Government

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Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown’s 2016 preliminary budget proposal called for a small increase in taxes despite some spending cuts, but officials said they anticipated no layoffs because of it.

The $101 million budget, if approved, would reduce the amount of money the town spends by about 3.4 percent when compared to this year’s budget, the preliminary proposal said. An average Smithtown home assessed at $5,500 would see an increase of roughly $18.01 in annual taxes, or $1,271.25 in total, the budget said.

As for the town’s tax levy, the budget pegged it at $55.49 million, which was more than last year’s $55.04 million levy.

In his budget message, Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) said the town was building on an initiative started in 2015 in a five-year capital plan that targets strategic infrastructure upgrades.

“[The budget] substantially moves the town to a structurally balanced budget that does not reduce resident services,” Vecchio said. “It recognizes the initiatives started in 2015 of replacing only essentially needed positions as employees retire or otherwise leave the employ of the town.”

Last year, the town used more than $5 million of surplus funding to balance the budget. But this year, the town was able to use much less than that at $500,000. The use of surplus funding to balance the budget was one of the key reasons Councilmen Bob Creighton (R) and Ed Wehrheim (R) voted against the proposal last year, but both officials told Times Beacon Record Newspapers last week that they were glad to see the town working to end that practice.

In regards to the town’s general fund, Vecchio said taxes increased by $31.62 for the average home without the use of surplus dollars, which he called a change from Smithtown’s past practices. Expenditures went down by nearly $1.1 million, or 2.5 percent, he said.

“The town continues a ‘pay as you go basis’ for repairs and separation pay for retiring workers,” the supervisor said. “Large capital expenditures have been reduced in the operating budget because they have been included in the 2015-19 capital program, which acquires long-term assets through borrowing instead of the use of current operating funds.”

The town was also able to meet the 2 percent tax cap with help from roughly $900,000 in health insurance and workers’ compensation increases, which a decrease in required state pension contributions help address, Town Comptroller Donald Musgnug said. Also included in the budget were longevity and step increases for nearly 30 Smithtown Administrative Guild and 375 Civil Service Employees Association union workers, he said.

Projects in line with the town’s five-year capital budget plan between 2015 and 2019 helped Smithtown save money in the 2016 preliminary budget, officials said, citing various savings that came as a result of them. The town’s LED streetlights project helped save $200,000 in utility costs, and taxes in the outside village fund decreased by $8.80.

The town also allocated savings of about $35,000 in the animal shelter supervisor’s salary to pay for trap, neuter and release services as well as the hiring of a part-time trainer to help train the eight dogs housed at the shelter, town officials said.

On the subject of Highway Department savings, Vecchio said $500,000 of surplus funds there was used to stabilize taxes. Funding was also increased in the town’s snow coffers by $2.14 per household assessed at $5,500 because of severe storms, which he said exhausted funding last year.

The Town Board must adopt the budget by Nov. 20.

Photo by Wendy Mercier

The deer debate has hit Head of the Harbor.

Residents sounded off on the ongoing deer management discussion at Village Hall last Wednesday night, and after hearing residents’ concerns with the initial resolution proposed last month to allow more hunting, the board of trustees withdrew consideration.

The law was originally written to amend the village code to enable hunting of deer pursuant to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation authorization. But trustees said it was rescinded so as to allow more time for thought before action.

“We retracted that law and it is completely off the table,” trustee Judith C. Ogden said.

The board created an advisory committee that will consider and report to the board on a local deer management program. The committee is expected to give a report to the board by Dec. 31, Ogden said.

Mayor Douglas A. Dahlgrad said it is his hope that the committee will meet with other villages and towns to see how they are handling their deer issues, as well as with the DEC. Residents continued to voice their distress for how the board will handle this issue in the upcoming months.

George Kaloyanides, a Head of the Harbor resident, said this issue has garnered more interest than any other in the 30 years he’s lived here. He said he hopes that this issue is dealt with as transparently as possible as it goes forward.

