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Highway super takes systems online

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro sifts through a town map with the touch of his finger. Photo by Phil Corso

Managing one of the largest highway departments in New York State takes a lot of work, and Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) has put all of it in the palm of his hand.

As of Jan. 5, the entire department went paperless with a new electronic work order system and by the end of that month, foremen in the field either updated or closed more than 1,500 work orders using a mobile app on town-issued iPads. In an exclusive interview with TBR News Media, Losquadro and his team said the Brookhaven highway department has raised the bar for municipalities across the state.

“To me, this is nothing short of transformative,” Losquadro said. “Improving efficiencies of the highway department has been one of my priorities since taking office three years ago.”

In the past, Brookhaven residents hoping to see something as simple as a pothole being repaired in front of their home would need to file a work order, which an office staffer would enter into a computer, print out and then deliver to a foreman, typically taking five to seven days before resolution. But now, the highway superintendent said, the information can be shared almost immediately.

“We owe that to our customers, because they deserve the response that a customer from any business should get,” Losquadro said, referring to his Brookhaven constituents.

The new paperless system capitalized on already existing geographic information systems the town had invested in over recent years to help create one cohesive platform, allowing town employees to view, update and create work orders in real time, from the field. And through each step of development, Losquadro said foremen and town workers who would be using the technology on a daily basis provided their feedback.

Matt Sabatello, who works in the town’s tech department, worked alongside a dedicated crew of in-house developers to grow the mobile application and make it accessible for all town employees. With more than a decade of experience working with the town already under his belt, Sabatello said he has seen the arc of technological advancement go into overdrive under Losquadro’s direction.

Some of the interactive features Losquadro and his team helped to launch over the past year included color-coded visual queues identifying outstanding work orders, a display of all open work orders prioritized by the date created and a new “follow me” GPS-enabled feature that could be used to identify problem areas as well as track town vehicles when they are out in the field.

“If you see something, create a work order,” Losquadro said, playing off the Metropolitan Transportation Authority slogan, “if you see something, say something.”

And the efficiencies stretch far beyond a run-of-the-mill pothole fix, too. John Giannott, a senior administrator with the highway department, said the mobile technology has made Brookhaven’s response time to serious weather events such as severe snowfall nearly two hours quicker.

“We keep finding new uses for this every day,” he said. “It puts you ahead of the curve, because all your assets are tracked.”

The “green” technology has also allowed the town to apply for state grants and emergency relief funds in a more efficient way, making Brookhaven that much more equipped for more green.

Looking ahead, Losquadro said he hoped to see other facets of Brookhaven government follow suit in implementing such technology. He said he has already seen an interest from the town board to use similar platforms to track constituent complaints.

“I had a vision of how I wanted to transform this department,” he said. “Working with them allowed us to move to this point in less than three years.”

Holtsville Hal, his handler Greg Drossel and Master of Ceremonies Wayne Carrington make their way onstage to cheers and applause on Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

To the delight of about 100 people in attendance on Tuesday, it was announced that famed Brookhaven groundhog Holtsville Hal did not see his shadow, indicating spring would come early this year.

Excited Holtsville Hal fans collected streamers as a keepsake from Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski
Excited Holtsville Hal fans collected streamers as a keepsake from Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

Hal made his yearly Groundhog Day appearance at Brookhaven Town’s Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology center at about 7:30 a.m., before a crowd with fresh memories of being walloped with more than 2 feet of snow in a recent blizzard.

Tradition says that if Hal — or, as he’s known in the Town of Brookhaven as a throwback to the classic Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day,” the Great Prognosticator of Prognosticators — sees his shadow when he wakes from hibernation on Groundhog Day, the community is in for six more weeks of winter.

“As I stood by my burrow and looked to the ground, there was no shadow for me to be found,” Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) read from a large scroll as Hal was presented to the mass of onlookers. “So kids and their families, put away your sleds and snow blowers.” There were raucous cheers.

Holtsville Hal is presented to a group of young onlookers on Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski
Holtsville Hal is presented to a group of young onlookers on Groundhog Day. Photo by Alex Petroski

Holtsville Hal was handled by Greg Drossel as he posed for photos with Master of Ceremonies Wayne Carrington, Councilmen Neil Foley (R) and Dan Panico (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D), members of the Holtsville Fire Department and many others. He even posed for a selfie with one young admirer.

