Poquott residents headed to the voting booths June 20 with concerns over a future community dock and a lack of communication between residents and the village board.
With five candidates to choose from for two trustee seats, incumbent Jeff Koppelson and newcomer John Richardson garnered the most votes with 180 and 195 votes, respectively. Challenger Debbie Stevens, who ran with Richardson on the Peace Party ticket, received 178, while incumbent Harold Berry had 170 and Angie Parlatore came in fifth with 28 votes.
Results of the election were not finalized until early Wednesday afternoon. Village clerk Joseph Newfield said there were 306 voters and 84 absentee ballots. The counting of the ballots continued late into the night and 10 absentee ballots were challenged. The village met with the Suffolk Board of Elections Wednesday at noon and all ballots were verified and counted.
In a previous interview with The Village Times Herald, Koppelson said he was hoping to continue the work he accomplished in his first two years, citing the repairing and repaving of roads in the village, beach cleanup and working on plans for the dock. He said he was satisfied with the work he had accomplished with the mayor and his fellow trustees.
“We want to continue our progress,” Koppelson said. “We’ve made a lot of good progress along with the mayor. We have a mission with what we want to do with Poquott.”
Richardson, a New York City firefighter, said in a previous interview he felt there was a lack of transparency in the village, and he would like to be “a conduit for the village and the residents.”
He said his background as a firefighter would be an asset to the village.
“I work in a firehouse with 14 people,” he said. “I can definitely say I’m a team player, I have good communication skills. I will stand by what my platform is.”
While this year’s Poquott Village election for two trustees may not be as contentious as years past, plenty of important community issues remain at the forefront for residents. Plans to build a community dock and communication between the board and villagers are at the top of the list.
During the June 20 election, residents will choose from five candidates to fill two available seats, including two incumbents — Harold Berry and Jeff Koppelson — and three newcomers — Angela Parlatore, Debbie Stevens and John Richardson.
Richardson, a New York City firefighter, and Stevens, owner of Smoothe Laser Center and Medi Spa in East Setauket, both said there is a lack of communication between the current village trustees and residents. The two are running under the Peace Party ticket and have signs around the village that read “Your Village, Your Decisions.”
“I think there has been a lack of transparency, and there has been a lack of public input,” Richardson said in a phone interview.
Stevens said when she attends village hall meetings, residents are given the opportunity to state their question or comment, but discussions rarely follow.
“In all the 26 years I’ve lived here, I have never felt such an air of such divisiveness,” Stevens said in a phone interview. “And I just want the opportunity to be the voice of the residents, and to bring back peace, and be on a board of trustees who will really listen to the residents’ concerns.”
Richardson, who has lived in Poquott for 16 years, said the village has felt polarized in recent years. He said residents haven’t been included in votes for plans that significantly affect their lives and homes. He said while meetings may be published in the paper, the trustees do not use their email system to notify residents as often as they should.
To get approval to build a community dock, according to Richardson, residents were asked to fill out and return mailed surveys, rather than participate in a vote.
He said those that did not have a resident’s name on it were thrown out.
When it comes to the construction of a community dock, both feel there needs to be more input from residents.
“It doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what the Poquott residents think,” Stevens said.
Richardson said his background would be an asset to the village, and he wants to work with the mayor as “a conduit for the village and the residents.”
Stevens said her experiences as a business owner and her work with charities, which includes fundraising for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, are assets because she has the listening and communication skills to bring everyone together.
“I would really love to restore the communication between the Poquott residents and the board of trustees and the mayor,” she said.
Parlatore, a full-time patient care specialist and a resident of Poquott for 18 years, said she is the most neutral of all the candidates, as she is not aligned with anyone. However, like Richardson and Stevens she said communication is suffering in the village. She said when it comes to the dock no one is sure what the majority of the residents want. She said the survey prevented many from expressing their true opinions because it wasn’t anonymous, like a vote would have been.
Parlatore said she feels fortunate to live in Poquott and would like for it to continue to be a wonderful village to live in.
“I feel that I’m good at communicating with people and trying to find common ground between a group of people who are trying to aim in one direction,” she said.
Berry, a 33-year resident of Poquott, and Koppelson, a 45-year resident, are running under the Continuity ticket, and said they should be reelected because they get things done in the village.
Seeking his second term, Koppelson said he hopes the two can continue their progress with the other trustees as well as Mayor Dee Parrish. Berry, the village’s deputy mayor who is currently completing his second term as trustee, said the two plan to work on the community dock, continue improving village roads and cleaning up Poquott beaches among other projects.