“I hope you [the board] would consider expanding this charge to include polling residents of the village to see how many people see the deer as a problem,” Kaloyanides said. “In the intent of eliminating concerns, I think a majority vote of the proposed actions would help.”

John Lendino, a Head of the Harbor resident, questioned the board’s judgment for the handling of communications on this issue. He said that notices of the public hearing were hidden under several other documents on bulletin postings around the town.

“All these people tonight wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for me,” Lendino said.

Jeffrey Malkan, a Head of the Harbor resident, said that a vote should be included for this issue on this year’s ballot so voters can say if they approve.

“The final word should belong to the people,” Malkan said. “In the interest of avoiding controversy, it should go back to the residents as a referendum.”

Chairman Michael Utevsky will head the committee along with eight other members and trustee liaison Deputy Mayor Daniel White.

A public hearing was held in early September where residents were concerned not only with the proposal, but also the way village hall handled alerting citizens on the issue.

Julie Korneffel, a Head of the Harbor resident, was unhappy with how little notice she was given about this issue before it came to town hall.

“There is a big concern for transparency now,” Korneffel said. She also felt that the code written “seemed purposely vague.”

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Supervisor Pat Vecchio tears up as he learns Town Hall will be named in his honor. File photo by Phil Corso

Town Hall is getting a new name.

Smithtown officials will gather alongside the Smithtown 350 Foundation on Sunday, Nov. 1, at 1 p.m., to officially dedicate the town hall building to Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) — the longest serving supervisor in the history of the state. The dedication has been months in the making since the Town Board voted unanimously in March to dedicate the building in Vecchio’s honor after his nearly four decades of public service to the township.

As part of the town’s 350th birthday this year, Smithtown has been buzzing with activity since the beginning of 2015 with various events celebrating the town’s storied past. The town’s official 350th birthday was March 3, the same day the Town Board caught Vecchio off guard by voting to dedicate the building to him. The resolution that council members voted upon was signed and placed in a time capsule that will be buried near Town Hall this year.

Vecchio has served as supervisor since 1978 and also served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, before an honor-able discharge in 1954, when he joined the New York Police Department, where he remained for 20 years, the resolution said. His NYPD roles included detective sergeant, chief of security for former Mayor John Lindsay and a member of a special unit responsible for the protection of visiting dignitaries, including former presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

A reception will also immediately follow the event inside Town Hall.

The Friends of Cordwood are trying to preserve the Cordwood Landing Nature preserve. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After years of frustration, the Friends of Cordwood Landing have had enough.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, the group had a rally alongside residents, environmental activists and elected officials to fight for the preservation of a parcel of land next to the Cordwood Landing Nature Preserve, a county park in Miller Place. The rally was held to help the Friends of Cordwood find a different means of acquiring the land after the group hit a standstill with county legislators.

According to Tom Cramer, one of the founding members of Friends of Cordwood Landing, any resolution regarding the purchase of property must go through the county legislator — Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai). Cramer said getting in touch with Anker regarding this issue was difficult when he and the Friends of Cordwood attempted to get an appraisal for the property.

The interaction ended with the Friends of Cordwood turning to Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). Cramer said Hahn helped the group push the resolution through, and an appraisal was done for the property.

While Cramer said Anker didn’t follow up with the group’s initial resolution proposal, Anker said she did all that she could to assist the organization. The resolution was Anker’s first piece of legislation, according to an email from her office. Her office also said the county did an appraisal of the property. The county offered $783,000 to the original owner of the parcel and the owner refused the offer. In September of 2014, Mark Baisch, the developer, purchased the property for $750,000.

Cramer said Baisch asked for $1.25 million for the approximately 5.5-acre property, and they increased the appraisal to $930,000. After Baisch refused this offer, Cramer claims Anker said Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were in collusion with one another and were attempting to defraud the county. Cramer said they were not.

Anker denied the idea that Baisch and the Friends of Cordwood were working together.