Last year, Hal also predicted an early spring. This year he might be right, if only just for Tuesday, as those who woke up early to attend the event were treated to a mild, sunny morning by the time the groundhog made his much-anticipated appearance.

With the viewers in good spirits, Carrington reminded the crowd to donate whatever they could to the ecology center to support its programs.

This version corrects the spelling of Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s name.

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By Talia Amorosano

It’s fall, and you know what that means: Winter is around the corner. And we all know what that means is near — that biting cold that makes you want to wrap yourself up in a warm blanket and enjoy a cup of steaming hot-something in front of a cozy fireplace. 

There’s only one problem: You don’t have a fireplace. Or you do, but it doesn’t meet your specific needs. With so many different kinds of fuel, functions and forms, it can be difficult to know which fireplace is the right fit. So if you haven’t already warmed up to the idea of installing a new fireplace in your home, read on to see what each type has to offer.

FUEL OPTIONS

Wood: If you’re into that cozy rustic vibe, a wood-burning fireplace is best at creating the classic woodsy ambiance associated with log cabins and homemade pies.  It gives off that “burning wood” smell (sometimes of hickory or maple) literally, and the sound of crackling logs is the perfect accompaniment to a night of board games with friends around the living room table or a quiet evening alone with a book. On the down side, this kind of fireplace takes lots of work to clean, can clog the chimney and create smoke if not maintained correctly, and while it provides heat in a small space, it sucks the warmth out of other areas of the house.

Gas: According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association, the popularity of gas fireplaces is on the rise, probably because of the balance of ease and efficiency that they strike. Gas fireplaces offer more use options than wood fireplaces do, often featuring blowers, timers and fans, which give the user more complete control. On the other hand, while many gas fireplaces feature realistic-looking logs and embers, they don’t replicate the smoky smell or crackling of a real fire, and the option of using fallen trees as free fuel is lost.

Electric: Like wood fireplaces, electric fireplaces function well as space heaters. However, they don’t emit harmful fumes (such as carbon dioxide from wood and carbon monoxide from gas) into the home. They are easy to use, requiring nothing more than a simple plug-in and switch-on to function and aren’t easily corroded; but they will also lose power if your home does, and if used often, can be costly components of an energy bill. If you don’t have time for something high maintenance but like the aesthetic value that a fireplace brings, an electrically powered fireplace might just be for you. 

INSTALLMENT OPTIONS

Wall mounted: These kinds of fireplaces must be attached to a chimney and require major construction if a chimney is not already present. While this can be expensive, it can also add value to a home. They are built into a wall and usually lend themselves to the burning of real wood or gas fuel but can also accommodate electric.

Free standing: Depending on the fuel type, these fireplaces can be attached to a ceiling or completely free standing and can require a vent pipe to act as a chimney.  They usually don’t require much construction and have the appearance of large cabinets.

Portable: Perfect for a home built without space for a huge fireplace, portable fireplaces are small, decorative and typically much less expensive than built-in or free-standing fireplaces.  However, these fireplaces are more aesthetic than functional, typically not able to heat a large area or space.

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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.”

Severe weather toppled trees and downed power lines across the North Shore on Tuesday morning, leaving roads unnavigable and residents without electricity in areas including Port Jefferson, Setauket, Smithtown and Stony Brook.

The National Weather Service sent out three separate thunderstorm warnings in the early morning hours between 4 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. citing reports of hail, thunderstorms and wind damage with trees falling onto homes and power lines down throughout the Port Jefferson area. By daybreak, intense winds and rain made way for a sunny morning that revealed the aftermath of the storm. Trees were in the streets and traffic lights had gone black.

By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, utility PSEG Long Island reported more than 20,000 customers in Brookhaven Town without power and more than 8,000 in Smithtown. Over 42,000 customers were affected in total and as of 10:30 a.m. 38,027 are without power throughout Long Island and the Rockaways, PSEG said.

Route 25A in East Setauket was a hotbed of activity on Tuesday morning, and the Suffolk County Police Department urged drivers to treat outed traffic lights as stop signs in lieu of electricity. In fact, SCPD requested all drivers to completely avoid Route 25A all together on Tuesday morning in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook as various road closures were underway to remove trees from the streets. By 10:30 a.m., SCPD announced that Route 25A was closed in both directions between Franklin Street and Stony Hill Road in Port Jefferson.

