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Town of Brookhaven

Dan Losquadro and Anthony Portesy are seeking the town highway superintendent’s office. Photos by Rita J. Egan

Two familiar faces are vying for the Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent seat. Incumbent Dan Losquadro (R), who has been superintendent since 2013, is seeking a fourth term come Election Day. Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy, a private attorney, is once again running for the top highway department position. He ran against Losquadro in 2017. 

The town highway superintendent’s role is responsible for overseeing more than 3,300 lane miles of town roads, making it one of the largest highway departments in New York State. The candidates joined in a debate at the TBR News Media office

“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts.”

— Dan Losquadro

Losquadro has spent 16 years in elected office, previously serving as Suffolk County legislator and New York State assemblyman.

“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts,” he said. “Instead of debating, now I can allocate funding and I get to see those projects to their completion, that is very gratifying to me.”

Portesy said he shares some of the ideas Losquadro has. His ideas have come from talking to thousands of voters since he lost in 2017. 

The challenger detailed what he called a “worst to first” initiative he’d like to implement if elected. The priority list would be publicly posted on the town’s website, so residents can see when their road is going to get reconstructed. 

“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,” he said. “The voter frustrations are based off the in-house metrics. No one knows how they decide which roads are done and which ones are not done.”

Losquadro said there are many factors that go into selecting roads for work, and that it sometimes hinges on weather conditions. 

“This winter was different because we had so many freeze-thaw cycles,” he said. “Every day it seemed like during the day it was 45 degrees and then at night it went down to 18 degrees.”

The incumbent said during the winter they used a combination of cold patch and hot mix to battle potholes. 

“We used more cold patch but it never quite fully hardens, so that meant after the winter it breaks up and we had to go back all throughout the spring and summer to fix the potholes that were already fixed,” he said. “It is a battle that you have to keep fighting.”

For next year, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has allocated $15 million to the highway department. Both candidates agreed that the funds are needed to fix roads that are past their life expectancy. 

Losquadro said that every penny should be going to roads and mentioned his own high priority list. When pressed on why he doesn’t give more details on when residents can expect work done on their roads, Losquadro said there are multiple factors that decide when a road can be done, and much is out of his hands. 

“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,”

—Anthony Portesy

He stressed that he is working with a finite budget and assured residents that they have a plan in place. 

“We are getting there — I will never say work will be definitely done by next year, it could be done in two or three years,” he said. “Winters change things.” 

Portesy said that’s the crux of resident’s frustration and he wants to make the process more transparent to them. 

“They know there’s only so much money in the pot, they just want to know when their road is going to be fixed,” he said.

Another area the candidates differ is on how the department uses contractors for most of its work. 

The highway superintendent said he would love to have more workers, but the department tries to be mindful of its spending. 

“The town used to have its own pavement crew, but it is just not feasible to hire multiple employees and buy our own materials,” he said. 

The challenger said he believes within the confines of the budget the department could have room to hire between 12 to 20 additional employees over the course of three to five years. 

“I think we can lessen the reliance on contractors — I think creating an apprenticeship program could be a good idea,” he said.

File photo

A person on site during demolition of a derelict property in Rocky Point called police about an explosive discovery Oct. 31 when workers excavating the property uncovered a bag of grenades, some of them still live.

On Halloween, Police said a person on site of the demolition called 911 at 10:07 a.m. to report a bag of grenades found at a zombie house on King Road. The house was already abandoned and had been knocked down. A bag with five grenades were found by workers during excavation. Three were still live, police said.

The house is just one of many derelict properties the Town of Brookhaven is contracting to demolish. Brookhaven Spokesperson Jack Krieger said the site is being handled by Bayport-based Panzner Construction. He said the town was unaware who placed the call to police.

Police said Emergency Service Section officers removed the grenades, with the three live ones to be detonated offsite.

Photo from Town of Brookhaven

On Oct. 10, the Brookhaven Business Advisory Council (BBAC) hosted its 15th annual Building Business in Brookhaven Expo at Town Hall. The event, which attracted 450 local business people and 100 vendors, focused on business networking and included a trade show with booths highlighting local, regional and national companies that service businesses in Brookhaven Town.

The expo was presented by the Town of Brookhaven Division of Economic Development in partnership with the Brookhaven Business Advisory Council and the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency (IDA). 

