Port Times Record

Port Jefferson Village Treasurer Don Pearce, above, worked with the board of trustees on Monday night at Village Hall to reduce the budget for 2015-16. File photo

Port Jefferson officials are whittling down the village’s budget proposal for 2015-16.

During a budget workshop at Village Hall on Monday afternoon, the board of trustees slashed almost $300,000 from department funding requests, to get the preliminary spending plan down to about $10.34 million.

One of the pricier items the trustees removed was a generator for the Department of Public Works — something that had also been an issue during last year’s budget process. On Monday, the trustees agreed that the generator, being a one-time capital expense, would better belong in the capital budget, rather than the operating budget. The board was also looking at the generator as part of a larger capital project: its proposed emergency operations center.

Due to safety concerns and power complications during storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Winter Storm Nemo in 2013, officials have set up shop at the Mount Sinai headquarters of the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company during weather emergencies. But the village is seeking to build an emergency operations center, which would include a generator, at the village government building on North Country Road that houses both the public works and building and planning departments. That operations center could receive state aid to be built.

The draft $10.34 million budget for next year — as compared to the current $10 million budget — would increase the tax rate by a little more than $1.50 for every $100 of assessed value.

However, the trustees are still reviewing both the revenue and spending sides of the budget, including items like trustee salaries and the number of code enforcement work hours.

The board will hold a public hearing on possibly piercing through the state-imposed cap on tax levy increases in Village Hall on April 6, and then will hold a public hearing on a finalized budget proposal on April 15.

Bellone signs Anker's legislation into law

Sarah Anker introduced the legislation to require the warning signs last year. File photo by Erika Karp
Suffolk County retailers who sell liquid nicotine will now have to display a sign warning customers of the possible dangers associated with the product.

On Monday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed the legislation into law, which officials say is the first of its kind in the nation. The bill was sponsored by Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and seeks to educate consumers about liquid nicotine — an ultra-concentrated nicotine substance used in e-cigarettes. The product could be poisonous if swallowed, inhaled or if it comes in contact with skin. Anker pitched the legislation in December following the death of a Fort Plain, N.Y., one-year-old who ingested the product.

“This potent and possibly toxic product requires regulation, and without leadership from the federal Food and Drug Administration, Suffolk County must move forward to protect our residents with the required warning sign,” Anker said in a press release.

Calls to poison control centers regarding liquid nicotine poisoning have increased throughout the last few years, according to the press release. In 2012, there were fewer than 100 cases of nonlethal liquid nicotine poisoning; in 2013, the number rose to 1,300; and in 2014, the number jumped to 4,000.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services will enforce the law and provide the downloadable warning signs. The law will take effect 90 days from filling with the Office of the Secretary of State.

Businesses in violation of the law could receive an up to $250 fine for a first offense. Fines increase to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a violation thereafter.

Last year, the county prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine to anyone younger than 21 years old.

Legislator Kara Hahn, center, speaks about her domestic violence bill as officials look on. Photo by Phil Corso

This story was last updated on March 25.

The Suffolk County Legislature stood united Tuesday as it approved a new bill that will change the way police and advocacy agencies approach domestic violence by taking a new look at different risk factors.

The bill, which County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said he will sign into law, emphasizes a three-pronged approach: directing county police to assign grades of recidivism risk to offenders, providing domestic violence victims with self-assessment opportunities, and linking them up with advocates to deliver more resources. County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who introduced the bill, plugged the measure alongside Bellone, Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) and other Suffolk leaders just hours before the Legislature voted Tuesday evening, with 16 legislators in favor and one absent at the time of the vote.

“One out of four women in the United States will experience some type of domestic violence during her lifetime, and every year more than 1,500 of these women will be killed by their abusers,” Hahn said. “Key to addressing this issue is to realize that over half of domestic violence victims who are murdered, or are the victim of an attempted murder … did not accurately perceive his or her risk.”

According to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, 38 domestic violence-related homicides have been reported in Suffolk County between 2009 and 2013.

The legislation plays off of a Portland, Ore., police initiative that assesses risk for intimate partner violence — an initiative that Suffolk police used on a limited basis. The 20-question assessment, lawmakers argued, helps victims see how much danger they are in while also linking them up with advocacy groups near them.

As far as the offenders go, Bellone and Sgt. Kelly Lynch, commanding officer for the Suffolk County Police Department’s Domestic Violence Bureau, said cops will use a new danger assessment tool to identify at-risk victims and assign a level of risk to previous offenders on a scale of one to 13, with the highest number meaning they are most likely to repeat an offense.

“This computer program automatically collects and analyzes data from internal police records and produces a score that will identify offenders who are most likely to ‘recidivate’ in domestic violence offenses,” Lynch said. “Domestic violence officers will use this tool to contact the victims and families who are associated with these high-risk offenders.”

