A trio of East End lawmakers urged East Hampton Town Board members in writing this week to fund a $200,000 townwide wastewater management study that recently failed to gain capital funding approval by a supermajority of the board.
New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman wrote a letter dated Monday signifying their “strong support” for the town to conduct a comprehensive townwide wastewater management study, which has been spearheaded by Councilman Dominick Stanzione and was supported by Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc at a meeting earlier this month. The Town Board discussed the letter at its work session on Tuesday. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, who voted against funding the capital expenditure for the plan at a recent meeting, were absent.
Mr. Stanzione said there’s two ways to fund the study: four votes through capital funding or three votes through the operating budget.
“It’s a powerful endorsement and it comes at a pivotal moment,” Mr. Stanzione said of the letter. “It’s time to fund the study.”
Ms. Overby said she’d rather woo a fourth vote on the Town Board in Mr. Wilkinson.
“I think it would be prudent for Bill to capitalize this study instead of taking it out of the current budget,” Ms. Overby said. “And I think as a businessman, if we can appeal to that side of him, he would see that that’s good business.”
Airport Landing Fees
Town Airport Manager Jim Brundige pitched a plan to raise airport landing fees beginning this season.
Under the plan, landing fees would increase, depending on the type of aircraft. Fees for EH10 and S-92 helicopters, for example, would increase from $350 to $500, whereas fees for a light single engine prop aircraft would rise from $7 to $10, according to a draft fee schedule from Mr. Brundige. The increase is being proposed to help the airport operate at break-even level or turn a small profit this year, according to Mr. Brundige. He noted that the airport fell into a deficit last year due in part to increased expenses like the air traffic control tower and legal fees, and that in years prior, the airport budget had surpluses that reached as high as $300,000.
Projected revenue under the new fee schedule, based on 2012 operations, would be $1,197,755, according to Mr. Brundige’s calculations. That’s “cutting it pretty fine” to the $1,197,500 that was budgeted for this year’s revenue for landing fees, Mr. Van Scoyoc pointed out.
Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc indicated they’d like to explore whether the fees could be raised even more. Ms. Overby suggested charging higher fees during the summer and lowering them in the winter.
Mr. Brundige said the Town Board needs to take care to make sure the fee increases aren’t “discriminatory.” He noted that East Hampton Airport is “the most expensive airport to land on in the east coast, including JFK.”
The Town Board will continue considering the fee increases and hold a public hearing later this month on the proposal.
Montauk Erosion Issue
The three board members present reached a consensus on directing the Town Planning Department to pursue short and long-term recommendations to deal with erosion along Montauk’s beaches.
Those recommendations include measures like creating a new zoning designation to grant property owners permission to pursue short-term fixes, such as hardening their shorelines, to protect their property. They also include a short-term sand renourishment project that would place 50,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach.
In the meantime, the town awaits word from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a plan to create a multimillion-dollar engineered beach—the real, long-term goal mostly everyone at the table agrees is necessary. But until then, short-term fixes such as allowing temporary hardening of shorelines is something a majority of the Town Board is willing to explore—a breakthrough of sorts from weeks ago, when the board was divided on whether temporary shoreline hardening should even be considered.
“The key thing is enforcement of it,” Mr. Stanzione said. “The key thing is we provide for strong enforcement measures on behalf of the town that strictly makes enforcement of these temporary measures temporary.”
At the same time, Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc said they want to explore creating a request for proposals to contract a coastal engineering firm that will provide advice on short- and long-term erosion solutions, including weighing in on hard structures on beaches.