Pictured from left, Brookhaven Town Director of Economic Development/IDA CEO Lisa Mulligan, BBAC President Henry Bramwell, BBAC VP Brian Cohen, Councilman Michael Loguercio, Councilwoman Jane Bonner; IDA Deputy Director James Tullo, Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright.

Ed Romaine (R) and Will Ferraro (D) are looking for town residents’ votes come Nov. 5. Photos by Rita J. Egan

The race for Town of Brookhaven supervisor sees one candidate with years of electoral experience facing a young newcomer who says he’s representing those in town who have been ignored by government the past several years.

Seven-year town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is facing Democratic challenger, first-time candidate and Selden political activist Will Ferraro. While the incumbent cites his efforts over the past seven years, including his work on getting control of Brookhaven’s budget and the push toward clean energy, Ferraro is pushing hard on recycling and trash issues, as well as keeping young people on Long Island.

Romaine said the town has made huge strides toward clean energy in the past several years, including incorporating wind and solar technology at Town Hall in Farmingville. 

“You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”

— Will Ferraro

Recently, a new offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, has plans to create an offshore wind farm off Montauk, and plans to have a home base in Port Jefferson Harbor. Romaine claimed he had been a big proponent of that project and will have a large impact on it going forward.

“I’m not a proponent of fossil fuel,” Romaine said.

Ferraro criticized the town’s movement on the Caithness II plant, which has since stalled, though Romaine said he had voted against the plant.

More eyes have turned toward Brookhaven’s waste management and recycling since the market crashed in 2018, leading the town’s recycling contractor, Green Stream Recycling, to void its contract. Brookhaven has switched from single-stream to dual-stream recycling and has asked residents to drop glass off at 21 points in the town instead of picking it up at curbside.

The Democratic challenger criticized the supervisor for not seeing the writing on the wall when it came to the recycling market and single-stream recycling.

“Where I find problem is that [the Town] waited and tried running out 20-plus year contract with Green Stream,” Ferraro said. “You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”

He advised the town should look into a pay-as-you-throw program, which would lessen the cost of people’s trash bill for those who turn out less trash. He said he would cap the cost of people’s bills to where it currently sits at $350, enticing people to throw out less. He added he would want to return to glass pickup once every two weeks or once a month.

Romaine said such a program might work in the long term, but believed it would lead to illegal dumping, which he added was already a huge problem in Brookhaven. 

The town’s landfill has long been a hot spot for controversy. The landfill currently only accepts ash and construction debris. All garbage is taken to a plant outside of town, while the ash is returned to the landfill. Current plans see Brookhaven capping the landfill by 2024. Romaine said closing the location will be a net loss for the town but suspects they will not take a large hit. Otherwise, Brookhaven, along with other townships that dump their ash at the Brookhaven landfill, still needs to decide where that trash will go once the last landfill on Long Island is closed.

“This is not a Brookhaven problem, this is a regional problem,” Romaine said.

People around the landfill have long complained about the odor from it, and many claim they have experienced negative health effects from living close to it. Ferraro criticized the town for not doing more to research what could be causing such effects or doing air testing during an odor event and called for an air quality task force for the area.

Romaine said a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does testing every day, and they have no research that qualitates the landfill has resulted in these negative health effects at the nearby school district.

“Health to me is the most important thing,” Romaine said. “If we knew there was something, we would have stopped.”

Recent years have shown people, both young and old, moving off the Island due to high property taxes. While both candidates agreed the majority of taxes come from the local school districts, Ferraro said the most important thing is to attract industries that provide jobs, while working on town infrastructure to get people to those jobs. He suggested that Brookhaven should look into some sort of limited public transportation system, similar to Huntington’s Area Rapid Transit system.

“Health to me is the most important thing.”

— Ed Romaine

He agreed with Romaine on a lack of multifamily housing but said some residents are being heard more than others. 

“A lot of NIMBY [not in my backyard] is being pandered to,” the challenger said. “A lot of their concerns are valid, some are not … We need a comprehensive approach. It’s one thing to have $1,800 rent, but when you talk about transportation costs, other factors than just rent that play into that.”

Romaine said he and fellow council members have done a good job in securing large industries to the town, such as Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which brought a facility to Yaphank with several hundred jobs earlier this year. He added the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency has been key in bringing jobs like these to the area. He also cited intent to lessen the cost of gas and electricity by allowing the town to purchase those resources on behalf of its residents through a Community Choice Aggregation program.

