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Dan Losquadro

Supervisor Ed Romaine, Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross pose with a 32-inch female American alligator turned in on Amnesty Day. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Long Islanders turned in three American alligators and eight turtles at a recent animal amnesty event in Brookhaven Town, and all of the reptiles are shipping up to a Massachusetts sanctuary.

Brookhaven’s Holtsville Ecology Center hosted the event on Oct. 10 to allow residents to turn in any protected, endangered or threatened animals that require special New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permits without fear of penalties or questioning. It was the second annual event of its kind for the town, which operated with the help of those two agencies and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

People with dangerous or illegal animals were able to turn them over to professionals, no questions asked.

Suffolk SPCA Chief Roy Gross called the recent amnesty event a success, saying the three alligators turned in “had the potential of ending up endangering the public.”

According to Brookhaven Town, the average length a fully grown female American alligator is a little more than 8 feet, and a fully grown male can be longer than 11 feet. Of the three alligators turned in, two were males, measuring 27 and 29 inches, and one was a 32-inch female.

“People should think twice before acquiring illegal reptiles or mammals,” Gross said in a statement from the town. “They do not make good pets and you are risking fines and possible jail time.”

At last year’s animal amnesty event, people turned in 25 animals, including a western diamondback rattlesnake, a green anaconda, four boa constrictors, an American alligator and two marmosets.

“These animals were turned in before the people harboring them as pets released them into the wild, creating a potentially dangerous situation in our local communities,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said in a statement about the alligators and turtles turned over this year. “These animals will now receive proper care without posing a threat.”

Owners of potentially dangerous animals have dumped them in public places in the past, creating a public safety issue. In late August, a 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was discovered in a stream of the Nissequogue River opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25. The reptile is not indigenous to Long Island — it is a freshwater animal with enough power to bite off a human toe or finger, and is usually found in places from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

“People need to understand that many exotic animals can be very dangerous if not handled properly or allowed to grow to their adult size,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement. “They are even more threatening if released into the wild, where they could harm people or other animals.”

The dangerous reptile sits on a table at Thursday's press conference. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

A 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was found this past weekend in the stream opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25 in Smithtown, with enough power to bite off someone’s finger or toe, officials said.

“We’re just lucky the gentleman who found it knew how to handle it, and knew to contact us,” said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “This reptile is capable of taking toes and part of a foot clean off. People are constantly walking by this area barefoot, including children.”

A father and son, both Suffolk County residents, found the reptile while they were preparing to go kayaking, officials said. Gross said that this freshwater reptile is not indigenous to this area, and is mainly found from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

SPCA Chief Roy Gross handles the alligator snapping turtle on Thursday, Aug. 27. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
SPCA Chief Roy Gross handles the alligator snapping turtle on Thursday, Aug. 27. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Gross and Dan Losquadro, highway superintendent for Brookhaven Town, both said that this is another example of people dumping reptiles in public places, creating a serious threat and risk to the public.

“This is a dangerous animal. We don’t want animals abandoned. But we don’t want to endanger the public,” Losquadro said.

According to Losquadro, the turtle will be transported to the Holtsville Ecology Center, where it will be given shelter and a veterinarian will make sure it is physically healthy, and identify what gender it is.

The ecology center is a refuge for all abandoned animals. Gross said that over the years there have been many incidents of animals being released to the public, and that someone guilty of this can be faced with multiple charges and prosecuted.

Gross suspected this was originally someone’s pet, but stressed that this is not the kind of pet you want to have.

“I can’t imagine curled up on the couch watching television with this guy,” Gross said.

When transporting the turtle to the SPCA’s office, he said the turtle was able to make a hole in the container he was being kept in, and was trying to escape.

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Downed trees were a common sight along Route 25A in the Setauket- East Setauket and Stony Brook areas. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The winds have subsided, but Setauket and Stony Brook still have a lot of debris to clean up since last week’s brutal storm sent the North Shore for a spin.

