Town News – Autumn 2014
A busy summer season is over and the Town is moving into the challenging Autumn months. September, October and November are the months when the Town Board prepares the 2015 budget. This has been made especially challenging by Cuomo’s 2% tax cap on municipal spending. The name is misleading—this year the Shelter Island tax cap is only 1.6%.
Unfortunately the utility companies, food, insurance, fuel and supplies increase more than 1.6%, leaving the town in an impossible position in keeping its costs under that number. Shelter Island has always been fiscally conservative. There is no fat to cut—the town must tear out meat and bone and make hard choices about cutting government services or infrastructure maintenance.
Irrigation has been a spotlight issue. In 2003 the town banned all new underground irrigation systems and old ones had 10 years to phase out. However, in the summer of 2013 there was a call to reexamine the technology associated with irrigation systems and a moratorium was placed on enforcement of the phase out. An Irrigation Committee was established and made a report in July on proposed changes in the irrigation regulations. A copy of their report and the hydrologist studies underlying them can be found on the Town website under Committees/Irrigation Committee.
The Town Board has drafted a revision in the irrigation law and there will be a public hearing to receive comments on October 3. The draft law is on the Town website under Town Topics/Upcoming Hearings and Laws.
There has been considerable attention given to the water quality at Fresh Pond. The water tests in May showed no problems and the water appears clean and clear. A new water test is being performed in September to get a post-summer comparison with the pre-summer test.
As an island, having the best equipment for our bay constables to enforce the laws on boating and use of town waters is important. The Town was fortunate to receive the grant of a fully-equipped police boat from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation. This has a value of over $130,000 and allows the town to retire its thirty year old police boat. Much thanks to the state for this equipment.
During the Spring, PSEG was in discussions with the town and neighbors about the failed project to lay an underwater cable from Greenport to Crescent Beach and the possibility of a substation as an alternative. The substation would connect to the 69kv line that runs across Shelter Island and allow that power to serve homes in the town. But the location of a substation has been controversial and PSEG is studying various alternatives. That is where the matter stands as of early September.
The Suffolk County Health Department has been looking into updating the standards it uses for septic system design. The designs haven’t changed much in thirty years, and there has been increasing concern that the systems do little to reduce nitrogen leaching into the creeks. The marine plants and animals are particularly susceptible to nitrogen. The Suffolk County Health Department has not reached any conclusions at this point. But the Town hired a summer intern to start putting the septic data in town files into an accessible database. It will start putting together a picture of where the septic systems are located and when they were put in. The town’s project will take several years.
The issue of helicopters buzzing over Shelter Island on their way to East Hampton has been a big issue this summer. Shelter Island banned helicopters from landing in the town many years ago, but they persist in flying over the town on their way to towns that allow them. The Town Board has adopted a resolution encouraging the Town of East Hampton to change their policy on helicopters and ease the burden they are placing on Shelter Island.
Keep an eye on the newspaper for weekly reports on Town news and on this webpage for quarterly updates.