Tags Posts tagged with "Lauren Sheprow"

Lauren Sheprow

Former Port Jefferson Village Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden. File photo

By  Aidan Johnson

Former Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Kathianne Snaden has announced her candidacy for the village mayor position in 2025.

In a July 8 press release, Snaden stated that “with a year of extensive reflection and growth behind me, I return to the political arena with renewed vigor, authenticity and a stronger connection to the community I love.”

Snaden first ran for trustee in 2018, losing by just four votes. She then went on to be elected in 2019, reelected in 2021 and was appointed as deputy mayor by Mayor Margot Garant.

After Garant did not seek reelection in 2023, Snaden had an unsuccessful bid for the mayoral position, losing to current Mayor Lauren Sheprow.

Snaden’s announcement comes early, with the mayoral election being nearly a year away.

“The reason I decided to announce now is because I want the time … to be able to build relationships with people that I might not otherwise have that opportunity later on as we get closer to election time,” she said in a phone interview, specifying that she is not yet campaigning but has instead only announced her intention to run.

Snaden also discussed why she’s running, along with the issues facing the village.

“The main reason I’m running again is because I feel like my goal in running initially and being involved in politics in the village has never gone away, which is to be the voice of the community for the people who feel they don’t have a voice,” she said.

She further explained that she is running to represent the people and “not because I have my own agenda,” adding, “It’s always to listen to what the community wants and represent them in Village Hall.”

She sees the East Beach bluff and uptown revitalization as major issues, along with public safety as a more recent concern.

“Residents have been discussing different incidents that have not been brought out in the news or by the government, that are happening but aren’t being discussed publicly … and people are not feeling safe,” she said.

Snaden specified that she will no longer be running on the Unity Party line, which was created by Garant and shared with village trustee Stan Loucks, saying that the line “became something that people gave a tag to, that it represented the old guard, it represented the Garant administration, that it was Mayor Margot’s way of thinking,” but it’s “not how I do things.”

“Was I her deputy mayor for two years? I was. That doesn’t mean that Mayor Garant and I thought the same on many issues. It doesn’t mean that we agreed on many issues,” she said, elaborating that her voting record shows her differing views from Garant. However, she said that they still had a mutual respect for each other and a good relationship.

File photo by Raymond Janis

Skyler Johnson, a progressive vision for New York State Assembly

The November 2024 election is one that will determine the direction our country is headed in, whether we will value environmental protection, reproductive rights and a New York state where everyone can thrive. This doesn’t only apply to the top of the ticket, but down ballot as well. State and local government is where policies are enacted that deeply impact our day to day lives. It is for that reason that I am so excited to support Skyler Johnson for Assembly.

Skyler is exactly the kind of candidate I want to see in office — he stands unequivocally for economic, environmental and social progress in New York state. I know this because I have seen him show up time and again on the issues that impact New Yorkers. Skyler has joined striking autoworkers in picket lines at South Shore Kia in Copiague and striking health care workers at Cold Spring Hills rehabilitation facility in Woodbury. His advocacy has earned him the endorsement of the local 1199SEIU. He has stood with the North Bellport community calling for the closure and remediation of the Brookhaven landfill. He serves as a board member at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic and is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Empire State Votes. Skyler has also been endorsed by the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund and Equality NY. I know that when Skyler goes to Albany, he will protect our workforce, our environment, LGBTQ+ rights and our reproductive freedom.

On a deeply personal note, Skyler and I are both congregation members at Temple Beth Emeth in Mount Sinai, where Skyler serves on the board. In a time where antisemitism is on the rise, I deeply appreciate his leadership in our local Jewish community, and am grateful to share this space with Skyler and his family.

Skyler’s record stands in stark contrast with our current Assemblyman Ed Flood [R-Port Jefferson], who has voted against the Equal Rights Amendment ballot initiative, against fully funding our public schools and against environmental legislation. After being represented by former Assemblyman Steve Englebright [D-Setauket] for decades, I look forward to this seat returning to a community champion like Skyler.

