking out overgrown shrubs, Lohmann said he received a call from MTA police officers who showed up and threatened to arrest the men for allegedly for ripping apart the memorial. After a phone call, and the two public agencies reached an agreement moving forward.

The St. James Vietnam War memorial has been cleaned up and the landscaping redone, water and electrical lines run to ensure future maintenance, and a light installed to illuminate the American flag. The monument was first dedicated in memory of the two St. James Sherwood brothers, William and George, who died three weeks apart in France while serving in World War I.

The newly refurbished and cleaned up Vietnam War memorial at St. James LIRR train station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I’m sure everyone here has had someone in the military who has served our country,” Sal Riccobono, assistant vice commander of Sgt. John W. Cooke Post 395 of St. James. “We want you to remember all of them and appreciate all they did for us that brought us to this point today.”

Both Springer and Riccobono said that the membership of their veterans organizations are rapidly dwindling, and they both hope to bring newer and younger service members into the fold. Springer said the Sherwood Brothers post has seen 12 of its World War II veterans die in the past year.

“When I tell you from the bottom of my heart, the way to keep their stories alive is to constantly talk about them,” Richard Kitson, local chapter president of the Vietnam Veterans of America. “If you are in that post, what a tribute to the Sherwood brothers this is that you keep their memories alive.”

A former U.S. Marine, Kitson said both his brother, John, and a best friend died serving in Vietnam. He found comfort in the St. James rededication ceremony.

“This is really touching. It’s very, very touching — it’s touched my heart,” he said, wiping a tear from his eye.”

A V. Garofalo Carting truck. Photo from Facebook

A Brentwood-based garbage carter and two of its employees have been charged with attempting to defraud the Town of Smithtown and its taxpayers of nearly $1 million after an investigation conducted by Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

V. Garofalo Carting, its principal owner Mario Garofalo and employee Robert Garofalo pled not guilty to allegations of enterprise corruption, money laundering and grand larceny among other charges in Suffolk County Supreme Court Nov. 15 before Judge Richard Ambro.

“This is a serious case of wrongdoing that defrauds the Town of Smithtown,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “Our message is we will hold these type of bad actors accountable.”

This is a serious case of wrongdoing that defrauds the Town of Smithtown.”

— Tim Sini

Sini said the investigation was born out of a complaint filed with the county by the Town of Smithtown in 2014. It had laid stagnant, untouched, until he conducted a file review at the start of his term.

Between January 2015 and February 2016, prosecutors said the garbage carter and its employees allegedly hatched what they said was referred to as the Tulsa Plan, according to court documents. The garbage carter and its employees allegedly collected commercial garbage from businesses, both those unregistered with the Town of Smithtown, and others across Nassau and Suffolk County, to dispose of at the Covanta Huntington waste facility in East Northport on at least 19 different dates in exchange for a fee. Upon arriving at the facility, Garofalo employees then allegedly provided documentation falsely stating the commercial garbage had been collected in Smithtown, causing the town to be billed for its disposal, according to court records.

“Once we receive a copy of the indictment, our attorneys will review it to see if there’s any damages incurred by the town,” Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said Nov. 16. “Then we will take the appropriate measures.”

The town attorney’s office has since received a copy of the indictment against V. Garofalo Carting and the two men but was still reviewing it as of press time Nov. 20.

In addition, the district attorney’s investigation also alleged Mario Garofalo has used the Brentwood property of V. Garofalo Carting off Crooked Hill Road as a transfer station, storing commercial trash there, despite lacking the required permits to do so. 

At the end of the day, I firmly believe Mario, who has spent his life taking care of community, will gain his good reputation back at trial.” 

— Ray Perini

Ray Perini, a Huntington-based attorney representing Mario Garofalo, said he does not believe the allegations put forth by the district attorney’s office can be substantiated.

“At the end of the day, I firmly believe Mario, who has spent his life taking care of community, will gain his good reputation back at trial,” Perini said.

V. Garofalo Carting currently has a contract with the town to pick up and dispose of residential waste for approximately 17,000 homes, according to Wehrheim. Smithtown’s elected officials held a series of emergency meetings Nov. 16 to discuss possible measures to take, if needed, to ensure regular trash collection continues. 

