Flanders, Riverside and Northampton residents packed the David C. Crohan Community Center in Flanders on Tuesday to hear the candidates for Southampton Town supervisor, Town Board and Suffolk County legislator pitch their plans for addressing the problems plaguing the hamlets.
Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Republican challenger Linda Kabot, who served as supervisor from 2007 to 2009, traded shots over each other’s management of town finances, a repeated theme in the campaign. Ms. Throne-Holst touted her record of attention to the town’s western communities, including successfully addressing the tax equalization rate, establishing a Blight Mitigation Fund, and facilitating a quick and efficient response to waterfront neighborhoods last fall after Superstorm Sandy’s devastation.
On the topic of adding private roads to the town’s highway inventory, Ms. Throne-Holst explained that she hopes to use $50,000 in the capital budget for a planning and feasibility study that would examine the possibility of establishing special taxing districts to cover the costs of a road improvement project in the area.
Ms. Kabot said she would make an effort to use resources aside from tax dollars to pave and otherwise improve the miles of private roads in the town, should the property owners fronting the roads desire such improvements.
The hot topic of the night was economic revitalization of the Riverside business corridor, which runs along state Route 24 to the traffic circle and is currently lined with boarded-up buildings with for-sale signs. Both Ms. Throne-Holst and incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman took credit for securing a $250,000 grant for a recently completed sewer study, which outlined the feasibility and cost of installing a water treatment system that would serve businesses in that area and possibly spur development.
Ms. Kabot, however, criticized the town and county leaders for not using more political will to pursue the possibility of connecting the corridor with the sewer system in downtown Riverhead. Engineers from the firm CDM Smith, who conducted the sewer feasibility study, previously said that the Riverhead system cannot handle the added waste load.
“We need to tie into Riverhead Town,” Ms. Kabot said. “I don’t understand why it’s just a big, fat ‘no.’ It’s wrong. We need it for Riverside. We need it for the economic development necessary to clean this place up.”
All the candidates at the debate stressed the need to encourage investment in the area, which will add to the tax base of hamlets that are burdened by large tracts of publicly owned land not on the tax rolls.
In a minor slip-up, Ms. Kabot said she looked forward to the day when a leader from the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton area would run for a seat on the Town Board and bring more representation to the area—seemingly ignoring Democratic Town Board candidate and Northampton resident Brad Bender, who was seated in front of her.
“He has been a great partner for all the work that we have started for this area,” Ms. Throne-Holst later added.
Political newcomers Jeff Mansfield and Stan Glinka, the Republican slate for Town Board, presented themselves as hardworking citizens who lack the political baggage of the other candidates. Both candidates said they would give more attention to public safety in the hamlets, which have long cried for a greater police presence.
Democratic candidate Frank Zappone, who currently serves as deputy town supervisor, said he would first examine whether the Town Police Department was partnering with the Suffolk County sheriff’s office and the State Troopers to improve service to the area before considering using tax dollars to beef up funding for the town department.
On the topic of code enforcement, Mr. Zappone said he would work to improve communication among the various town agencies, including code enforcement and the fire marshals. “Functionally, they don’t work well together,” he said. “They don’t share information.”
Mr. Schneiderman, an Independence Party member, and Republican challenger Chris Nuzzi, a current town councilman, took the microphone last, and squabbled over the state of county finances. Both candidates listed their past accomplishments and pledged support for revitalizing the Riverside business corridor.
Mr. Nuzzi proposed the idea of opening up vistas along state Route 24 to calm traffic and take advantage of the natural resources that exist. Mr. Schneiderman asked voters to reelect him so that he would have the chance to see his Riverside revitalization efforts realized.