Actions speak louder than words. And I have seen Skyler in action, on the moral side of the issues that matter, time and again. I look forward to sending Skyler to Albany, and to being represented by him.

Shoshana Hershkowitz

South Setauket

Three Village Meals on Wheels celebrates 40 years 

On Aug. 22, 1983, 13 clients received meals for the first time from Three Village Meals on Wheels using eight volunteers. Forty years later, more than 65 clients are receiving meals and 50-plus volunteers are delivering the meals. 

Meals on Wheels began when some local community members saw a need for a meal program in the Three Village area. They hoped to get the program government sponsored. That provision came with specific age requirements for our clients so the idea for a privately sponsored program was discussed.

A meeting in Setauket was held with 40 people in attendance. Spearheading this plan was Adelaide Silkworth who was the director of the Suffolk County Office for the Aging. After an overview of the Town of Huntington’s privately sponsored, home delivery meal program was presented, several organizations volunteered their services for fundraising, seed money, printing and public relations.

Next a steering committee was established and the first meeting took place at the Stony Brook Community Church where the office continues to reside. 

Soon the organization had a chair, secretary, dietary coordinator, screening nurses and a coordinator of volunteers. The group soon became known as Three Village Meals on Wheels. 

A state grant sponsored by Sen. James Lack [R-District 2] got the program off the ground and a month later, the staff of the Office for the Aging met with administrators from St. Charles Hospital and John T. Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson. Both hospitals were on board to provide meals for 20 to 25 people. 

The program today fluctuates in number of clients but continues delivering meals to an ever-growing population of homebound frail, elderly, convalescent and handicapped people who need support to retain their independence. A great organization was born 40 years ago and continues to thrive today with the help of a once-a-year fund drive, generous donations and varying grants to enable this program to remain independent. If you know someone who would benefit from this service, would like to donate or volunteer, call the office 631-689-7070. 

Diane Melidosian 

Stony Brook 

Three Village MOW Board Member

Vote for Ugrinsky’s proven leadership

Our village needs a proven leader, someone who will work tirelessly to protect and enhance our community. Xena Ugrinsky is that person. Xena and I work together on the village’s Budget & Finance Committee and I have been impressed with both her financial expertise and her work ethic. She will bring the best thinking from the private sector to ensure our scarce tax dollars are spent judiciously.

Xena’s resume is also impressive, with over 30 years of corporate and financial management experience. She has the know-how to help craft workable solutions to some of our most pressing issues, including the bluff erosion, the occasional flooding of our downtown and the potential loss of significant revenue from the power plant. Xena will champion making the plant a state-of-the art energy facility that will preserve not only the village’s tax base but the school district, too.

Her proficiency in project management will be invaluable for our public works infrastructure and enable her to keep a close eye on capital expenditures, so we don’t overpay or end up with excessive change-order requests. Port Jefferson needs someone with Xena’s experience on the board. That’s why I’m voting for Xena Ugrinsky for village trustee on June 18. 

William Gatta 

Port Jefferson

 Member of Budget & Finance Committee

Looking forward with Ugrinsky and Parziale

As mayor, I’d like to first express my gratitude, on behalf of the Village of Port Jefferson, to outgoing trustees Drew Biondo and Rebecca Kassay for all their hard work over the past year. We had a very successful year and while we didn’t always agree and tough questions were brought forward, ultimately this board was effective and efficient making unanimous decisions on all but one or two issues.

Now we have to look toward the future, and who best to step up and into these two open trustee seats. I commend the three candidates who have stepped up and put themselves out there for public scrutiny and mudslinging.

That said, my votes are going to Xena Ugrinsky and Marie Parziale (Johs).

Why? Because they are the two most qualified candidates. Their respective resumes are diverse and jam-packed with relevant experience. Each has worked directly in the areas in which they are committed to contribute as village trustees. Xena brings her project management skills, years of work in the finance and energy sectors, and more recently her entrepreneurial activity in alternative energy generation. She currently chairs the village Power Plant Working Group and is a member of the village Budget & Finance Committee, and she chaired the Port Jefferson election review committee to its conclusion.