With the tension between those involved, Baisch refused to sell the property to the county and is currently in the process of going through the town to handle the matter. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the rally last Thursday. According to Cramer and Bonner, Romaine was promising to pay 30 to 35 percent of the property’s cost.

“In our mind, it’s illogical to build houses near a nature preserve,” Bonner said about Baisch’s plan to put houses on the property. She added that the wildlife in the area would be affected.

In a phone interview, Anker said her goal was to help preserve the property, as it is one of the last few tracks of land in the North Shore area that needs to be preserved. According to Cramer, many residents thought the property was part of the Cordwood Landing county park, which lies adjacent to the piece of property.

Now it’s simply a waiting game, as Baisch waits for his plan for the property to be approved by the town.

Bonner said the town is working on it.

“We are ready, willing and able partners … [the property] has always been on our radar,” Bonner said in a phone interview. “It will make a wonderful addition to the Cordwood Landing.”

Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen patches a pothole in the Town of Smithtown as another highway department staffer looks on. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen (R) has resigned and pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges in a scheme to alter road-repaving records from last year.

Jorgensen, 63, pleaded guilty in New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead on Thursday, Oct. 15, to a felony charge of offering a false instrument for filing and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct as part of a plea deal with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

He will be sentenced on Dec. 11 to four months of jail but will serve an alternative sentence in lieu of jail of 570 hours of community service, and will receive three years probation, according to Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

“This disposition compels the defendant to resign from his elected position and his admission of guilt before the court confirms the facts uncovered during the investigation,” Clifford said in a statement. “As the Superintendent of Highways Mr. Jorgensen knowingly had false information about the paving of town roads filed as an official town record, and he knowingly directed that inaccurate information be filed to make it appear as though the roadwork met state mandatory specifications.”

Vecchio’s office confirmed that Jorgensen resigned from his position as of Friday, Oct. 16.

In April, Jorgensen was charged with tampering with public records, falsifying business records, filing false records, official misconduct and grand larceny, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said. Initially, Jorgensen pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At the time, Jorgensen, of St. James, was accused of altering road construction reports and stealing a public work order for an improper repaving. He tried to conceal his approval of paving at least eight Smithtown streets in freezing temperatures last November and then directed a highway foreman to alter the record of the weather conditions done during the repaving work.

District attorney detectives found work orders for the improper repaving jobs hidden under Jorgensen’s bed at his Hope Place residence.

“State Department of Transportation construction standards dictate asphalt must not be applied to a road surface in freezing temperatures, and in fact, the town’s own engineer has said repaving in freezing weather would result in the asphalt falling apart,” Spota said in an April statement. “The repaving of a residential street doesn’t happen that often and when it does, residents are paying for a job done correctly, not a faulty repaving that will soon need pothole repair work.”

Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) has said he felt Jorgensen should resign from his post amid the slew of accusations.

“It is a sad occurrence and I will have no comment other than I have sympathy for Mr. Jorgensen and his family,” Vecchio said in an email on Tuesday morning.

Jorgensen had also been accused of sexual harassment involving his former secretary. The town was issued a notice of claim alleging he sexually harassed her in December. The claim also alleged he had taken her out to job sites, out to eat and eventually fired her after finding out she was dating an employee of the highway department. Earlier this year, Vecchio publicly called Jorgensen out for taking his new secretary out to job sites, going against the Suffolk County Civil Service’s job description for the position.

“It seems to me that you are either not comprehending why the position exists, you have a disregard for civil service law or you are mocking the town board and the public,” Vecchio said of Jorgensen bringing his new secretary to the job site in April.

Smithtown Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Maher also called for Jorgensen’s resignation in April, and said it was an outrage that the taxpayers were funding his salary.

Jorgensen worked for the Smithtown Highway Department for 37 years, and won election for highway superintendent in 2009 and 2013.

Jorgensen’s attorney could not be reached for comment this week.