Lights along Nicolls Road in Stony Brook, and all lights from Nicolls Road on Route 25A stretching to Main Street in Setauket were out this morning. Tree and leaves were strewn across Route 25A, and traffic moved slowly along the thoroughfare in the Setauket and Stony Brook areas. SCPD cars were a common sight. The lights were out at many businesses along Main Street in Stony Brook.

In a statement, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said he was working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to coordinate resources to respond to hard-hit areas.

“The storm that hit this morning caused extensive damage and power outages throughout the North Shore, and I have authorized all resources from Parks and Waste Management Departments to assist the Highway Department in the clean-up effort,” he said. “Our Emergency Operations Center was activated at 6:30 a.m. and currently, a PSEG representative is coordinating efforts to restore power to more than 21,000 Brookhaven residents.”

The Smithtown Fire Department responded to a call of the first of many downed power lines at 5:01 a.m., according to spokesman Jeff Bressler. The alarms were the result of a quick-moving powerful storm that made its way through the Smithtown area. As of 8:43 a.m., eight calls were dispatched for wires in addition to a CO activation and a mutual aid to a structural fire in St. James, Bressler said.

The National Weather Service also issued a coastal hazard message as the storm battered the North Shore, warning residents to watch out for strong rip currents flowing away from the shorelines.

Rohma Abbas contributed to this report.

Tweet us your updates on the aftermath of the storm @TBRNewspapers.

Send us your storm photos to [email protected].

By Elof Carlson

I recently had the pleasure of reading Lee Standlin’s “Storm Kings,” a short work on the history of weather forecasting and how scientists tried to figure out how storms form. The book begins with Benjamin Franklin’s discovery that lightning is electricity. I learned that Franklin was quite a showman as he toured Europe and the Colonies, showing his experiments with electricity.

I knew that much earlier people tried to interpret weather as the acts of gods. For the Norse, Thor was the god of thunder. For the Greeks, Aeolus was the deity who blew gale winds and caused ships to crash and sink under gigantic waves. For the Bible, Genesis describes the “waters above” and the “waters below,” distinguishing oceans from drenching rains as two separate creations of water.

In “Storm Kings,” we follow the bitter controversies of nineteenth century scientists who attempt to explain storm formation. Each participant is hostile to the ideas of rivals and theories collide with the ferocity of storms. But out of those debates, the Army Signal Corps was formed and established first, a series of flags to indicate weather for ships at sea and then, telegraph accounts of weather readings — temperature, barometric pressure, clouds, wind speed and direction — sent to military bases around the United States.

Politics played a role in the rivalry of contending candidates for heading up the Signal Corps and politics limited what it could forecast. Tornadoes were taboo because acknowledging them or determining their frequency would lower land values in the Midwest. The Signal Corps was cut back, had its operations shifted to the Agriculture Department and was renamed the Weather Bureau so it could be more effectively monitored by lobbyists.

After the Civil War, science began to change. Weather was seen as a complex physical process and weather fronts were identified. The collision of warm moist air from the south and cold dry air from the north led to line storms and tornadoes in the Midwest. It was not until World War II that a more thorough weather forecasting was allowed for the Weather Bureau.

What distinguishes the history of weather forecasting as a science from evolution in biology as a science is the relative absence of religious objections to the interpretation of storms and weather phenomena.

Disasters are still thought by some as visitations from God to punish the wicked. But no one would ban the teaching of the physics of storm formation or cloud formation in classrooms.

Astronomy and physics are also downgraded by some religious writers who deny the idea that objects can be more than 10 thousand light years away or that some elements in the earth have a radioactive decay rate measured in millions of years.

The brunt of the attack on science, however, is evolutionary biology, because it deals with life, and we humans are alive and aware of that existence. Most people have no clue what is meant by light years, radioactive half-lives of isotopes of elements, or the dynamics of ocean currents, wind patterns, and rising or descending masses of air. Unfortunately, almost all major religions have their origins hundreds or thousands of years ago when science was relatively new or altogether absent and the religious texts of those times reflect this.

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.