“We are preparing in the event that they discontinue service how we will continue serving those homes,” Wehrheim said. “We hope it doesn’t happen. If it does, we will have a plan B.

Mario Garofalo’s attorney assured that should not be a concern, given the company’s good reputation having been in business for more than 57 years on Long Island, he said.

“This company will live up to contracts and continue to pick up residential trash,” Perini said.

Previously, a recyclables contractor for the Town of Smithtown, Jody Enterprises, was indicted for allegedly running a paper and cardboard scheme back in August 2012. The town, at that time under the leadership of former Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), chose to settle the allegations out of court with an agreement the company would pay back restitution.

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Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

Smithtown residents will soon be asked once again to separate their recyclables as town officials have chosen to return to dual-stream recycling in January 2019.

Town of Smithtown officials held a special meeting Nov. 20 where they announced their finalized bids for its recycling contracts. The town board tapped West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island, who have agreed to take the town’s unprocessed newspaper and cardboard in exchange for paying $30 per ton, or approximately $177,000 a year to the town. Another company, Islandia-based Trinity
Transportation, will be handling the town’s unprocessed curbside metals and plastics, with $68 per ton being paid by the town, costing approximately $104,000 per year in expenses, according to the final documents.

“Working together with our fellow municipalities and villages is, for us, a win-win opportunity.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The bids are part of a partnership with the towns of Brookhaven and Southold. Brookhaven will use its own contractor to ship its recyclables to Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. Brookhaven will pay the town $5 per ton, or $130,000 a year for its expected tonnage. Smithtown estimates there will be 45 of deliveries per week from Brookhaven, totaling approximately 500 tons of material. Brookhaven announced it will be moving back to dual-stream as of Nov. 28 and has already been issuing notices to its residents.

“Smithtown has always had a phenomenal relationship with the Town of Brookhaven and Supervisor [Ed] Romaine,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Working together with our fellow municipalities and villages is, for us, a win-win opportunity. We help our neighbors who have helped us for so many years and we avail ourselves to favorable pricing which alleviates any burden on the taxpayer.”

Smithtown moved away from dual-stream in 2014 when it finalized a recycling contract with Brookhaven and has been left without a recycling-service provider since Oct. 29 when Green Stream Recycling, Brookhaven’s recycling contractor, voided its contract with the town. Smithtown, among numerous other local municipalities, had an agreement to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a $180,000 annual profit.

The new contracts approved Nov. 20, including the money from Brookhaven, will deliver $178,517 in revenue for Smithtown per year, according to town officials.

Under the new intermunicipal agreement, the townships will no longer be collecting glass for recycling. If Smithtown residents wish to recycle glass bottles or containers, they will be asked to take it to one of three locations: the Municipal Services Facility building at 85 Old Northport Road in Kings Park; the town Highway Department building at 758 Smithtown Bypass in Nesconset; or Town Hall, located at 99 W. Main St. in Smithtown. The town estimates that it will cost $23,850 annually to dispose of this glass

Russell Barnett, the town’s recycling coordinator, previously told TBR News Media that glass is a major contaminate to other recyclables when it is mixed in with other materials in single-stream. Not only does broken glass wear on processing machinery, it is difficult to remove should it become entangled in a soft product like paper.

The recycling market changes constantly, and we have to be prepared.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town signed a six-month contract with these two companies, including an option to renew for an additional six months, according to Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. This was intentionally done in case the recycling market changes in the future.

“The recycling market changes constantly, and we have to be prepared,” she said.

Starting immediately, the two garbage carting companies will begin taking the recyclables that have been accumulating since Oct. 29 at Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility, sorting it for the town, and processing it.

The town plans to begin a public information blitz before the new recycling system goes into effect, according to Garguilo, including social media spots, informational mailing flyers and information on the official Smithtown phone app to inform residents on the details of what recyclables they can put out on which days.

Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

With bids in for the Town of Smithtown recycling contract, town officials have a big decision to make that may change how and when residents take their bins to the curb.