Marie has been rolling up her sleeves as a volunteer in Port Jefferson for years at Harborfront Park, the Village Center and the Children’s Maritime Museum (now the Explorium) while her children were young and going through Port Jefferson schools. She then pursued an advanced degree in social work and now, as senior alumni career coach at Stony Brook University, she is connecting students and alumni to careers with businesses locally, throughout Long Island and beyond, forging relationships that she can build upon further to benefit our community as a village trustee.

They are both fully engaged and ingrained in our community and both will hit the ground running. It would be my honor to work with each of them on this new board because while I did become mayor with the help of a rubber stamp, we do not need that trait in a board. This administration respects diversity of thought, intellect, and encourages debate and dialogue to get to the right decisions for village residents, and I’m confident that’s what Xena and Marie will bring to the table. 

Lauren Sheprow

Mayor of Port Jefferson Village

Social media is not a reliable source

Has the Port Times Record now resorted to regurgitating Facebook posts under the guise of “reporting”?

In the June 6 edition, the article “Incident in Port Jefferson Village exposes communication failures” is almost entirely composed of one such Facebook post. 

Were there no other sides to the story? The article states, “Seeking clarity and answers, an email was sent to village officials on May 31.” Was this request sent by the newspaper? Did the reporter attempt to contact the police department for the details of the stabbing and learn their view of whether this event constituted a threat to the community warranting an alert? Did the reporter attempt to call the mayor or trustees to get clarification and advise them that a story was being prepared for publication? 

I don’t view social media posts as a reliable source of news events and expect more from the Port Times Record.

Robert J. Nicols

Port Jefferson

The art of deception

In the chessboard of political strategy, concern is often a pawn masquerading as a queen. It’s a Trojan horse, cloaked in the guise of public interest, yet filled with the soldiers of self-serving agendas. This duplicity is the essence of a political dirty trick, where genuine worry is feigned to serve a darker purpose.

These maneuvers are designed to deceive, to cast a shadow of doubt or to rally support through manufactured sincerity. The public, often unaware of the machinations behind the scenes, may be swayed by these displays of false concern.

Yet, in the long run, such tactics can backfire. When the veil is lifted, and the true intentions are revealed, the architects of these deceptions may find themselves facing the very scrutiny they sought to avoid.

Trust, once broken, is not easily mended.

Authenticity is the currency of real change, and without it, political gambits are but empty gestures.

Drew Biondo

Trustee

Port Jefferson Village

Editor’s note: As per TBR policy, we do not publish endorsements the week immediately before elections as it does not allow time for rebuttals. Letters of endorsement can be found on our website, tbrnewsmedia.com, under “Letters”, which is available 24/7. Thank you for your continued readership.

Port Jefferson’s East Beach on Jan. 25. Photo courtesy Myrna Gordon

By Sabrina Artusa

With further recession of the East Beach bluff threatening the safety and structural integrity of the Port Jefferson Country Club, tennis and pickleball courts and golf course, the Village of Port Jefferson held a town hall meeting May 28 at the Waterview catering hall to discuss how to proceed with the bluff revitalization plan initiated in 2021. This plan was interrupted by fierce storms that damaged the barrier wall the village spent two years and approximately $6 million building.

While portions of the wall held strong against runoff and winds, the damage has made some residents unsure if continuing with Phase II is the most effective solution. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding 75% of Phase II, but the specifics of the grant agreement have not been finalized.

Country club

Some residents question why money should be spent protecting a commercial business and argue for the demolition of the village-owned country club and rebuilding further from the cliff.

“There are a lot of people in this town who are hurting. Inflation is hurting middle American families … we talk about putting millions of tax dollars into this beautiful club, but for what?” one resident asked. 

“It’s not just an engineering issue. It’s a cost-benefit analysis for the entire community, and a referendum requires that we be included,” another person said.