From left, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie pose for a photo with historical documents. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He is not only the first African-American Speaker of the New York State Assembly, but also the first speaker to visit various districts on Long Island, as far as one long-standing North Shore lawmaker can remember.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) visited Setauket on Oct. 20, and met with residents and North Shore government officials, including Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket); Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station); and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

“This happens about once every … well, it never has happened,” Englebright joked. “It’s pretty amazing.”

While touring the area was on Heastie’s agenda, his visit was also about getting better acquainted with the needs and concerns of residents in areas like Setauket, he said.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stands in front of Patriots Rock. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie stands in front of Patriots Rock. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“When members get up and speak in conference, when they talk about what’s important to them or where they want us to concentrate or try to do things in the budget … [visiting the districts gives] me a better idea of what they’re speaking about,” Heastie said in an interview.

Heastie was elected Speaker of the NYS Assembly on Feb. 3. Since his election, Heastie has tackled a variety of issues including education, homelessness, financial stability for families and minimum wage, among other areas of concern.

The speaker also has ties to the greater North Shore community, as he graduated from Stony Brook University in 1990 with a degree in science. State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) was recently named the Senate majority leader, making the North Shore’s presence strong in the state Legislature.

Although Heastie had limited time to mingle, Englebright guided Heastie around various areas in Setauket, touring the community’s coveted Greenway  Trail, and introducing him to the history of the region and the role it played in the birth of the United States, starting with Patriot’s Rock in Setauket, where the famous Battle of Setauket was fought.

Officials from Stony Brook University library were on hand to deliver the speaker a copy of a famous letter George Washington signed at West Point during the Revolutionary War.

“I used to teach political science and American history,” Heastie said. “So I’m kind of a history buff. It’s just something that was a little different than other parts of the tour, so this was nice — particularly with it being so close to the college that I graduated from.”

After learning about Long Island’s link to the Culper Spy Ring, dating back to the Revolutionary War era, the speaker stopped at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, followed by a visit to Gallery North in Setauket.

Throughout the visit, Englebright and other North Shore leaders used their time with the speaker to reiterate some of the region’s most pressing issues, including preservation and environmental sustainability. Englebright also reaffirmed Heastie’s desire to tour the districts as a means of helping those he represents and serves as speaker.

“He’s very interested in visiting the various districts and learning of what his members are working on,” Englebright said. “I’m one of his senior members, and I’m very grateful he wants to come out and see what are the things I’m really focused on in the district.”

Bill Glass is a newly appointed village justice in Port Jefferson. Photo from Glass

Bill Glass has big robes to fill.

The local lawyer was appointed Port Jefferson village justice on Monday afternoon to hold the seat of Peter Graham, a judge who served more than 30 years on the village bench before he died last week.

Glass, a 60-year-old former village prosecutor, attorney and trustee who has lived in Port Jefferson his entire life, was previously an assistant district attorney in the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where he worked under village Trustee Larry LaPointe in the Rackets Bureau.

“He’s a person of the highest character and I think he’ll do this village proud,” LaPointe said at the village board of trustees meeting Monday.

A graduate of Fordham Law School and a longtime fire department volunteer, Glass currently runs his own practice out of Port Jefferson, representing fire and emergency medical service groups throughout Suffolk County.

“I’ve never been behind the bench so this should be interesting,” he told the board at the meeting.

Glass signed his oath of office the same day he was appointed, and will wield the gavel until at least June, when there will be a village election to fill the justice seat for the three years remaining on Graham’s term.

Graham had been most recently re-elected to a four-year term this past June.

The coming election is one in which Glass plans to run, he said in a phone interview Tuesday. He added that he brings “a lifelong commitment to living in this village to the job.”

The new justice previously tried to win Graham’s seat in a 2011 election, but voters overwhelmingly supported the incumbent.

“It’s my home, it’s my community and I like to see things done right here,” Glass said about his interest in serving as a justice, adding he hopes he can “begin to live up to the reputation that [Graham] left behind.”