Bellone called the legislation both a personal and professional endeavor for Hahn and described domestic violence as one of the most important issues facing the county.

“As the police are some of the first people to come into contact with victims of domestic violence, it is important that they have access to proven assessment tools and the most effective resources to best serve and protect victims,” he said. “This legislation will do just that.”

Laura Ahern, executive director of the Crime Victims Center at Parents for Megan’s Law, said the 20-question self-assessment will better identify certain risk factors, making violence more predictable and preventable. She said lawmakers must pay close attention to the victims of such crimes and help empower them to prevent future incidents.

“This is an enormous step,” Ahern said. “All three components of this bill empower domestic violence victims. The police department will then use objective means to assess, identify and help these victims.”

Human remains were found along the Greenway Trail in Setauket. Photo by Phil Corso

Skeletal remains were spotted in Setauket on Sunday, prompting a police investigation, officials said.

Suffolk County police were seen investigating the human remains soon after they were found, around 4 p.m. on Sunday near at a stretch of the hiking and biking Greenway Trail off of Gnarled Hollow Road, police said. The cause of death was unknown, and it was still unclear whether the remains belonged to a male or female, cops said.

The medical examiner’s office is still determining the cause of death, police said.

The Greenway Trail runs 3.5 miles between Setauket and Port Jefferson Station. It starts at Limroy Lane on the western end and goes to the state department of transportation’s Park and Ride lot near Route 112.

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Locals stopped by Hurricane Grill & Wings on Route 112 In Port Jefferson Station on March 22 to go bald for a good cause.

The bold attendees shaved their heads or cut their hair short to raise money for childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Many of those buzzing their heads clean were children themselves.

There is another St. Baldrick’s shaving event in the area coming up, on Saturday, March 28. The event will be at Schafer’s restaurant, on West Broadway in Port Jefferson, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses, can be administered either through the nose or intravenously. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is hosting a free Narcan training seminar later this month, with the goal of teaching local residents how to administer the drug that reverses opioid overdoses.

At the Comsewogue Public Library on March 31, starting at 7 p.m., community members will also learn how to identify an overdose and administer the lifesaving medication.

The seminar will take place in the community room of the library, located on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station, and participants must be 18 years or older.

Hahn said in a press release that the training is important “because it is often the family and friends of a victim who are first on the scene when someone is overdosing.”

Those who wish to attend must pre-register by calling the legislator’s office at 631-854-1650.

Following public outcry against a plan to eliminate wild mute swan populations over the next decade, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has released a new draft of its plan that focuses on “nonlethal” methods to control the birds.

Thousands of people, including animal rights advocates and environmentalists, had sent in comments last year on the previous draft of the plan, whose stated long-term goal was “to eliminate free-ranging mute swans from New York State by 2025.” Many took issue with the DEC’s plans to euthanize the adult birds and questioned the validity of the department’s research on mute swans’ impact on the environment.

In addition, state legislators approved a two-year moratorium on any plan to euthanize the swans and required the DEC to “give priority to nonlethal management techniques.”

The first draft of the plan also called for using some swans for zoological purposes and transferring others to people licensed to hold them in captivity.

According to the DEC, mute swans, which have orange beaks and make less noise than other types of swans, can contribute to high fecal coliform bacteria counts on bodies of water used for drinking or swimming. They can also attack humans, which can make them “a serious nuisance and render some land or water areas inaccessible for outdoor recreation during the nesting season.”

There are about 2,200 free-ranging mute swans in New York, the DEC has estimated, and they can be found on Long Island, in New York City and in the lower Hudson Valley and Lake Ontario regions. The population has jumped from where it was in the 1970s, when mute swans numbered fewer than 700.

New York has other species of swan, but mute swans are considered invasive and non-native — they were brought here in the late 1800s and used for ornamental purposes — and thus were targeted for management. The DEC’s goal, as stated in the plan’s most recent draft, is to reduce the mute swan population to its 1980 numbers: fewer than 800 birds.

The DEC has been operating under the same species management plan since 1993, and the new mute swan plan would replace the older one. In preparation for the plan, the DEC conducted research between 2004 and 2008 “to document abundance, survival, reproduction, movements, ecological impacts and management of mute swans in New York.”

Following public backlash of the first draft, the department this month released its new draft of the management plan, which focuses on alternatives to euthanization, and a document responding to public comments it received.

“Because many people object to the use of lethal control methods, especially killing adult birds, DEC will use ‘nonlethal’ methods … where practical and timely, to achieve the management objectives,” the new plan stated. Those methods could include terminating embryos in the swans’ eggs or placing the birds in licensed facilities.