The club, however, reportedly brings in over $300,000 of revenue to the village annually. Additionally, one does not have to be a member of the country club to visit.

“When you are repairing the bluff, what is it actually going to protect? It is going to protect a building that is revenue neutral at its worst and it sounds like it is a revenue positive facility,” another resident said.

Other options

Mayor Lauren Sheprow said that the wall held strong for the most part and that engineers and environmental scientists are being consulted on the most responsible course of action going forward.

Nick Thatos, co-founder of the Long Island-based Coastal Technologies, said that planting native species is key to preventing further erosion. He noted that North Shore native plants evolved “to stabilize” and “colonize this niche environment,” citing the complex root systems and cement-like excretions that can keep sand in place.

“Nature is incredible. We cannot engineer anything near what nature can accomplish,” he said.

Some said that the angle of the bluff needs to be corrected to prevent recession, while others said that retreating is the most dependable option.

“The only way to fortify the top is to retreat,” said a woman who has lived in Port Jefferson for over 30 years. “The golf and tennis are separate. Another building can be built.”

Sheprow is asking for volunteers for the village’s Citizens Commission on Erosion. “We want input, we don’t want to do it in a vacuum,” she said.

Front, left to right, Chief Deputy to the President and Senior VP for Government and Community Relations Judy Greiman, Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron, President Maurie McInnis, Mayor Lauren Sheprow, CEO and COO of Stony Brook University Hospital Carol Gomes, VP for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau. Back, left to right, Trustees Drew Biondo, Robert Juliano, Stan Loucks and Rebecca Kassay. Photo by John Griffin.

By Nistha Boghra

The Village of Port Jefferson has officially become “Seawolves Country.” 

“In Port Jefferson, we are so lucky to be here as a resource and respite to the 40,000-plus people who work and study on the beautiful and amazing campus 6 miles down the road,” said Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow at the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday, April 24.

Sheprow and the Board of Trustees presented the declaration to prominent representatives from Stony Brook University, including President Maurie McInnis, Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau, CEO of Stony Brook University Hospital Carol Gomes and Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron.

“We are thrilled that the village has named Port Jeff as Seawolves Country,” Gatteau said. “It speaks to the wonderful partnership with our student body and student affairs team, including opportunities for student employment and internships, and to enjoy entertainment, restaurants and shopping in the downtown area.”

The redesignation of Port Jefferson as Seawolves Country follows a similar 2012 announcement. Signage and banners are to be featured around the village, to the shared sense of Stony Brook pride and reinforce the close relationship between the university and the local community.

Heather Banoub, assistant vice president of community relations at Stony Brook University, expressed similar enthusiasm about the benefits of this proclamation. 

“Declaring Port Jefferson as Seawolves Country will foster the creation of new partnerships and opportunities for Stony Brook students, faculty and staff to enjoy the village,” Banoub said. “It will likewise encourage our neighbors in Port Jefferson to enjoy all the resources offered on our campus — from continuing education to exceptional health care and from athletics to performing arts.”

The decision to declare Port Jefferson as Seawolves Country was made with consideration of the significant presence of the Stony Brook community in the village. More than 500 faculty and staff, along with nearly 250 students, call Port Jefferson home. The relationship between the village and Stony Brook University extends into various areas, including the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, which conducts a majority of its research in Port Jefferson. 

The Port Jefferson Emergency Medical Service is another example of collaboration, where dozens of Stony Brook students volunteer to serve the local community. Additionally, Stony Brook University programs like the Seawolves Outdoor Adventure Program and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes often host activities in Port Jefferson

“The proclamation celebrates the close connection that has developed and flourished between the Village of Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Medicine,” McInnis said. “Port Jefferson is home to a large portion of our Stony Brook community, welcoming them to live, learn and discover this special place.” 

