If you’re a parking ticket scofflaw in Southold Town, the merry month of May might be your month.
Southold Town is mulling granting amnesty for one month on penalties for more than 880 outstanding parking tickets, in the hopes of getting people to come in and pay the original fine.
The town’s Justice Court Director, Leanne Reilly, pitched the idea to the town board at their Feb. 23 work session.
“It definitely brings in revenue,” she said. “A lot of times people just forget to pay their tickets.”
Ms. Reilly said that 350 of the outstanding tickets are on cars with out-of-state license plates, whose owners often ignore tickets in jurisdictions where they don’t plan to return.
The town’s parking ticket vendor would be in charge of tracking down the current addresses of ticket holders and making them aware of the amnesty. The vendor would receive 30 percent of the amount of the ticket.
While the driver would be responsible for the original cost of the ticket during the amnesty period, the town would waive any penalties that have accrued for paying late.
While some members of the town board said they weren’t happy with the idea of rewarding people who hadn’t done the right thing initially, others welcomed the idea that the town would finally receive the revenue.
“I don’t like this. It seems to reward the wrong people,” said Councilman Bob Ghosio, who added that he’s seen parking tickets thrown in the trash at 67 Steps Beach in Greenport.
“I can’t see a real downside to a program like this,” said Councilman Bill Ruland. “The goal is to close this out. If people refuse, you have other options.”
“We should try to get that money back,” agreed Councilman Jim Dinizio. “It’s our money.”
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he would check to see if Police Chief Martin Flatley has any issues with the program before drafting a resolution to go forward.
Arts Guild Seeks Space
Cutchogue’s Old Town Arts & Crafts Guild is the oldest non-profit arts organization on the North Fork, but at 70 years old, they are beginning to outgrow their iconic red wood frame building on Route 25.
President Bob Kuhne and board member Nancy Johanson came to Southold’s Feb. 23 work session to ask to be able to use the town’s Recreation Center and/or the Peconic Lane Community Center for their summer programs for kids, and to hang art shows.
“Last summer, we had to turn away several dozen kids from our summer art program,” said Mr. Kuhne, who added that there are only four rooms in their building in Cutchogue.
The town has currently agreed to allow East End Arts, based in Riverhead, to run programs and shows at the Peconic Lane Community Center, but Mr. Kuhne explained that many members of the Old Town Arts & Crafts Guild are not members of East End Arts and would have to either pay a premium or not be allowed to participate in some East End Arts shows.
He added that most of his group’s artists are from the North Fork.
Board members were receptive to the proposal for the youth programs, but were more cautious about the idea of an art show.
Councilman Jim Dinizio, as he had with East End Arts, was concerned that someone might steal a painting from the community center during hours when the building is not staffed.
He said he envisioned the newspaper getting ahold of the idea of an art heist from a town building and running with a story that made the town look bad.
Mr. Kuhne said the Old Town Arts & Crafts Guild has insurance that covers the theft of paintings from off-premise art shows, but he has never seen a painting go missing from one of their shows.
Councilman Bill Ruland pointed out that, if the four school districts on the East End wanted to have art shows in the community center, the town would have to give each of them the same amount of time and space.
Mr. Dinizio also pointed out that there are many commercial art galleries in Southold where artists could display their wares.
“This could be competition for them,” he said.
Mr. Kuhne said the Guild, which is staffed entirely by volunteers, is based on the idea of community collaboration.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell asked Mr. Kuhne to come back to the town with specific ideas for classes and programs.
Debris & FEMA
Southold’s Office of Emergency Management is working with the town’s Solid Waste District on a Debris Management Plan, which will be required by FEMA in the future in order for the town to be reimbursed for hauling away debris after major storms.
Solid Waste Coordinator Jim Bunchuck told the town board that the town’s transfer station usually takes in 7,000 tons of brush per year, but took in at least 7,000 tons of brush for Hurricane Irene and again for Hurricane Sandy.
“That’s still not even half of what a 100-year single storm event would be,” he said.
Mr. Bunchuck said that his office was on the verge of asking the DEC for permission to store debris on top of the capped landfill in Cutchogue after Hurricane Sandy, but at the last minute was able to take the debris to be incinerated in Brookhaven.
The plan includes agreements with other municipalities, and information about potential debris storage areas throughout the town.
Mr. Bunchuck said that, in conference calls he’s been a part of with other municipalities on western Long Island, many towns are planning for what to do if they have a 500-year storm event, which is a storm so damaging that the odds of it occurring are 1 in 500 years.
He said he was told by regional emergency experts that the East End won’t experience a 500-year storm event.
“We won’t have a 500 year event because it would be so bad the East End wouldn’t even be here,” joked Councilman Bob Ghosio.
Water for Cheese?
8 Hands Farm on Cox Lane in Cutchogue is planning to begin making cheese this spring, but they’re facing an unusual problem.
The Suffolk County Health Department is requiring public water for the operation because there is a Suffolk County Water Authority main about 1,300 feet away from the site.
But that water main is on the north side of Route 48, and the cost of extending the main to the farm would be around $65,000.
Southold Agricultural Advisory Committee members Chris Baiz and Douglas Cooper asked the town board to consider amending the town’s water map, which would allow the project to fall under the jurisdiction of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, not the county health department, allowing them to use their well water on site, which has been tested and verified to be clean.
The property is already in an agriculture district.
“If it were Doug’s operation or my operation and we had to pay $65,000, we would probably declare bankruptcy before breakfast,” said Mr. Baiz, who added that he believes that if the health department forces farmers to pay for water main extensions, it will “let the horse out of the barn,” paving the way for residential development in agricultural areas.
“My two cents, being more cynical, is that this seems to be corrupt collusion between the water authority and the Suffolk County Health Department,” said Mr. Cooper.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the town plans to draft an amendment to the water map and hold a public hearing on the change two weeks from today.
21st Century Police Dispatch
The Southold Police Department hasn’t updated its dispatching equipment in 15 years, while most local police departments upgrade their equipment every five or six years, Police Chief Martin Flatley told the town board on Tuesday.
Chief Flatley said he would like to spend $200,000 this fall to upgrade from the outdated push-button dispatching equipment, with an array of computer screens replacing the older dispatching consoles.
The town receives about $140,000 per year from Suffolk County for 911 surcharge fees, which could be used for the project.
Chief Flatley said he’d like to see the work begin after the summer season is over, when he plans to move the dispatchers to a temporary set-up in the basement of the police station while work is being completed.