Graham was known for his vibrant personality, particularly his sense of humor. His life was full of color, between being born on Independence Day, abandoning the seminary after four years of study in favor of practicing law, and his service in the U.S. Army. After he died last week, those who knew him called him irreplaceable.

“I’m certainly not in a very real sense replacing Pete, because you can’t really replace Pete,” Glass said at the board meeting. “What a huge character and a valued part of the village. But I’m certainly going to do my best to do so.”

According to the new justice, he is concerned about villagers’ quality of life, which is why he wants to tackle issues from the bench.

As she appointed him to the bench on Monday afternoon, Mayor Margot Garant said, “I don’t know another attorney and resident of the village who is more up to the task.”

Huntington Town Board candidates Gene Cook, Jennifer Thompson, Keith Barrett and Susan Berland talk issues at a debate in Elwood on Oct. 14. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Town Board candidates discussed development, term limits and more at a debate at the Elwood Public Library hosted by the Elwood Taxpayers Association on Wednesday, Oct. 14.

Two seats are up for grabs on the five-member board next month, and four contenders are in the running for the slots. Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) are both seeking re-election. Newcomers Jennifer Thompson, a Republican, and Keith Barrett, a Democrat, are looking for a first term.

In his opening statement, Cook said that he is such a strong believer in term limits that if he gets elected in November, he would “term-limit” himself voluntarily, pledging it would be his last run for the seat.

“It’s tough for those people to run that have never run before,” Cook said. “It’s an unfair advantage.”

Cook asked if every other candidate also believed in term limits and both Thompson and Barrett said they did.

“I think that most people come into office with the best of intentions, but the longer you’re there, the more susceptible you are to corruption,” Thompson said. “I do think that there also is benefit to having fresh perspectives and new ideas.” She also said that campaign funding is an uphill battle and incumbents make it a “David and Goliath situation” where it is very difficult for newcomers to raise matching amounts of funds.

Berland, however, said she does not believe in term limits.

“I believe elections are the best term limits,” she said. “If people want you to continue doing the job you’re doing, they’ll vote for you. If they’d rather have someone else do the job, they’ll vote for someone else.”

The most popular question of the night regarded the The Seasons at Elwood, and what each candidate’s opinion was of the project. The Seasons is a planned 256-unit condominium housing community geared towards residents 55 and older.

Cook said his opinion is on the town’s records, because he was the only town council member to vote against the project, which required a change of zone.

“When 5,500 residents who signed a petition against it and said ‘We don’t want it,’ I was right there behind you,” Cook said.

Barrett asked if it really matters what he thinks of the Seasons at Elwood. “How many of you don’t want it?” Barrett asked and the audience responded overwhelmingly that they did not. “Well then you got my answer.” Barrett also said he would have liked to see more community involvement before the project gained approval.

“I’d like to see somebody from the community and the development being involved,” Barrett said. “There is compromise for everything. We have to work on this more as a community and not ramming it down peoples’ throats.”

Thompson countered that she does think it matters what she thinks of this issue. “I will stand with this community and vote against it,” Thompson said.

Berland voted in favor of the project.

“It was a project that I supported because it’s senior housing and there are a lot of seniors who want to continue to live here,” Berland said. “They ended up with a high density number significantly lower than when they started. I think that [the Greens at Half Hollows] has been an amazing economic boom and I’m hoping that the Seasons will end up being the same.”

Some audience members continued to grill her on why she’d vote the project when many residents were against it.

“There were petitions in favor and in opposition,” Berland said. “They were a large number of people in and outside the Elwood community who welcome senior housing. I vote what I think is best for the people of the town and I don’t think this will hurt the people of the town.”

When asked for three items each candidate would prioritize if elected, Thompson started with safety in Huntington Station.

“We deserve the opportunity to walk our streets and feel safe.” Her other two priorities are making sure water quality remains clean and keeping taxes low. Barrett said he’d prioritize cleaning up criminal activities in Huntington Station. He also said parking in Huntington village is a big problem.