Nistha Boghra is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

Port Jefferson’s East Beach on Jan. 25. Photos courtesy Myrna Gordon

By G.T. Scarlatos

The future of the Port Jefferson Country Club is still unclear as concern from local residents grows over the East Beach bluff stabilization project. The 170-acre coastline property, purchased by the Village of Port Jefferson in 1978, lies atop the East Beach bluff. The bluff, which has been rapidly eroding, now leaves the clubhouse dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. Without remediation, the significant village asset could fall into the Long Island Sound within years. 

Elected officials from the Village of Port Jefferson have been aware of this issue for over half a decade and have been in discussion with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and teams of coastal engineers to come up with a solution for the pressing matter. In cooperation with GEI Consultants, a Huntington Station-based coastal engineering firm, the village introduced a two-phase stabilization initiative in an effort to curb erosion and restore the bluff. 

In 2021, the village obtained a state DEC permit to begin work at the cliff’s base and a $10 million bond was appropriated toward the double-wall system stabilization project. The first phase of the project was completed in the spring of 2023, with the construction of a lower toe retaining wall. But in spite of these efforts, aggressive deforestation, scouring and severe erosion have continued to persist with storms and striking waves wreaking havoc on the bluff. The inadequate efforts to solve the time-sensitive issue has left members of the community alarmed. 

“When the construction [of Phase 1] was first done, it looked really good. It was meshed down, the plantings were in place and the toe line was down at the bottom about 4 or 5 feet high,” Myrna Gordon, a Port Jefferson village resident for over 50 years said. “Then it was hit so badly,” she added. “They [the village] had all of the millions and millions of dollars put into the restoration, which sadly have not worked. So, my question to the village is ’What’s next’? What is the plan? Or is there any plan? The environmental change that’s taken place is so noticeable you can see the erosion all over the place, with the gullies and with the terracing.”

Despite growing concerns, the village looks to continue with the start of the initiative’s second phase. Funding for Phase 2 has been made available through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance grant program, with the village receiving $3.75 million for the proposed upper wall at the country club. The FEMA-funded project will consist of the installation of steel sheeting at the crest of the bluff and a structural tie-back system to offset the heavy weight of the embankment.

“We’re working with FEMA through the process of finalizing the grant application and making sure that we are being responsive to their requirements to secure the grant,” Mayor Lauren Sheprow said. “What we’re all waiting on right now is for FEMA’s approval to move forward with Phase 2.”

Gordon voiced her dissatisfaction with how village officials have handled matters regarding the stabilization project, saying, “This has been a very sensitive issue with our board and there has been very little communication going back and forth with the residents. Many of us wanted a referendum addressing what should be done with a bluff, which we never got.”

“The village has to act quickly,” Gordon urged. “They need to stop looking at the clubhouse as this sentimental structure that meant so much to their lives and face the hard facts. They’re not dealing with the environmental crisis along our shoreline in the best possible way, they’re dealing with it with emotion and sentimentality.”

Trustees work session on Jan. 10. Snapshot from the trustee's website

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees held its first work session of 2024. 

The Education & Arts Conservancy 

At the request of Mayor Lauren Sheprow, Lisa Perry, president of the Port Jefferson Harbor Education & Arts Conservancy, kicked off the three-hour work session to discuss the conservancy’s relationship with the village.  

Perry explained to board members that the conservancy is a non-profit working on behalf of the Port Jefferson Village Center and the Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park. The conservancy was established almost two decades ago to help fundraise for village center activities and projects.                                                                                      

“We’ve probably donated over $300,000 either in kind or money over the years,” she said. 

Perry reviewed the many fundraising projects the group has undertaken recently, including grants to purchase the Zamboni for the skating rink, funds for the beautification of the harbor front, and the restoration of Rocketship Park. The group is discussing a possible fundraiser to obtain a bandshell for the harbor front. Perry tells the board that the group is in the process of revamping its mission statement and is hoping to attract new members. 

A discussion ensued about the current written agreement between the conservancy and the village and to establish regular meetings with village representatives.

“The village can’t solicit donations from the conservancy,” village treasurer Stephen Gaffga said. 