Ferraro said many of those jobs created through the IDA were temporary construction jobs. Though some residents have complained about some of the tax breaks some of these developments have received, such as the Engel Burman-owned senior facility currently going up in Mount Sinai for only providing around 50 full-time employees after the facilities finally open. Romaine agreed that the IDA should avoid multifamily housing unless its “affordable.” He said he was opposed to the IDA giving tax breaks to the Heatherwood apartment complex in Port Jefferson Station and South Setauket, which were ultimately rejected. 

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine with Pam Green, executive director of Kent Animal Shelter and her dog, Frodo. Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) awarded a proclamation to Kent Animal Shelter on Oct. 15 citing its 50 years of dedicated work for the betterment of animal welfare. 

Long recognized for being a small shelter doing monumental work, the Kent Animal Shelter has operated since its incorporation in 1969 as an organization dedicated to helping homeless animals. Since its beginning in its humble space along the scenic Peconic River in Calverton, the shelter has given refuge to over 35,000 homeless animals. 

A humane bedrock in East End communities, it gradually extended its reach throughout Long Island and the tri-state area and now rescues and rehabilitates abandoned, abused and homeless animals throughout the U.S. and neighboring countries especially during crisis situations. 

Programs include rescue, adoption, low-cost spay/neuter and humane education. To date, over 50,000 animals have been spayed or neutered to help control animal overpopulation. Over the years, plans to expand the shelter have been blocked by town and government regulatory agencies due to zoning and restrictions within the Pine Barrens. 

“Our efforts will not be thwarted, and the shelter fully intends to rebuild its facility on its current footprint. We are grateful to Ed Romaine and the Town of Brookhaven for recognizing and always supporting the vital efforts of the shelter to make a difference in the lives of companion animals,” said Pam Green, executive director at Kent. 

Kent Animal Shelter is a 501(c)(3) organization, no-kill that operates solely on the generosity of individuals and foundations. For more information, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

Last week, Long Island was slammed and hit by an unexpected fall nor’easter which brought in heavy rains and gusting winds that exceeded 50 mph. 

The powerful winds from the storm caused downed power wires and felled large trees and branches. According to the National Weather Service, parts of Long Island dealt with moderate coastal flooding and about 2-3 inches of rain.   

More than 73,000 PSEG Long Island customers lost power during the storm. Within 48 hours, PSEG restored service to nearly 100 percent of customers affected by the storm on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 16-17, according to PSEG media relations. The rest were restored by that Friday. 

By the end of the nor’easter, crews had removed a total of 1,206 trees and large branches downed by the storm.

In Port Jefferson Harbor a sailing sloop named Grand Prix slipped her moorings and drifted aground in front of Harborfront Park, according to local photographer Gerard Romano who took a photo featured on the cover of this week’s paper. Another sailing vessel called the Summer Place washed ashore in Mount Sinai Harbor.

The Town of Brookhaven Highway Department responded to nearly 250 calls during the 24-hour storm. 

“We worked directly with PSEG as they dispatched their crews to areas where trees had fallen on wires so we could safely remove the debris after the power lines were de-energized,” town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro (R) said in a statement. “Crews worked throughout the night to clear the roadways swiftly and efficiently.”

 

Brookhaven town hall. File photo

In a joint investigation, the Town of Brookhaven, along with the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General found a Southampton taxi company, which picked up Medicaid recipients and transported them to appointments, was not licensed to operate in the town, officials stated in a press release. 

Hometown Taxi faces up to $26,000 in fines after racking up 52 tickets and is currently suspended from operating in Brookhaven. They also could face NYS violations. 

The charges against the Southampton taxi company came out of a larger investigation of unlicensed cab companies operating in the town. In Brookhaven, cab companies are required to be licensed by the town. Also, under state law, cabs that pick up Medicaid recipients for medical appointments must be licensed by municipalities in which they do business. 

“Brookhaven Town and New York State take Medicaid violations very seriously and we will continue to pursue any company that operates without a license to the fullest extent of the law,” said Brookhaven town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R). “I have asked the town attorney to proceed with the investigation until every company is in compliance.” 

According to Hometown Taxi’s website, the company provides transport to medical offices, airports, wineries and other destinations. Hometown Taxi’s fleet includes vans, taxis, sports utility vehicles, town cars and taxis. The company’s service area extends to the East End including the Hamptons. 