“Parking is a big issue because you can’t go down there and buy a slice of pizza without spending a couple bucks on parking,” Barrett said. His third issue is spending. He said he would like to broaden the scope of certain town department to get Huntington taxpayers the best bang for their bucks.

Cook brought up the shock he felt when he learned the news of Maggie Rosales, an 18-year old who died after she was stabbed in Huntington Station last year. Cook said he went to Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) with a plan to put public safety cars on the road, and link them up with 2nd Precinct to help cut crime. He also said he would like to challenge the some of the numbers in the supervisor’s budget. “I never once voted for Frank Petrone’s budget.”

All the candidates were unanimous on the issue of the ongoing litigation between Huntington Town and the Long Island Power Authority. The utility is suing the town to recover some $270 million in property taxes it paid since 2010, arguing the aging Northport power plant is grossly over-assessed.

Berland said she has been totally in favor of the litigation since day one.

“I think LIPA has to keep with the agreement that they made from the beginning that they would not ask for reassessment,” Berland said. She also said that Cook was the only vote against the litigation and that he wanted to settle instead, and that is something she strongly disagrees with.

Cook said he voted against initiating litigation because he was told if the town loses, Huntington could be on the hook for a large sum of money. He has since changed his stance — he said he believes at this point it is past negotiations and that they have to fight.

Barrett is in favor of fighting LIPA, and Thompson, who voted on the school board to put the district into the court battle, said she still strongly is for the litigation.

The next debate between the candidates will be sponsored by the League of Women Voters. It will take place at Harborfields Public Library on Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at 31 Broadway in Greenlawn.

Workshop gives incentives for homeowners to install solar panels

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Romaine opens the Solarize Brookhaven event at Town Hall. Photo by Giselle Barkley

A little sunshine never hurt anyone, especially now that solar power is here to stay.

On Saturday, the Town of Brookhaven hosted its second annual Solarize Brookhaven event featuring SUNation’s solar system program. SUNation was one of almost 30 solar companies that the town considered to help encourage Brookhaven resident to go solar, be energy efficient, and save money.

According to Christina Mathieson, chief administrative officer of SUNation, in the company’s 13 years of business, it’s sold 1,600 solar systems and saved solar users around $3 million annually. Mathieson said residents qualify for the program if their electricity bill will cost less when they go solar.

“Our goal is to [help] customers offset almost 100 percent of their electrical consumption,” Mathieson said in an interview before the event.

Although residents can produce their own electricity using the solar system program, users must remain connected to the Public Service Enterprise Group. The energy generated by the solar panels is not stored in the user’s home, but in PSEG’s grid system. This is regardless of whether residents buy or lease SUNation’s service. According to Mathieson, homeowners who decide to buy the service and lock in their payment when they go solar will eventually pay around $11 to stay connected to PSEG.

During the event on Oct. 10, residents could speak to one of several site evaluators from SUNation to discuss going solar and what it may cost for each specific resident. Roofs that get ample sunlight during the day or those facing the South, East or West will produce more energy than houses with a roof facing North, according to Mathieson. Site evaluators can see a prospective client’s roof via Google Earth and determine how much going solar will cost and save a client, depending on the orientation and overall location of the perspective buyer’s roof and the location of their home. SUNation’s solar system program will last up to 40 years. In a 30-year period, Mathieson saw clients save anywhere from $60 to $250,000 dollars after going solar.

According to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), the purpose of the Solarize Brookhaven event is to help everyday people find a means to buy or finance solar for their home. Romaine also highlighted additional benefits of going solar, including the fact that solar has created 175,000 jobs and has pumped nearly $15 million back into the economy.

But reducing greenhouse gases is another benefit to going solar. During the event, Romaine said town and state officials alike are “involved [with Solarize Brookhaven] because [they’re] trying to reduce the greenhouse gases in [Brookhaven] town.”

Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst, Anthony Graves, added that the idea was to have the event so residents know they will be getting a good, reliable system at a good price.