Instead, the village and the conservancy can keep an open dialogue and collaborate on projects. 

Village attorney David Moran wrapped up the discussion by informing the board that he had reviewed the agreement stating,“It is fine as is.” 

“I don’t want to over-lawyer a very good agreement and add confusion,” he said.

Revamping tech security

Village clerk Sylvia Pirillo put forth a resolution to accept the proposal by Island Tech Services to enhance the security of the village servers and emails. Emails will be mitigated to ‘.gov’ addresses, and Microsoft SharePoint will be installed for interoffice communications and document reviews.

“This has been a long time coming. We’re looking forward to this very needed change,” she said. 

Pirillo also informed the board that the village received about 60 proposals from vendors to revitalize the village’s website and calls for a resolution to accept a proposal from CivicPlus web designer. 

“We are confident in the choice of CivicPlus and are very excited to move forward,” she said. 

Bluff storm erosion

Sheprow updated the board on storm damage placing emphasis on  the Port Jefferson Country Club bluff. Sheprow reports that two sections of the east side of the bluff were damaged by recent storms, and additional damage occurred on the west side of the bluff from the storm overnight.   

Pirillo put forth a resolution to accept the proposal from GIT Consulting to move forward with aerial drone surveillance of the bluff to help surveyors follow topological changes in the bluff over time. 

“We need to proceed with these sooner rather than later, especially given recent [storm] events,” Pirillo said. 

Code enforcement

A draft letter to be sent to all Port Jefferson business owners from the building and planning department’s new director, Andrew Freleng, was also discussed. The letter encourages owners to comply voluntarily with the village’s building and zoning laws. 

“This is a first letter, is putting everyone on notice,” says Moran.

The draft letter suggests business owners check in with the building and planning department with questions and concerns. The letter can be found in the appendix of the meeting agenda for this work session.  

Ethics guidelines

Attorney Steven Leventhal, ethics counsel to the village, continues the ongoing discussion about new ethics guidelines and the process for forming an ethics review board.

Leventhal describes a four-part process to developing a robust ethics program for the village:

  • Adopt the ethics code.
  • Produce educational materials.
  • Have the board of ethics implement the code.
  • Have a presence on the website for submitting inquiries, accessing the code, and accessing the educational materials.

The Mayor will nominate the members, and the board will appoint them. Community members are welcome to put forward their names or someone else for consideration.

Leventhal further comments that there is an “epidemic of ignorance in ethics out there. It takes a real commitment of understanding [by ethics committee members].”  

Comments from the public about the new ethics guidelines are open until the next board of trustees meeting, scheduled for Jan. 31. Comments can be sent to the village clerk at [email protected]

Village board hires financial firm to untangle information gaps in capital fund record keeping

Capital project funds asphalt walkway, replacing crushed bluestone at the Harborfront Park for $249,000. Photo by Lynn Hallarman

By Lynn Hallarman

Concerns were raised by newly-appointed village treasurer Stephen Gaffga about the bookkeeping practices that track the village’s capital project fund, prompting a call for a full accounting of the fund’s financial records going back at least seven years.

Gaffga was recently the treasurer for the Village of Greenport. He was hired this past summer by Port Jefferson Village, replacing Denise Mordente who served as treasurer for the previous administration.

During the Nov. 20 meeting of the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees, Gaffga described the capital fund’s bookkeeping as having a “severe information gap” in the fund’s ledger. Standard financial procedures “were not followed as best practice,” according to Gaffga.

“I came into Port Jefferson in September, and I saw a negative balance with the capital fund,” the treasurer said. “I tried to figure out how that came to be.”

Gaffga explained at the meeting that capital projects were approved and money was spent, but all these expenses were recorded as a “running tally on the ledger.” This accounting method makes it seem like there is a negative balance for all these projects. 

“That’s not the case — we borrowed money, got grant funding, transferred money from the general fund, but the trail is very difficult to follow,” he said.