“Hopefully this will send a message to other similar cab companies, they need a license to operate in the town even if its Medicaid,” Romaine said. “It’s our job to enforce this and it’s the town’s responsibility.”

The town has also been informed by the Medicaid inspector general that several other taxi companies have been providing transportation services for medical care involving Medicaid recipients without the proper licensing under New York State code 18 NYCRR §500. 

Romaine said the investigation into unlicensed taxi companies is still ongoing and more developments could come out in the next month or two. 

Brookhaven town hall. File photo

The Town of Brookhaven outlined the first steps toward creating a program that could lower gas and electric rates for homeowners at a public hearing Oct. 3. 

Town officials are considering creating a Community Choice Aggregation or CCA, which is an energy program that allows local governments to buy electricity and gas on behalf of its residents.

In a presentation to the Town Board, Matt Miner, town chief of operations, outlined how the program could be beneficial to residents. 

Essentially, CCA is a municipal energy procurement model that replaces the utility companies as the default supplier. It can be used for either gas or electricity.  

“The suppliers, National Grid and PSEG, would still be responsible for energy delivery and billing,” Miner said. “The advantages of a CCA is pooling those demands and allow us to negotiate lower rates for residents.”

The town chief of operations added it would allow Brookhaven to pursue other clean energy programs. 

The next step in the program would be for the town to begin to work with its eight villages to see if they wanted to participate in the CCA. From there, the town would seek to appoint a program administrator. 

“[The] CCA administrator would then seek bids from energy services companies to obtain competitive rates for residents on behalf of the town,” Miner said. “They would be responsible with creating a data projection and implementation plan.”

CCA is an opt-out program, so residents are not bound by a contract and can go back to their original supplier if they chose to do so. 

The CCA program was created by the New York State Public Service Commission in April 2016. Westchester was the first New York county, through the Sustainable Westchester consortium, to launch the CCA program under Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). If successful, Brookhaven will join more than 50 municipalities in the state to enact legislation to begin a CCA including the towns of Hempstead and Southampton on Long Island. 

Miner said if the bids and rates aren’t competitive then the town doesn’t have to move forward with the program. 

“I want to be clear, this only goes forward if we can save all the residents and businesses in Brookhaven money” 

– Supervisor Ed Romaine

The town would first pursue competitive rates for gas and then would move on to electricity. According to town officials it could take about a year to implement the program. Bid contracts could last from two to four years.  

George Hoffman, a vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, said at the public hearing he supports the town’s initiative to adopt the CCA and believes it moves them closer to clean energy.

“It’s about time we started to take back some local control over our energy future,” he said. “We all thought then, when LIPA was created, we would be starting to get back some of our local control of our energy policy, but that was taken away by Albany. I think this a good start in taking back our energy future.”

 

Dom Pascual seeks to unseat Louis Marcoccia as Brookhaven Town Reciever of Taxes in the November elections. Photo provided by Dom Pascual

“I want to be an advocate for the people,” said Dom Pascual, a Farmingville resident running for Town of Brookhaven receiver of taxes in the November elections. “I live in a blue-collar community that feels that they are not being represented.”

Pascual, who is running on the Democratic ticket, said an important issue for him is helping to keep young families on the Island. 

“I want to keep them here, right now it’s not good — the cost of living is too high,” he said. “We need housing for working families — there’s no jobs on Long Island, taxes are too high.”

– Dom Pascual 

Pascual is vying to secure a four-year term in the upcoming election against longtime town receiver of taxes, Louis Marcoccia (R). This will not be Pascual’s first time running for elected office. In 2017, he ran for the 4th district Suffolk County Legislature seat but ultimately lost to incumbent Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma). 

“I’m fighting for change, we have had a receiver that has been around for a long time and hasn’t had an opponent in 12 years,” Pascual said. 

If elected, the challenger said he would make his office more accessible and have more available hours to accommodate residents. He said he also wants to look into more tax relief programs for senior citizens, veterans and emergency response workers as well as getting more homeowners into the STAR program. 

He also wants to make it possible for residents to see multiple years of tax bills when filing their taxes, host workshops aimed at explaining to residents where their taxes are going and helping them through the filing process. 

“It’s about educating people on the resources that are available for them and letting them know we can do these things,” the Farmingville resident said. 

