Southold Kids Could Run Town’s Cable Access; Renewable Energy Committee Could Be Dissolved

USDA Wildlife Services New York Director Martin Lowney at Southold's meeting.
Filming a recent Southold Town meeting

Southold Town is hoping to put its faith in high school students to videotape town meetings and perhaps run the programming on the town’s cable access channel, Channel 22.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said at Tuesday’s town board meeting that he’s in discussions with audiovisual departments at Southold’s three high schools, in Greenport, Mattituck and Southold, about having students take broadcasting classes in which they would both tape town meetings and produce their own original programming for the town’s station.

Mattituck High School’s audiovisual department already produces a daily television show that is broadcast in classrooms each morning, and Mr. Russell said he has a lot of faith that students today take broadcast media seriously.

“This new era is about broadcast media,” said Mr. Russell. “There’s no reason to think they won’t take advantage of the opportunity to broadcast their shows, their sporting events, their productions on a town-run station that goes into every household in Southold Town.”

“Do I think we’ll have students attracted to the course? Absolutely,” he added.

Mr. Russell’s comments came after town Democratic Committee Chairman Art Tillman asked why the town has not yet begun to videotape work sessions, as Democratic candidates had asked them to do last year. Mr. Tillman said he was concerned that the students would be volunteers and may not take the responsibility as seriously as it should be taken.

“This is far too important to leave to students and school staff on a voluntary basis,” he said.

Mr. Russell said the town is looking for someone with experience as a broadcaster to serve as a sort of executive director overseeing the program.

“That’s a critical issue,” he said. “We have people with that talent who live right here in Southold.”

Former Democratic Trustee candidate Lynn Summers said she looks forward to the taping of more town meetings, including town trustee meetings.

“When you put a camera in front of people,” she said, “you will see better behavior at public meetings.”

To Disband Renewable Energy Committee

Southold is considering disbanding its Renewable Energy Committee, after Councilman Bob Ghosio, who serves as liaison to that committee, told the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session that he believes the committee has run its course.

The Renewable Energy Committee has had a role in crafting legislation allowing wind turbines and creating dark skies rules, and had advised the town on efficiency measures down to the types of light bulbs used in town hall.

“We’re beyond the alternative energy scope. We’ve gotten past the initial phase. Everybody knows what’s going on in terms of renewable energy now,” said Mr. Ghosio.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said there’s been some talk about turning the committee into a sustainability committee, but he believed the topics a sustainability committee could address could be too broad.

As a case in point, Southampton Town’s sustainability committee ran into opposition to a broad-reaching sustainability plan that was ultimately adopted, with major changes, last year.

“That has connotations of community sewers,” said Mr. Russell of a sustainability committee. “It’s beyond efficiency of buildings. It can include so many things.”

Mr. Russell suggested a letter be prepared thanking Renewable Energy Committee members for their service and letting them know their input would be appreciated if Southold decides to create a new committee with similar duties.

“They certainly did a good job,” said Mr. Ghosio.

Bergen Gets His Trustee Seat Back….For Now

Former Town Trustee David Bergen didn’t get the support of Southold’s Republican Committee in last year’s election, but he was appointed in a 4-2 vote Tuesday night to serve out Bob Ghosio’s term on the trustees, after Mr. Ghosio was elected to the town board.

Town Board members Jim Dinizio and Jill Doherty, herself a former trustee president, voted against Mr. Bergen’s reappointment, and Town Supervisor Scott Russell said a “reluctant yes” in casting the deciding vote in favor of his appointment.

Mr. Bergen, an avid sailor, managed waterway navigation and dredging issues during his tenure on the Trustees. The Republicans replaced him on the ticket last fall with Charles Sanders, a real estate agent with Town & Country Realty who is an advocate for property rights.

Mr. Bergen will serve until results of a special election to fill the seat are finalized this November.

Democratic Committee Chairman Art Tillman grilled Mr. Russell for several minutes about whether the town’s Republican Committee screened the candidates before Mr. Bergen was appointed.

Mr. Russell said there were about 15 people interested in the position, and the majority of the board decided they needed someone with experience on a board that has several newcomers on it. He added that Congressman Tim Bishop and former Congressman George Hochbrueckner, both Democrats, had called him to advocate on Mr. Bergen’s behalf.

“This board did not funnel names through the Republican Committee” to make the appointment, said Mr. Russell, who added that it had taken them so long to appoint someone because there was no clear front-runner among the candidates. “This isn’t a lockstep unity town board.”

Mr. Tillman said he’s heard that the new Republican party leadership has more of a role in how Southold is governed than in the past, though Mr. Russell said he doesn’t attend party meetings and isn’t actively involved in the party.

“The reason why I’m here is the authoritarian, pushing nature of the current Republican leadership,” said Mr. Tillman.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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