Gaffga recommended the board hire an outside specialized CPA firm, PKF O’Connor Davies of Hauppauge, to receive assistance in analyzing the record keeping of the capital fund going back in time. As stated at the trustees meeting, the cost of the lookback should not exceed $4,500 per year analyzed. The goal of the analysis is to uncover the financial history of each capital project and “establish a clean slate,” Gaffga said. 

“It is entirely possible that everything is OK dollarwise, and it is just a mess on the books,” he told TBR News Media. 

Former village Mayor Margot Garant, objected to Gaffga’s characterization of the records. “We did a lot in 14 years, and we used our money very carefully,” she said in an interview, adding, “The documents in place are pretty easy to follow. I don’t know what their issue is.” 

The New York State Office of the State Comptroller requires municipalities to undergo an annual audit of financial records. According to the 2022 audit done by the independent accounting firm Cullen & Danowski of Port Jefferson Station, the village had areas for improvement. 

Firstly, the village neglected to properly inventory its capital “hard” assets, according to Chris Reino, who represented the auditor at the August trustees business meeting.

The village has no running list of assets like trucks, buildings, computer equipment and furniture, for example, since “at least 2014,” Reino said. 

As a consequence, if something goes missing or “there is a catastrophe, it will be hard [for the village] to make a claim to an insurance company to replace it,” Mayor Lauren Sheprow noted.

Secondly, the report indicated that the “village did not maintain adequate accounting records” of the capital project fund.

Cullen & Danowski did not respond to email and phone requests for comment for this story.

Capital project fund

The capital project fund financed a range of projects over time for the village, such as restoring the East Beach bluff, repaving walkways at Harborfront Park, creating the Barnum Street parking lot, building bathrooms at Rocketship Park, digitizing records and more.

The trail of money for a project should be easy to follow by a citizen, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. Bookkeeping for the capital fund should tell the complete story of how taxpayer dollars are appropriated and spent for each project to prevent overspending or leaving financial holes in the funding for essential village improvements. 

“I want this board to be educated about this process, so we are all aware of where the money’s coming from and how it’s being spent,” the mayor said at the November board meeting. 

Financial transparency

At the August board meeting, Sheprow complained that members of the previous board “never saw the 2022 audit.” 

“I don’t recall specifically, but I know I had a discussion with [the trustees] and the treasurer that [the audit report] was in, and I believe that was January,” Garant told TBR News Media.

While financial audits should be posted, along with other yearly financial records on the village website after the Board of Trustees reviews them according to OSC best practice, the 2022 audit submitted to the village administration in January this year was not posted to the village website until this past week, shortly after TBR News Media requested to review the audit report (see portjeff.com/fiscalyear2022auditdocuments).

Mordente did not respond to requests for comment for this story about the village’s 2022 auditing process.

Moving forward, Sheprow said she wants to remedy this perceived gap in transparency.

Gaffga said at the November board meeting the village wants to establish a clean slate so there are no “skeletons bookkeeping-wise that could hold the village back.”

Nearing three decades, the village of Port Jefferson turned once again into a Dickensian storyland for the annual Charles Dickens Festival.

Kickstarted by a parade down East Main Street on Saturday, Dec. 2, dozens of people dressed to the nines in their best Victorian-era suits and gowns joined characters from Dickens’ books like “Oliver Twist” and “A Christmas Carol” to march to

the Village Center. 

“This really is the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season,” Mayor Lauren Sheprow  said. “Walking through the Village Center is literally like a movie set, and what the arts council has done in such a short period of time, I’m overwhelmed and amazed by it.”

Spearheaded by the Village of Port Jefferson and the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, there were plenty of things to do and see.

Different dance troupes performed throughout the day in different locations, while a blacksmith was melting iron in front of the Frigate store. For the first time ever, the arts council created Santa Claus Central, located inside the Methodist Church.

Sheprow said she was looking most forward to watching her nephew perform at the Presbyterian Church with his school’s orchestra, “and see how residents and visitors really appreciate this event.”

