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Village of Shoreham

Village of Shoreham Town Hall is located at 80 Woodville Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Village of Shoreham is looking to put themselves under the protective umbrella of the nearby fire department. 

While the village currently contracts with the Rocky Point Fire District, village officials have requested home rule applications to extend the fire district boundaries to encompass the tiny North Shore municipality. It might seem like a minor change but expanding the district boundaries to include the .5-square-mile village could take months of work getting the state to agree to the extension.

Rocky Point Fire District boundaries currently do not include the Village of Shoreham. Image from from Long Island Index Maps

For more than a decade, Shoreham village has contracted out to the Rocky Point Fire District for their fire and emergency service needs, according to Rocky Point Fire District manager Ed Brooks. 

Neither a representative of Shoreham village nor the village attorney, the Riverhead-based Anthony Tohill, responded to multiple requests for comment.

If the district boundaries are expanded, the cost will instead come out of village residents’ taxes paid to the district. Brooks said the cost shouldn’t be much different for village residents either monetarily or in the coverage by the district.

“We met with them, they sent us some literature and letters, we had a meeting, we advised our attorney, we have given our consent to make the application,” Brooks said.

Village officials requested that the Town of Brookhaven send a home rule request to the New York State legislature to extend the fire district’s boundaries, which was approved unanimously at Brookhaven’s May 23 meeting. A copy of the letter for the request was forwarded to State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk).

The expansion of the district boundaries requires home rule requests by both Shoreham village and the Town of Brookhaven to New York State, requesting special legislation to expand. The process could take months.

“By extending the boundaries, the state gets involved, there’s legislation — it’s a long process,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). 

The Village of Old Field started the same process at the tail end of 2016 to bring in the Setauket Fire District. By July of 2017 the town hosted a public hearing and approved the extension. The fire district taxes were on residents’ bills by December of that year.

Rocky Point Fire District attorney, the Port Jefferson-based Bill Glass, who represents the fire district, said this change would have virtually no difference to the district, adding it would also have little to no difference in the amount the village pays for emergency services.

“When these contracts were designed, they were designed that [village residents] would pay as much as if they were paying for it through their taxes,” Glass said.

Village of Shoreham Town Hall is located at 80 Woodville Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The votes are in, and in a landslide election June 19 former deputy mayor Brian Vail has become the new mayor of the Village of Shoreham, garnering 109 of 112 votes cast. The other three were for write-in candidates Len Emma (2) and Brian Mahoney (1). Vail will serve a two-year term as mayor.

Mayor Ed Weiss did not run for re-election. 

Gathering a similar number of votes were newcomer Marianne Cogan (106) and trustee Sherry Neff (105), the two running for two, two-year terms as trustee. One write-in ballot was cast for John Bates.

One four-year term for village justice was also up for grabs, and with another lopsided result, David Desmond scooped up 82 of 90 total votes.

Kaileigh Blessing and some friends construct the frames for the bat houses. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

She may not wear a cape or cowl, but 17-year-old Kaileigh Blessing is serving as a hero to the Village of Shoreham by bringing more environment-boosting bats to the area.

Blessing, a senior at Rocky Point High School and member of Venturing Crew 777, a co-ed youth development program of the Boy Scouts of America, has spent the last year designing, funding, building and installing seven bat houses throughout Shoreham.

Kaileigh Blessing presents her original idea for how to build the bat houses to The Shoreham Village Association as part of her Summit Award. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

The houses are to be installed in parklands along Woodville Road and private properties. It is a project constructed in Blessing’s pursuit of her Summit Award — the Venturing Crew’s highest program-level award. She became involved in the project in October 2016 when members of The Shoreham Village Association launched a subcommittee to expand the number of bat houses hanging in public as a way to coax more of the nocturnal animals into the area.

While they once carried a reputation as fearsome creatures, the public perception of bats has changed drastically in recent years as they have been proven to greatly benefit the ecosystem of their surroundings by eating thousands of small insects per hour — including the ever-increasing population of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Shoreham, like the rest of Long Island, has lost a majority of these more environmentally friendly bug eliminators due to an increased use of dangerous pesticides and the spread of white nose syndrome, a fungus that grows on and kills hibernating bats along the East Coast.

“Bat houses are needed everywhere,” said Laura Miller, a member of the association’s subcommittee and one of the recipients of Blessing’s bat houses. “The bat population in general has decreased drastically and it’s a real concern, agriculturally, especially for farmers. Bats are generally very beneficial and people don’t realize it because of the whole nature of what they think a bat is.”

Kaileigh Blessing and a few of her friends piece together the bat houses. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

During last year’s October meeting, members of the subcommittee held a raffle drawing for the houses to be built and installed for two village residents and, in figuring out who should be the one to take on the project, the idea to involve a local Boy Scout troop and expand the number of houses came up. Through Venturing Advisor Tom Seda, Blessing was proposed as a fitting candidate as she wasn’t too interested in the more traditional routes of building a park bench or installing a garden for her final project.

“I wanted to build something that was a bit more impactful environmentally, so I gratefully took up that
offer,” Blessing said. “I’m so glad I went with this and I’m looking forward to coming back and hopefully hear from the women of the association that the bats have returned.”

The Venturer, who first joined the youth-powered organization when she was 14, dove into the project with “gusto,” according to subcommittee members. She raised funds for construction materials by recycling scrap metal and bottles and pledging for donations at various businesses like Home Depot and Benjamin Moore, where she received paint, stains, lumber, drills and screws. With the help of her dad and a group of friends, Blessing spent hours on weekends building the large, single-chamber habitats — each one large enough to house 20 to 50 brown bats — which contains a ventilation area for warm air to filter out and grooves in its back panels to act as grips when the bats fly and grab onto the house.

Kaileigh Blessing and a few of her friends help glue together the bat houses for her Summit Award project. Photo from Kaileigh Blessing

She also scouted locations for the houses in the village and sought out PMM Landscaping, a Middle Island-based group, to mount them on trees. She is currently designing a bat house information kiosk that she hopes will be installed at Major Hopkins Park in Shoreham.

“I really didn’t know anything about bats when I started this, but through research and everything, I just find it all really intriguing and interesting now,” she said.

Jean Jordan Sweet, chair of the subcommittee, commended Blessing for her tenacity throughout the strenuous project. Sweet said she met with the subcommittee several times throughout the year, made presentations, and had to wait on approvals from the village board of trustees and the Suffolk County Council of Boy Scouts every step of the way.

“She’s very impressive,” Sweet said. “She had to go through so much authorization and processes for this project, but she’s a real self-starter and took this very seriously.”

While her project, and Summit Award, still needs to be fully approved by the Scouts, which might take several months, the association will present a summary report and recognize Blessing’s efforts during an event Nov. 11.

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