Koppelson said the trustees have been making a number of improvements around the village while staying within the budget. According to the former psychiatric treatment program director, Poquott has had a budget surplus for the third year in a row.
When it comes to village roads, there have been many improvements as well as plans to resurface more roads in the near future, something Berry said was neglected before Parrish was mayor.
“For 12 years before Dee got in, roads and repairs were basically non-existent, they just weren’t done,” Berry said. “So the roads deteriorated greatly.”
Both candidates said they would be in favor of a community dock, which is still in the planning stages. The project would cost $150,000. Koppelson said while he understands some residents may not want their taxes to increase, he said the trustees can find other ways to pay for it. He said due to the surplus, village taxes will not increase significantly.
“The bottom line is we’ll be able to pay back the principle over the five years just out of the surplus we’re running and saving money by doing a lot of the work ourselves,” Koppelson said.
He also said community members organized an event and donated $16,000 towards paying for the dock, which will pay for the interest cost of the bond for the first two years.
Berry said the dock willallow boaters and fisherman to easily pull up to it to load and unload their boats, unlike now when they must use a dinghy or kayak to get to their boat.
“The boaters and the fisherman are getting older,” Berry said. “It’s just a matter of ease of getting to your boat and safety.”
Koppelson said there are additional benefits to constructing a dock.
“It will be well used but also it will definitely increase real estate prices,” Koppelson said. “I really do think people will benefit from it in the long run.”
The two pushed back on the challengers’ claims village hall doesn’t properly communicate issues and upcoming votes to residents. In addition to sending out emails, Koppelson said the meetings are open and any hearings on a proposed law are published in The Village Times Herald for two consecutive weeks. Videos of the meetings are also posted on the village’s website the following day and minutes are voted on at the next meeting.
The Village of Poquott elections will be held at Poquott’s Village Hall, 45 Birchwood Avenue, June 20 from noon to 9 p.m.
The Village of Poquott is ready to move forward after a year of infighting and accusations involving an investigation of former village trustee Eddie Schmidt and a missing $23,000, its newly elected officials said in the wake of last week’s vote.
Poquott villagers elected three new trustees and a justice last week. Harold Berry and Jeff Koppelson won the two trustee positions carrying two-year terms, while Sandra Nicoletti secured a trustee position carrying a one-year term. Paul Edelson won the race for justice as a write-in candidate.
Berry and Koppelson were elected with 105 votes and 131 votes, respectively, beating out Gary Garofano, the third candidate vying for one of the spots.
Nicoletti received 113 votes over Karen Sartain, who garnered 69 votes, the village clerk said.
The village did not have any names on the ballot for the justice position, so the spot went to Edelson, who received 96 votes, over Alexander Melbartis — another write-in — who received 87 votes.
“The previous board for the past year has done nothing but fight,” Berry said in a phone interview this week. “I think very little [has] gotten done.”
Berry has lived in the village for over 30 years, he said, and has served as a trustee before. Most recently, he filled the position of maintenance commissioner. The Village of Poquott government website lists his responsibilities as “roadways, lights, signs and drains.”
He said his experiences put him in the position to do some good for the Village of Poquott. Berry said that he campaigned on the platform of “truth, fairness for all and to do good things for the village.” His election has not clouded that view, he said.
“There’s a lot that can be done for the village, and I’m already in the process of doing that,” Berry said. “The board has to come together and work as one unit.”
Koppelson was a health care administrator and has a degree in administration, so he said he is ready to start putting that knowledge to use to help Poquott, he said.
“I’m looking forward to getting started. I ran to see if we could resolve some of the bad feelings and gridlock and start to reduce that,” Koppelson said during a phone interview this week. “Once we get started I’m confident that we can make that happen.”
Koppelson moved to Poquott in 1972, he said.
“People tend to have allegiances based on how long they’ve lived in the village,” Koppelson said, and he expressed his desire to eliminate that.
Koppelson acknowledged that his new position doesn’t make him responsible for “defense of the nation, or anything serious like that,” he said with a chuckle, but he does hope to impact the village positively during his two-year term.
Nicoletti served as a trustee from 2002 to 2014, according to village clerk Joe Newfield. She lost her seat in the 2014 election, then filled in on an interim basis after Schmidt resigned while she waited for the 2015 election. Nicoletti did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Edelson is an attorney at law and a mediator according to his email signature. He declined a request for further comment for this story.
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