“However, this will require some commitment of funding and assistance from organizations and individuals who wish to see nonlethal options used to the extent possible. Placement and proper care of swans in public parks or other controlled settings can be costly to local governments or communities.”

Despite the emphasis on nonlethal methods, the DEC said in its response to public comments, officials would still resort to lethal methods “wherever immediate removal of birds is necessary to alleviate a site-specific conflict … and live-capture is not practical or no facility is readily available to accept the birds.”

The new DEC plan’s agenda for minimizing the impacts of mute swans on other wildlife and habitats includes increasing public support and awareness; preventing new swans from entering wild populations “through intentional releases, escapes or natural reproduction”; and controlling the number of mute swans on downstate tidal waters.

Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), one of the legislators who worked to place a moratorium on the swan euthanization, said in a statement last week that the DEC “has heard our concerns and has begun to move in the right direction.”

But the new plan still allows for swans to be eliminated under certain circumstances, and he cautioned that the birds “should only be destroyed as the absolute last resort, and only when they are posing public danger.”

The public can comment on the plan until April 24. Comments can be submitted to [email protected] or to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.

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Senior runner finishes final indoor track and field season with a multitude of achievements

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke

Almost no one can catch him.

This past weekend, Port Jefferson high school senior James Burke earned a silver medal at the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan, making him the second fastest miler in the country at 4 minutes, 8.48 seconds.

It’s just one highlight of his final and most memorable indoor season.

“I’ve just been more about trying to win races and disregarding time, not really watching the clock, because my mentality with that was every record you get will eventually be broken, but every title you get can never get taken away from you,” Burke said.

Although he wasn’t watching the clock, Burke ran a new national No. 1 time in the 1,000-meter at the Molloy Stanner Games in January, finishing in 2:26.35.

Burke said the 1,000 is, of course, not his forte, but he was excited to be able to show his range.

“It was definitely a big confidence booster for me to know that there’s a variety of events that I can excel in; to know that I’m not limited to one event,” he said.

Besides topping the country, the mark also broke the Long Island record of 2:27.39, set by Chaminade’s Sean Kelly last season.

Following that race, Burke competed in the New Balance High School Boys’ Mile at the New York Road Runners’ Millrose Games in February, and finished first with a time of 4:11.25. He also nabbed his first New York State gold medal for the mile at the state championship meet earlier this month.

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke’s mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke

“Anything he had, he put it out there this year,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He performed to the best of his ability throughout the entire season, and it showed in the result.”

The medal was special to Burke not only because it was his first time earning gold in a state competition but also because of the memories that haunted him from the same meet the year prior.

Last winter, Burke made his move with about 600 meters to go in the race and was passed with nearly 20 meters left, resulting in a second-place finish.

“That image was in my head pretty much all year, because I didn’t get a chance in the spring,” Burke said, explaining that he had mononucleosis last spring and could not compete at states. “I was waiting the whole year for that day. Remembering what happened last year, every day, for the whole year, it was definitely a good feeling to place first.”

Then came the national championship, which went a little differently for the Royal compared to his previous races, but his coach was still proud of his athlete.

“He ran beautifully, he did what he had to do, he went out faster than he ever went out before,” Cawley said of his six-year varsity runner. “James persevered and he never gave up. He always tried to catch [Michigan’s Grant Fisher]. It was a phenomenal performance — very gutsy, very smart. He did a great job.”

The difference this time around was the pace of the first 800 meters. During the state meet, the first half of the race was completed in 2:17, but at nationals he finished that distance in 2:01.

The pressure didn’t bother Burke. The mile was just run differently because the stakes were high and the competition was fiercer. But as a result of the speed, Burke believes he got in his own head.

James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo
James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo

“That was the fastest I’ve ever gone through 800 meters, by 10 seconds, in the mile, so it was interesting because as I was going through it at that pace, I saw the clock and thought I should be really tired but I wasn’t,” he said. “Going through at a pace I’m just not used to going got in my head a little bit, so I told myself I was more tired than I really was.”

But Burke got through the mental minefield to secure his second-place finish.

As a result of the new feat, Burke believes that he can continue to shave time off his mile to reach his goal of four minutes.

“So much of racing is staying in the right mental place throughout the race,” he said, which is also why each time he sets foot on the track, he remains confident and determined that he will win.

Cawley said this quality is critical to his senior’s success.

“To go in to a race with that attitude gives you an advantage, because when you doubt you’re going to beat somebody, you’re not going to beat them,” he said. “James is a reality check, because with him around, no matter what you do, you just don’t look as good. He’ll always exceed your expectations and he will always perform to the best of his ability. There’s no doubt in his mind, when he stands on the track, that he’s going to beat everybody else.”

A young boy stands in a pothole on Woodhull Avenue in Port Jefferson Station to demonstrate its size. Photo from Dawn Andolfi

The Brookhaven Town Highway Department is recouping from the cold and moving on to a new task: filling those pesky potholes.

