Around East Hampton Town Hall: Peconic Estuary, LTV, Rental Registry, New Fire Substation

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The prospect of signing on to an intermunicipal agreement with the Peconic Estuary Program—an action aimed at committing to cleaner waters—continued to spark emotions on the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday, a little more than a week after it failed to pass after heated discussion along party lines.

Signing on to the measure would mean the town would work with several other East End municipalities in an effort toward earning grants for cleaner water, but board members clashed about whether they had enough information to make a decision.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, both Republicans, said they had outstanding questions on the proposal, while Democratic Councilwoman Sylvia Overby questioned the delay, saying clean water is important, the concept is not new and she trusts the judgment of the town’s natural resources staff in their review.

Ms. Quigley insisted the board had not received the agreement until that day and asked incredulously how the board could have voted upon it any earlier. Following testy exchanges with two representatives from the Peconic Estuary Program, Ms. Quigley informed them the tension in the room had nothing to do with them, but rather with the board itself.

Democratic Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, who previously pushed for the measure, was absent on Tuesday.

Ms. Quigley and Mr. Wilkinson emphasized that the agreement was originally touted as a way to clean water through an MS4, or municipal separate storm sewer system, that East Hampton needs because it has several bodies of polluted waters, including Georgica Pond, Northwest Creek, Accabonac Harbor and Lake Montauk, but that it is actually more comprehensive than that.

In a separate matter on Tuesday, Councilwoman Quigley announced that although the town has not yet inked a new contract with LTV, which videotapes and airs town meetings and other programming, the two sides have verbally agreed on some terms.

The town is looking at $550,000 as a base figure for a new three-year contract, she said. Any additional costs that LTV requests above this figure would require the programming organization to prove to the Town Board why it would be necessary. The town could then approve or disapprove the additional spending. Ms. Quigley said that LTV representatives seemed amenable to this and that it is an idea modeled after the town’s “zero-based budgeting” that it uses with its own departments, a practice put into effect as an effort to tidy up the town’s finances.

The most recent contract expired last fall.

The board on Tuesday also resumed discussion of starting up a rental registry, as an attempt to get a handle on illegal share houses.

Pat Gunn, the town’s public safety officer, told the board he is less interested in the prospect than he was initially, after having discovered that high courts have determined that it is unconstitutional for code enforcement to tie rental permits to any type of inspection.

Board members, however, still expressed interest, but were also concerned about overburdening the Building Department.

Mr. Stanzione pointed out that several other municipalities have managed to craft rental registries that work and that there is a need for greater accountability for homeowners, agents and renters who abuse the Town Code.

Also on Tuesday, the board briefly revisited the idea of building a fire substation in Northwest Woods for use by the East Hampton Fire Department, an idea that Mr. Wilkinson said is intended to help alleviate significant insurance impacts on homeowners who do not have quick fire response.

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