Members of appointed boards and town to split health insurance costs

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Members of the Southampton Town Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals will soon be splitting their health insurance costs with the town. The Town Board adopted the new cost-share formula Tuesday.

Starting January 1, the 14 members of the two boards will pay 50 percent for either family or individual coverage with the town picking up the other half.

Individual coverage for an appointed member costs $7,587. Under the new plan, board member and the town will each pay $3,793.50. Family coverage for that same member costs $16,150, or $8,075 for the board member.

In May, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot proposed changes to the health benefits structure in order to save money. Initially, Ms. Kabot suggested an even split in the cost share formula for individual coverage, but a higher cost share formula for family coverage with 65 percent of the premium being paid by the appointed board member.

But, the supervisor agreed to a 50-50 split for both family and individual coverage after a suggestion by Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, which was welcomed by the entire Town Board.

Prior to the changes in the health benefits structure, members of the Planning Board and ZBA were paying $2,000, or roughly 28 percent, for individual coverage, with the town picking up the rest, and $4,250 for family coverage, or about 27 percent, with the balance carried by the town.

Ms. Kabot’s argument has been that, while those serving on the two boards work hard and provide a necessary service to the town, the benefits package was overly generous in light of their workload and salary.

According to figures released by the supervisor’s office in May, the Planning Board meets four times a month for an estimated 5.5 hours per meeting, totalling about 300 work hours per year. Not adding in benefits, Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty is paid an annual salary of $20,800. Vice-Chairman John Blaney makes $15,600 a year, while members Larry Toler, Jacqui Lofaro, Alma Hyman, George Skidmore and E. Blair McCaslin are each paid $14,600. On average, according to town figures, Planning Board members earn $66.50 an hour when the costs of health benefits are included.

Not including health benefits, ZBA Chairman Herbert Phillips is paid $15,800 and Vice-Chairwoman Beth Wickey makes $13,400. Members Ann Nowak, Margaret Caraher, Keith Tuthill, Denise O’Brien and Adam Grossman are paid $12,500 each. The ZBA meets twice a month with the average meeting lasting 4.5 hours adding up to a yearly workload of 225 hours, according to town figures. Including benefits, the town estimates that ZBA members earn about $79.34 per hour.

In November 2007, the Town Board discontinued benefits altogether as of January 1, 2008 for appointees serving on the Licensing Review, Conservation, and Architectural Review boards.

East Quogue Upzoning

“The downtown character of East Quogue has been saved,” Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association said, referring to a unanimous decision by the Southampton Town Board to adopt zoning changes to some 900 acres of environmentally sensitive land within the hamlet.

The board’s decision comes nearly four months after the two-year long moratorium covering over 4,000 acres in East Quogue expired. One of the major recommendations coming out of the environmental study conducted during that moratorium was to upzone parcels currently zoned for 2-or 3-acre zoning to 5-acre zoning.

On a piece of land zoned 2-or 3-acre, only one house can be constructed within that designated acreage. By expanding to 5-acre zoning, only one house per 5 acres will be allowed.

The 900 acres upzoned to 5-acre zoning are in a triangular swathe bordered on the southwest by Lewis Road and on the southeast by the Long Island Rail Road. The northern tip of the triangle is the midway point between the railroad tracks and Sunrise Highway.

Joan Hughes, chairwoman of the East Quogue Citizens Advisory Committee, said “upzoning these parcels is the keystone to saving East Quogue.”

Workforce Housing

The Town Board transferred 11 properties, given to it by Suffolk County for the purpose of creating workforce housing, to the town’s Housing Authority on Tuesday.

Nine of the properties are located in Flanders, one in Riverside and one in East Quogue. No more than one house with one accessory apartment can be developed on the individual parcels and the Housing Authority must consider the surrounding community with respect to both the property’s development and management and must consult with the town’s Department of Land Management in selecting home designs.

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