“This proved to be an exceptional winter,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a Monday interview. “This year was worse than last year in terms of icing.”

The winter also proved to be costly. Losquadro estimated the department spent double the $3.6 million budgeted amount for snow removal, despite town officials injecting the budget line with an additional $1 million. Now, as the weather is warming up, the department is moving forward with repairing the roads.

A car swerves to avoid a pothole on Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai. Photo by Barbara Donlon
A car swerves to avoid a pothole on Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Losquadro said the frequent below-freezing temperatures made the ground freeze deeper and is leading to potholes “literally forming overnight.” He said the warm daytime temperatures and colder nights aren’t helping the situation either, as the warming and refreezing of the ground allows liquid to get into cracks and expand.

Although the holes aren’t finished forming, repairs are on the way.

Losquadro said local asphalt plants are opening soon, which will benefit the department, as workers will no longer have to travel to and from Deer Park and Bay Shore to retrieve the materials.

“They were only able to [pick up] two loads a day, which doesn’t go a long way,” Losquadro said.

Despite the town’s effort, the potholes have been a nuisance for some residents. Mt. Sinai Bagel Cafe owner Marcus Argyros was driving on Mount Sinai-Coram Road on Monday when he popped a tire.

“I didn’t swerve and because it was in the middle of the road, I hit it and it popped my tire,” Argyros said, as he worked to put a spare tire on his car. “It’s like Mario Kart with all the potholes right now.”

In an effort to complete all of the repairs, Losquadro said the town is extending workdays by two hours.

Marcus Argyros changes his tire on the side of the road after hitting a pothole. Photo by Barbara Donlon
Marcus Argyros changes his tire on the side of the road after hitting a pothole. Photo by Barbara Donlon

While residents can try to get reimbursed, the likelihood of it happening during this time is unlikely, as the potholes are to be expected.

Losquadro urges residents to call the town when a pothole is visible so they can write it down and fix it as soon as possible.

As for next winter, Losquadro is already planning. He said he would ask for an increase in the snow removal budget, as he wants to avoid being in this situation again.

By Heidi Sutton

I always know that spring is right around the corner when Theatre Three presents its adorable annual musical production of “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.” Written by Jeffrey E. Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, suggested by the characters created by Beatrix Potter, this show is a personal favorite of mine and seems to get better every year. Directed by Tazukie Fearon for the second year in a row and accompanied flawlessly on piano by Steve McCoy, it follows the adventures of Peter Rabbit (played by James D. Schultz) and his cousin Benjamin Bunny (played by Fearon) as they sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden to steal his vegetables.

Like two peas in a pod, Schultz and Fearon work very well together. They know their target audience well and draw the most laughs. Amanda Geraci plays Mrs. Rabbit and charms the audience with her beautiful rendition of “Morning.” Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail, played by Marquéz Catherine Stewart, Jenna Kavaler and Caitlin Nofi (who has a fondness for Trix cereal), respectively, are a terrific supporting cast. Dan Brenner and Sue Anne Dennehy return as Mr. and Mrs. McGregor and shine in their duet, “A Friend.”

Of special note is the constant interaction with the audience — asking them what to do next or answering a child when she asks a question. While being chased by Mr. McGregor, the cast runs up and down the aisles, sitting in chairs to hide, much to the delight of the young theatergoers. A nice touch.

The set is minimal, with just a few props including a scarecrow and a basket of vegetables, allowing your imagination to run wild. Listening to the dialogue, one can envision a garden full of carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, string beans and parsley and understand how two little rabbits could find this forbidden bounty irresistible. Utilizing a trap door on the stage as a rabbit hole is very effective.

Masterfully choreographed by Stewart, the musical numbers, arranged by Kevin F. Story, are all showstoppers, especially “One More Time Around” and “Peter’s Socks,” and the audience is treated to an encore performance of all the songs in a finale mega mix.

James D. Schultz as Peter Rabbit and Tazukie Fearon as Benjamin Bunny in a scene from ‘The Adventures of Peter Rabbit.’ Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

Sophie Jeong, 4, of Coram, came prepared for the show by wearing a pretty pink shirt with a bunny sewn on it and by bringing her favorite stuffed rabbit along. She sang along to all the songs, and, when asked who her favorite character was, she replied without hesitation — “Peter Rabbit.” Her favorite scene? “When the bunnies were eating their lunch [of blackberries, milk and toast].”

Don’t forget to take a picture with the cast in the lobby after the show. Bunny stuffed animals will be sold before the show and during intermission, and booster seats are available. Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through April 11, perfect for spring break. Up next is “The Littlest Pirate” followed by “Puss-in-Boots” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Tickets are only $10 each. For more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.