“And that’s what we’ve gotten with SUNation,” Graves said.

Graves also said the company provided a 15 percent discount on its service. In order to appeal to the masses and encourage more residents to participate in the program, residents will receive a check for $1,000 if 100 people participate in the program. The deal taps into the fact that, according to Mathieson, one of the main reasons people go solar is because their neighbor went solar.

But for residents like Stephen Plesnik of Miller Place, his electric bill was enough for him to look into going solar. Plesnik said he was looking into solar as he saw his electricity bill continually increasing over time.

“I’ve been looking into solar for the last six months and since this is a company that is approved by the Town of Brookhaven, supposedly they’re giving a better deal,” Plesnik said, while waiting to speak to a site evaluator at the event.

And SUNation’s service offers one of the better deals when it comes to going solar, according to Mathieson and town officials.

“Most of us never thought that we could have a system that made electricity,” Mathieson said. “We almost never imagined not paying an electric bill. The days of people having to lay out money to own solar systems are over, and the days of a return of investment are gone.”

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Mayor Dee Parrish, center, and the Board of Trustees for the Village of Poquott, discuss phase three of the storm cleanup during their Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After three months and two storms, the Village of Poquott will continue its storm cleanup into the fall and winter months.

On Thursday, Oct. 8, the Board of Trustees for the Village of Poquott discussed phase three of the storm cleanup. While Poquott’s parks, beaches and areas around the village were cleaned during phase one and two, phase three focuses on clearing the trees that were damaged during the Aug. 4 storm.

Deputy Mayor Harry Berry of the Village of Poquott said four trees fell during the week with the windy weather from storm Joaquin. One tree caused a power shortage and started a fire in the basement of a nearby house on the corner of Cedar Avenue and Washington Street.

Berry also said these trees could cause further damage if they are not tended to.

“We have branches that are hanging up in trees. Should they fall down on somebody’s car, it may kill them,” Berry said in a phone interview. “If it comes down out of the trees…on somebody walking their dog or their kid and it kills the kid or the person’s dog, the village is going to be responsible.”

Thus far there are 28 damaged trees standing in the village. Some are broken, leaving 30- to 40-foot stalks standing, while others are severely damaged. While these trees are a safety concern for Berry, funding the cleanup is another issue. According to Berry, the village spent $11,500 for storm cleanup. Currently they are unsure how much it will cost the village to fund phase three of the cleanup, which will go out for bid this week.

But Board Trustee Jeff Koppelson said the board should get their facts straight before beginning phase three.

“We need to start [figuring] out what’s ours, what’s private property and then [start] to…take care of some of this stuff based upon what we can afford to do,” Koppelson said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Mayor Dee Parrish said during the meeting that there are trees in nearby parks that are down and take precedence over others. Parrish was unavailable for additional comment following the meeting.

While some of the 28 damaged trees may fall within private properties or nearby roadways, Berry as well as Richard Parrish, the president of Impact Environmental whose company funded Poquott’s Trustee Park cleanup, claimed some community members oppose the storm cleanup because “they’re afraid their taxes might go up.” Forcing homeowners to fund parts of the current and past storm cleanup was met with opposition from Poquott residents including Berry. The suggestion was made during phase two of the storm cleanup and was briefly discussed for phase three.

“You have lots of people in the village that are older [and] are on fixed incomes,” Berry said. “They can’t afford that kind of money.”

It was the board’s decision to go through the village to fund the cleanup and remove obstacles that cause transportation issues. While Long Island Tree Service was the company that completed phase one and two and evaluated the damaged trees in the village, it is unclear whether they will also complete phase three. Berry said companies are given two weeks to respond to the village’s bid for this phase.

Once the village finalizes the bidding process, Berry projects that clearing the damaged trees will take all of November “if [they’re] lucky.” Regardless of how long it may take, Berry said the village needs to work together to get the job done.

“The village…needs to understand that the whole village is in this together as a community,” Berry said. “It’s not any one person [working to clean the village].”