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Northport Village Board of Trustees

Longtime trustee Damon McMullan running uncontested for village mayor

Northport Village Hall. File photo

By Kevin Redding

Three candidates — an incumbent and two challengers — are vying for two open seats within the Northport Village Board of Trustees, hoping to tackle financial, safety and quality of life issues within the town. The trustee candidates who receive the most votes March 20 will each serve a four-year term.

Thomas Kehoe

Kehoe is no stranger to the village board, having served as trustee for two terms from 2006 to 2014. He was the commissioner of commerce, police and sanitation.

Thomas Kehoe. Photo from Thomas Kehoe.

While a board member, he wrote the village’s outdoor dining code, created the Northport Business Development Committee, and said he routinely helped members of the local business community, professionals and merchants with any business-related issues in the village. If elected, he hopes to
reinstate that committee and assume the police commissioner responsibilities again.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on the board,” Kehoe said. “I’ve always enjoyed public service and giving back to my community. And plus, I understand business and know how to make things happen.”

As the owner and operator of East Northport-based K&B Seafood for more than 30 years, Kehoe has traveled extensively throughout China, Japan and Russia, importing and exporting seafood and opening up markets. But he said he will focus his time and energy on the local front as trustee. He wants to make sure the Suffolk County Police Department doesn’t take over the village’s police force, preserve Northport’s status as “one of the 50 safest places to live in New York state” as ruled by the National Council for Home Safety and Security and keep the village in the 21st century.

“We want to always be evolving,” he said. “Northport Village is a very unique place. It’s a real melting pot of different ethnic, religious and political groups and there’s a great tolerance and respect here for others.”

Ian Milligan

Milligan, 48, a Northport native and the owner of Harbor Electric Inc. on Willis Street, became a trustee in 2014 after regularly attending zoning and board meetings. He often voiced ideas on how to better the Northport Village Dock.

Ian Milligan. Photo from Ian Milligan.

Upon election, the lifelong boater was appointed commissioner of docks and waterways. He proposed new fees for the dock, which successfully brought more boaters to the area during dinner hours, helped boost downtown businesses and discouraged boaters from docking all day.

He said by talking to hundreds of local boaters, shopkeepers and residents during that process, it prepared him well for his day-to-day tasks as a trustee.

“What I did there is consistent with all issues in the village,” said Milligan, who also served as the board’s commissioner of sanitation. “I always strive to talk to as many people as I can and understand all sides of an issue, then take all the information and share it with the rest of the board, so we can make a decision in the best interest of the residents.”

If re-elected, Milligan said he wants to continue making Northport a safe and healthy environment for residents, keep a line on taxes and roll out new projects — among his most anticipated is the implementation of a rain garden into the village to absorb rainwater runoff and keep the waterfront clean.

“I have enjoyed this work and there is more work to be done,” he said.

Joseph Sabia

Sabia, 62, is a former member of the Northport Police Department, Northport-East Northport school board and owner of Sabia’s Car Care on Fort Salonga Road since 1977. He  said he’s an advocate for the village and wants to work for the taxpayers within it. He believes in transparency, commitment to community, respect and courtesy, and fiscal discipline.

Joseph Sabia. File photo.

“While on the board of education for three years, I watched our tax money and never voted to raise our tax dollars,” Sabia said. “So, I’m very interested in our finances and want to see where our money is going.”

Sabia said besides keeping taxes at bay, he hopes to be able to restore the village’s crumbling roads and sidewalks, bring a full-time paramedic to the village’s firehouse, oversee the upcoming sewer plant project in Northport Bay Estates, and update the village’s antiquated zoning codes and building department.

“We have to move forward and be business-friendly,” he said. “We need people to be able to get building permits in a timely manner.”

Sabia previously ran unsuccessfully twice — against outgoing Mayor George Doll in 2014 and for a trustee seat in 2016. He points to those experiences, as well as his years as a successful business owner and school board member, as building blocks for this election.

“I have skin in the game here, I own a business here, I’m in the village 24/7 and have never left,” he said.

The Vote

The polls will be open March 20, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Northport Village Hall on 224 Main Street in Northport.

Challenger Joe Sabia discusses taxes and the tax cap. Photo by Giselle Barkley

With the polls open, residents have little time left to decide how to cast their votes. Last week’s candidate forum could help.

Former school board member Joe Sabia and incumbents Jerry Maline and Damon McMullen, who are all vying for two seats on the Northport Village Board of Trustees, discussed taxes, stormwater and more during a debate on March 8 at the Northport American Legion Post 694 Hall.

Maline and McMullen are each running for a third term.

Although Maline’s opening statement touched upon drivers speeding in the area and geese in village parks, residents were more concerned about why the village continues to pierce its tax levy cap in the annual budget.

Although the state mandates a fluctuating cap on how much municipalities can increase tax levies, a local board can override the cap and approve a budget above the limit with a supermajority of votes, or 60 percent. This year, the Northport board has proposed to pierce their 3.27 percent cap, for a new budget total of $20.4 million.

Incumbent Damon McMullen addressing rain garden inquiries. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Incumbent Damon McMullen addressing rain garden inquiries. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Maline said piercing the cap, and increasing taxes above the limit, would accommodate residents’ desires for village services.

“The facts are the facts,” Maline said at the event. “We don’t want to lessen your service. All the input I have from the residents [is] that you want the services to remain the same.”

The incumbent added that a lack of community participation makes it harder to come up with different ideas of addressing residents’ needs without increasing the budget.

“It’s a conglomerate of ideas, it’s not just ideas of people on the board,” Maline said.

For his part, McMullen said using reserve funding instead to offset a tax increase would negatively affect the village’s finances in the future.

Sabia felt the opposite. He proposed using reserve money to help keep taxes at bay and prevent the village from piercing the cap.

“My point would be to go through every single budget line item and every category in there and see what we can absolutely … reduce or make sure we’re not paying for duplicate services,” Sabia said.

While some residents continued pressing the candidates about taxes, other asked about the village’s rain garden plans.

Incumbent Jerry Maline speaks to residents. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Incumbent Jerry Maline speaks to residents. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In light of flooding in the area, the village has sought to establish a rain garden along Main Street. The garden would help catch the first inch to inch and a half of rainfall and filter out harmful chemicals in the process. According to McMullen, the village is currently waiting on a $500,000 grant to fund the garden, and is looking at ways to add catch basins for even more stormwater absorption.

“This is a method that’s been used around the country and it has been very successful,” he said of the rain garden.

Maline said he would continue to attend and participate in board meetings even if he is ousted from his seat. McMullen thanked residents for attending and said he hopes to upgrade the bathroom sinks in the village’s park, among other projects.

Sabia has his own agenda if elected, which includes maintaining handicap access to the parks, securing grants from the state to get more LED lights and maintaining the village’s sidewalks and roads. But his main focus remained on securing lower taxes for the village.

“You have to remember, we have a National Grid lawsuit against us. We have school districts that want more money from us,” Sabia said. “When you start to override the tax caps, it becomes a very, very dangerous thing because that means you’re raising your taxes higher than the rate of inflation.”

Voting is open until 9 p.m. at Northport Village Hall.