An early morning windstorm made its way through the area early last Tuesday morning, toppling trees and downing power lines. The electricity has since been restored, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island said, and the utility has been providing more than 600 workers to ensure all temporary repairs are made permanent. Most roads have been cleared of fallen trees, and the town has been moving nearly 1,000 cubic yards of material a day amid cleanup efforts.

But there is still a ways to go.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said it could take another two to three weeks for Setauket and Stony Brook to be declared 100 percent passable. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Losquadro said his team buddied up with utility PSEG to help remove trees from roadways while grappling with fallen utility poles and electric wires. Now, he said it’s all about following through on the stragglers.

“This week, we’ve been bringing crews in an hour early each day to continue the debris removal process,” he said in a phone interview this week. “While we have shifted skeleton crews back out to their respective districts, a vast majority of my assets are still deployed in this area doing debris removal.”

Losquadro said the trucks were moving quickly to remove debris and bring it to his department’s Setauket yard to be handled. And he credited a big chunk of his team’s efficiency since the winds came barreling through on his emergency management preparedness.

“We had a plan set up with [the] waste management [department] that they would move their big grinder — the one at the Brookhaven landfill — to an area where we would stage material out of,” he said. “Now, we only have to handle the materials once.”

In prior storms, Losquadro said the town moved waste materials two to three times before they hit a landfill, which slowed down the recovery process and ended up costing more money. But the new plan has made cleaning up more efficient.

On a financial note, Losquadro said the storm will undoubtedly put a dent in his overall budget but his team would remain vigilant in tracking all costs and seeking reimbursement from the state, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when the recovery efforts conclude.

“It will be a significant number,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. It’s a fact that that area was hit harder by this storm than it was hit by [Hurricane] Sandy.”

The highway superintendent said the hardest-hit areas in Setauket and Stony Brook should be able to fully put the storm behind them in a matter of two weeks or so.

“The fact that this was a localized event did allow me to pour many more assets into a smaller area to get the recovery done faster,” he said. “It also allowed PSEG to do the same thing. I, myself, could not be happier with the organization of my operation.”

Jason Kontzamanys takes on Dan Losquadro on Nov. 3

Road paving is just one of the issues highway superintendent candidates will debate. File photo by Erika Karp

Jason Kontzamanys has been working in the Town of Brookhaven parks department for a decade, but the Democrat said he is looking for a new challenge, which prompted his decision to face off against Republican incumbent Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro in November.

Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro. Photo from the candidate
Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro. Photo from the candidate

In a recent interview, Kontzamanys, 45, of Port Jefferson Station, spoke about his plans for his campaign and what he would do if elected to the position. He said his years of experience working as a maintenance mechanic in the parks department and with blue-collar workers makes him the man for the job.

This is Kontzamanys’ first time running for office and the Comsewogue High School alumnus recently went back to school to earn his master’s degree in social studies education from Dowling College. He plans to obtain his doctorate in education administration and become a school administrator.

“I knew I could make a difference,” he said about accepting the nomination.

Kontzamanys said he believed the biggest issue plaguing the department is the overuse of subcontracting.

“The taxpayers should be upset as well,” he said. “The taxpayer is paying for a unionized workforce and they’re not being worked to their full potential.”

Kontzamanys began working for Brookhaven at the landfill and currently works out of the parks department’s base in Holtsville, where he helps with “all aspects of construction and maintenance,” he said. This has given him the opportunity to be versatile and get to know the whole town, he said.

He also has his Class A Commercial License to operate heavy equipment.

Bringing the subcontracted work in house is one of the first steps Kontzamanys would take to help boost the department’s morale, which he alleged is almost non-existent. He said keeping an open-door policy would also help boost spirits.

“You have to keep an open mind, because everybody has the right to be heard, whether it’s a taxpayer or an in-house union member,” he said.

Kontzamanys also said he has a vision to modernize the department and reduce the department’s debt service.

Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro, above. File photo by Erika Karp
Jason Kontzamanys is running on the democratic ticket against incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro, above. File photo by Erika Karp

Losquadro, who was elected as superintendent in 2013, said in a phone interview that he disagreed with Kontzamanys’ notion that subcontracting was bad for the department and the workers aren’t being used. Losquadro said there was a tremendous backlog of work that needed to be done when he took office.

“We needed to go out and contract for that work to keep up with the volume,” he said.

He added that department crews are still responsible for responding to day-to-day complaints and completing routine work. He said the response time for services performed has greatly improved and the fixed-cost contracts gave the department the ability to attend to a high volume of work.

“I think it has been a great boon for the taxpayer,” Losquadro said.

Losquadro also responded to Kontzamanys’ claim that morale was down in the department, stating it is “exactly the opposite,” as he as tried to maintain a direct and open line to his employees.

Making the department more environmentally friendly is also crucial to Kontzamanys, he said, and he spoke about going after federal grants for solar sidewalks and solar panels on highway department land.

Looking at the big picture, Kontzamanys wants to explore additional shared services between municipalities in order to create a synergy between them. For example, collectively bidding on asphalt could help drive down the price.

“I don’t want to just manage, I want to completely transform,” he said.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

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Stony Brook’s B-Section is brand new. Photo from Dan Losquadro

Stony Brook has a bunch of brand new boulevards, thanks to Brookhaven bureaucrats, and residents are abuzz.

The Brookhaven Town Highway Department finished a long-anticipated road improvement project in Stony Brook last week in the area known as the B-Section, repaving 19 roads and making the neighborhood safer. Residents living in the community celebrated the milestone after more than two decades of wear and tear.

“It is a pleasure driving through the community now,” said Dr. Jay Orlikoff, who lives in the neighborhood. “The last time these roads were repaved was about 25 years ago and it was tough to get in and out of the community. This time it was very well done and the courtesy of the workers in how they directed traffic was extremely helpful.”

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said the 19 Stony Brook roads have been near the top of his department’s list for more than a year, but budget constraints have limited his repaving initiatives. But as of the end of last week, the 19 roads — including Balfour Lane, Ballad Lane, Ballad Place, Barker Court, Barker Drive, Barnwell Lane, Beaverdale Lane, Bendix Lane, Bently Lane, Birdseye Circle, Blackwell Court, Blackwell Lane, Blueberry Lane, Bonnie Lane, Botany Lane, Bucknell Lane, Bunting Lane, Burgess Lane and Buxmont Lane — have new surfaces and are safer routes.

“They were in terrible condition. These were roads that, quite frankly, I wish I could have gotten to last year,” he said. “Unfortunately, as you can imagine, everything is budget-driven. There’s a finite amount of money.”

The highway superintendent said he has about 3,350 miles of road to maintain throughout Brookhaven on an annual basis, and more than $100 million worth of roadwork on his to-do list at any given time. But there is only roughly $17 million in funds available to complete the work.

“I’m trying to work my way through these roads, and one of the things I’ve tried to do with people is create a reasonable expectation,” he said. “There are three-to-five-year plans of how we need to get where we need to be, and I’m working toward that. A project like this, that can cost between three-quarters of a million dollars and $1 million, is just an extensive project.”

For the better part of a week, Brookhaven road crews took to the B-Section to rebuild concrete, curbs, drainage and paving components on the 19 roads. Residents waited patiently over several days of milling work and the end result, the superintendent said, was a safer Stony Brook.

“It is very gratifying to hear the positive feedback we have been receiving from residents in this community,” Losquadro said. “This is one more project I can check off our to-do list. The Highway Department will keep on pace to complete many more roads throughout this paving season.”

Looking ahead, Losquadro said he had another big project coming up, budget permitting, in the same vicinity near both Spyglass Lane and Buccaneer Lane, where he said roads are in terrible condition.

“We need to get in there and get that done,” he said. “With the budgetary constraints, I have to be honest with you, I can spend my entire allotment without a problem. But the residents throughout this town deserve attention. We try to do worst first.”