“Perhaps there’s a market for it — perhaps these bidders have a place where they can bring it,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said prior to the opening of the bids.

The Town of Smithtown has been left without a recycling-service provider since Oct. 29 when Green Stream Recycling, the Town of Brookhaven’s recycling contractor, voided its contract with the town. Smithtown, among other local municipalities, had an agreement with Brookhaven to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a profit. Now, Smithtown has been left without a recycling contract and has been dumping all its recyclables at the Municipal Services Facility located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The facility has approximately two-to-three weeks before it is full to capacity.

You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream…”

— Ed Wehrheim

The town unsealed four bids for its recyclable materials Nov. 8. Two bids, received from West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island and Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, offered both single-stream recycling and dual-stream recycling. Single-stream recycling is the process of taking all recyclables in a single can and everything would be sorted at a facility. Dual stream requires residents to sort out different types of recyclables, including different kinds of plastics, metals and papers, and putting out each kind of material on different days of the week for collection.

Smithtown officials estimate the town picks up 11,500 tons of recyclables each year. If the town wants to stick with a single-stream recycling process, it may cost close to $1 million to send these materials off for processing. This would be a major difference compared to the small $180,000 in profit it made in annual revenue selling its recyclables to Brookhaven.

Bids received for dual-stream recycling, including both Winter Bros. and Trinity Transportation, propose rates the companies would be willing to pay for each specific product. For example, Trinity would pay the town $68 a ton for its newspaper and cardboard.

Joseph Kostecki, the town’s purchasing director, unseals bids received for the town’s recycling contract Nov. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

The town calculated it would collect approximately 6,500 tons of paper and 1,900 tons of metal, plastic and glass combined from residents if households were required to sort their own recycling.

Russell Barnett, the town’s recycling coordinator, said one of the options Smithtown is considering is taking glass off the list of curbside materials and setting up a specialized locations where residents can drop off their glass products.

Recycled glass is a major bane for Patricia DiMatteo, owner of Trinity Transportation. She said that recyclable products can easily become contaminated, especially with glass, when collected in a single can. In particular paper, her company’s specialty, becomes easily contaminated by fine pieces of glass crushed so small they’re barely visible to the naked eye, making the product unsellable.

Wehrheim said he doesn’t expect residents to continue recycling at the rate they have under the single-stream process if the town reverts to dual stream.

“You’re going to be hard pressed after years of single stream to go back to dual stream and tell people, ‘Now, you’re going to have go back to the two pails, sort your metal and sort your paper,’” he said. “I think what you’ll see is you’ll lose a large percentage of your recycling.”

While Barnett agreed losing single-stream recycling could result in less participation, he added that changing back to dual stream could improve the overall quality of the product collected, raising its market desirability.

“There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

—Patricia DiMatteo

Smithtown began its single-stream process in 2014 when it signed a contract with Brookhaven and the Green Stream facility. Previously, the town had used its own dual-stream recycling processing facility. Barnett said the town is internally discussing bringing that facility back online, but that site was mothballed in 2014. Since then, the facility has aged without use and would require revitalization. In addition, all the town employees who once worked at the facility — 12 in total — have been reassigned to other departments or no longer work for the town.

To make the facility operational would require hiring multiple new employees, which means weighing the costs of salaries and benefits into the price of reopening, according to Wehrheim. Barnett said the town is still calculating the total cost of restarting the plant.

Recycling has been an ongoing issue for Long Island municipalities since the China market, one of the world’s largest importers of recyclables, severely restricted the quality of material it would import. This policy, named National Sword, started in January and its effects have stung local townships hard as of late, but DiMatteo said there are other markets if one knows where to look.

“There is definitely an issue with the China market, no doubt, you have to make a pristine product for them now,” she said. “There are other markets, and you can achieve a China market quality product if you process it well.”

Smithtown Councilman Tom Lohmann. Photo by Kyle Barr

While we at TBR News Media do not believe that having a one-party rule is conducive to a truly transparent government, we do believe that Tom Lohmann (R) should retake the council seat he has occupied for the past 10 months.