Pascual, who was raised in Dix Hills, currently works as a bank compliance and financial crimes attorney. He graduated from Binghamton University and received his law degree from Vermont Law School. Previously, he has worked for JPMorgan Chase  and for five years he worked as a New York City administrative law judge hearing Section 8 rent and fraud cases. Pascual is also a commissioned officer in the New York Army National Guard. 

The challenger said his previous lines of work would help him in the new position, as he had experience reviewing budgets and has reviewed billions of dollars of transactions looking for indicators of corruption, criminal activity or other violations. 

Other areas Pascual would like to address are developments approved in the town. In terms of planning and land use he would like the town and the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency to scale back on giving tax breaks to developers. 

“These tax breaks are not affordable,” he said. “Taxes and student loans are crippling young people [in the Town of Brookhaven].”

Pascual said the position, while tasked with the town’s budget and taxes, is connected to other facets of the government. He wants to be an honest broker for residents. 

“I want to make sure we can help get more roads paved,” he said. “The town is already in debt. How are we going to pay those off? What’s going to happen when the landfill closes?”

Pascual reiterated that he believes it is time for change in Brookhaven. 

“The establishment has been in the town for a long time — it’s time for new blood,” he said.

 

Ed Romaine. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Brookhaven is proposing a $312.9 million budget that Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) called “a taxpayer’s budget.” The proposed budget is a near $10 million increase from last year’s $302 million, but officials say there will only be a minor increase in taxes.

In a budget media briefing meeting Sept. 30, officials said there will be a small increase to property taxes, but are looking to end deficit spending, reduce debt and restore surpluses. The 2020 tentative operating budget of $312,868,413 is not set to dip into the town’s fund balance, essentially its rainy day bank, for the second year in a row. The new budget stays at the 2 percent state tax levy cap.

In 2019, the town did not appropriate any use of its fund balances, effectively the rainy day funds in case of need for emergency spending. This is compared to nearly 10 years ago during the Great Recession where the town was using approximately $28.5 million in fund balance to balance the budget.

The town is also looking to decrease debt, with new capital projects coming in at $43.9 million, which is $14.6 million less than 2019. With the budget, the town is looking to eliminate the current $15.8 million pension debt and eliminate the $30.1 million in “pipeline“ debt, or the extra money left over from the close of bonded projects, either unused or unappropriated.

“It’s move it or lose it for pipeline debt,”

– Ed Romaine

The new operating budget also sets aside $1.6 million additional funds in the post-closure landfill reserve. The town’s landfill is set to close by 2024.

The 2020 tentative capital budget sets up public improvement projects established via bonds and reserves. This includes $26.4 million for the Highway Department comprising road repairs, drainage, traffic safety, facilities and machinery/equipment. This is in addition to a $5 million increase for road resurfacing in the operating budget from $10 to $d15 million.

“That’s part of the supervisor’s commitment to spend $15 million a year in road resurfacing,” said Matt Miner, town chief of operations. “This is the first year that will be going into effect.”

Those funds do not include funding from New York State, especially the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program — known as CHIPS — from the state Department of Transportation, worth on average about $4.5 million to the town, according to officials.

“The Highway Department will have sufficient funding, far in excess of what they’ve had in the past years,” Romaine said.

In attempts to reduce debt in a faster manner, the town has looked toward 12-year loans instead of 20-year loans. Brookhaven officials hope to reduce overall debt to $20 million by 2021 from $600 million at the end of 2018.

Despite a complete restructuring of the town’s garbage and recycling apparatus, the annual cost for garbage pickup will remain flat at $350 for a single home, with each home on average getting around 171 pickups per year.

Romaine said the town has looked to reduce the amount of revenues gained through property taxes. Currently property tax makes up 53.3 percent of the 2020 tentative budget.

Commissioner of Finance Tamara Branson said the town has looked to focus on getting grants instead of spending through capital expenditure involving tax-raising initiatives.

“We have 50 grant projects that are public improvement projects,” she said, adding that the town has received grant funds of $63.2 million. 

Elected officials will also see a small raise in annual pay. Council members will receive a $1,446 increase to $73,762, while the supervisor will be bumped by $2,398 to $122,273. The highway superintendent at $121,515, town clerk and tax receiver will each receive around $2,000 in increases. Elected officials have been seeing an approximate $2,000 increase in pay for the past few years.

The new budget went before the Town Board for preliminary adoption Oct. 3. A public hearing on the budget will take place Nov. 7, but town finance officials said they don’t expect the budget to change much between then and now. The full budget must be adopted by Nov. 20.