And it wouldn’t have been a Dickens Festival without sporadic performances from “Oliver Twist” and “A Christmas Carol” scheduled throughout the day on Main Street.

Other fun events that followed into Sunday, Dec. 3, despite the wet weather, included ice skating, checking out the festival of trees inside the Village Center, a magic show, horse and carriage rides and performances from all levels of the Port Jefferson school district choirs and orchestras.

By Michael Scro

Port Jefferson Business Improvement District held its 2nd annual Christmas Tree Lighting on Wednesday, Nov. 22, at the intersection of Broadway and East Broadway, where a crowd of resident families gathered to enjoy live music, dancing and a visit from Santa Claus, who joined in with the tree lighting.

The crowd was treated to dance routines from the Shine Dance Company, based in East Setauket, live holiday music from Erik McCormack, who played the famous tunes on his acoustic guitar, and hot chocolate to keep everyone warm.

The evening culminated in the arrival of Santa Claus, who sat in a large upright chair beside the tree before its official lighting.

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow led a countdown to the tree’s lighting and thanked everyone in attendance.

“This is a truly special event the village looks forward to every year,” she said.

Santa then greeted the children and handed out candy canes while the tree shined brightly for the rest of the evening.

— Photos by Michael Scro/Media Origin

Due to walkway reconstruction, Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson is currently closed to the public.

In an exclusive interview, Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow offered updates on the park project, outlining the motivations guiding this initiative.

“We wanted to make sure that we could do the whole park with whatever solution we came up with,” she said. “The priority was safety, and then fiscal responsibility was the second responsibility,” leading to the choice of asphalt.

Roger Corcella, project manager for the park, said the preexisting walkways were not adequately maintained, prompting safety concerns from village officials.

He said the walkways were “in desperate need of repair,” noting, “It wasn’t safe to walk anymore, especially if you had any physical issues. It wasn’t [Americans with Disabilities Act]-compliant.”

Corcella added that the village considered various factors before deciding on asphalt for the walkways. He said the village required a material that would be cost-effective, durable, eco-friendly, customizable, ADA-compliant and require minimal maintenance.

He pointed to other municipalities, such as Brookhaven and Babylon, which use asphalt on park surfaces. “This is a very common practice to use this,” he said.

Further defending the choice of material, Corcella noted that asphalt enables Harborfront Park to serve residents as “a 12-month park” due to simple snow removal service.

During the November general meeting of the village board of trustees, former Mayor Margot Garant objected to the use of asphalt over stamped concrete due to environmental and permeability concerns [See story, “Harborfront Park walkways spark debate, former and current Port Jeff officials clash over materials,” Nov. 9, TBR News Media]. Responding to the objections, Sheprow reiterated her public safety concerns.

“We get way too many reports of trips and falls in the community and didn’t want Harborfront Park to be one of those locations,” the mayor said. “Therefore, we had to look at the whole entire park and look at resurfacing the walkways around the entire park.”

“We want to make the park accessible to everybody, and if we put in stamped concrete, we wouldn’t be able to do the whole park,” she added.

To finance the costs associated with the walkway reconstruction project, which totals $248,907, the village board is making use of grants from Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven that will subsidize over a third of the overall expense.

“We were looking at $90,000 that would help us pay for this project,” Sheprow said. “Had we not acted immediately, we wouldn’t have received it,” adding, “In order to be eligible for those grants, the understanding was that [the project] would have to be for the entire park. … We needed to be compliant with the requirements of the grants.”

During the interview, Sheprow referred to the practice of “deferred maintenance.” Given the safety concerns identified with the walkways, she concluded that the administration had to act.

“If you don’t address a situation when it first becomes an issue, it becomes an even bigger issue,” she said, adding, “My goal was not to defer the maintenance of the park any longer — to let it become a bigger issue — but to address it immediately.”

Corcella said he aims to complete the walkway reconstruction project by mid-December. To view the village’s full Q&A page on the Harborfront Park project, visit portjeff.com/harborfrontparkconstruction.