Since he’s been in office, Lohmann has shown himself to be an efficient and dedicated public servant. The council member has proven to have engaged himself into the minutia of governmental activity, taking his role as liaison to several departments seriously. He has also been on the front lines of a number of issues, including town consolidation and revitalization. As a former member of the NYPD, Lohmann has also helped bridge the gap between the Suffolk County Police Department and the town by bringing in a representative from the department to speak about local crime issues.

We appreciate Amy Fortunato’s running, especially with her constant push for town revitalization, but Lohmann has proven to be much more knowledgeable of local issues.

We still admire Fortunato for her constant and fiery dedication to the town and its residents. She attends most, if not all, town board meetings where she is always willing to speak up and ask the tough questions, especially those concerning the town’s revitalization and budgetary efforts — two things that will be very important to keep an eye on going into next year. We ask that she remains a firebrand and watchdog in Smithtown for a long time.

Smithtown Councilman Tom Lohmann will compete with Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for a seat on Smithtown Town Board. Photos by Kyle Barr

Town of Smithtown voters can choose between incumbent Tom Lohmann (R) and Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato for town council seat where both want to continue efforts toward downtown revitalization.

Fortunato and Lohmann stepped into the TBR News Media offices to debate about the problems and efforts circulating throughout the town’s eight hamlets.

After being in office 10 months, Lohmann said he has an appreciation for the inner workings of Smithtown’s government. While the councilman said he has worked hard with the town’s Highway Department to fix roads, he wants to see the local business districts built up to incentivize young people to remain in town.

“People I speak to don’t mind paying a little bit more if they have good roads,” Lohmann said. “These are things we use. You want to have businesses we can patronize. We don’t have businesses there because we let it deteriorate to something unsustainable.”

Democratic challenger Amy Fortunato is looking to break the Republican stranglehold on the town council, one that has been in place for more than two decades. She said the town needs to improve its communication and transparency with the community.

“Our towns look shabby, but we’ve got plenty of money, and our budget needs to move there,” Fortunato said. “What is so important is a comprehensive master plan — we’ve been talking about that for a long time, and I’m just concerned that the community has heard what we want to see in Smithtown.”

2019 Budget

On Oct. 5, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) released his draft 2019 budget that increases $4 million from this year, and includes a raise for all board members from $65,818 to $75,000. Fortunato said she
disagreed with the pay increase, especially when comparing the council members’ salaries to either Huntington or Brookhaven, two larger townships than Smithtown.

“I would not take that salary,” the Democratic challenger said. “[Supervisor Ed Wehrheim] should be longer in government before taking a raise.”

Lohmann said that, compared to previous boards, he and other council members are working full time on town matters. He says he is in his office full time, not including other night or weekend events. The councilman said the largest increase to the town’s budget is due the town’s employee health care costs, which he hopes to address if he gets another term.

“I think I’m worth $75,000,” the incumbent said. “One of the biggest increases is $1.1 million
to support health care costs. We’re on an unsustainable course of action. We have to look to
employees to subsidize their own costs.”

Lohmann was appointed to the board in January 2018 after the seat was vacated by Wehrheim.  Some, including Fortunato, originally protested the decision, saying that the move was unilaterally made without input from the community.

Infrastructure

The Town of Smithtown is involved in several sewer projects at various stages of development in Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James. Lohmann said that while New York State politics has put the project on hold by keeping an alienation bill required for the Kings Park pump station from being voted on in the state Assembly, he and the rest of the board are still wholly committed to these projects.

“We’re not going anywhere without sewers,” the incumbent said. “In Kings Park, it’s ready, but unfortunately what’s going on in Albany that died on the vine … A true comprehensive master plan has to involve community input and town hall meetings to drive the picture of what we want to see which is a living breathing document updated every 5 to 10 years.”

Fortunato said she is in full support of sewering, but that she wants the town to be open in relaying to the community what environmental impacts the new sewers could have.

“We got to be careful, and we want transparency,” she said. “We should have a public forum to present these options [for sewer treatment plants] and what we are looking at.”

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