The Sag Harbor Village Board hired a new senior building inspector on Tuesday morning during a special meeting, according to Village Mayor Brian Gilbride.
The new hire just happens to be Tom Preiato, East Hampton Town’s current chief building inspector, who has been with the town for almost 15 years.
The position is new, according to Mayor Gilbride, and Mr. Preiato fits the bill.
“Tom is a village resident with a lot of experience and what we need at this point,” the mayor said on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of activity and building going on in Sag Harbor right now, and there is a bit of backlog. Tom is a good guy with a lot of experience.”
According to Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, he and Mr. Preiato had a discussion last Friday about the move, and Mr. Cantwell and Mr. Gilbride talked on Monday about the situation.
The East Hampton Town Building Department has already faced its share of issues recently—Building Inspector Robert Fisher was docked with a 30-day suspension due to alleged misconduct and incompetence, according to a resolution that was adopted on Tuesday, September 16. The town attorney’s office declined to comment on the situation.
“We have at least one vacancy already, but we’re literally in the process of filling it,” Mr. Cantwell said. “My immediate concern is to keep the momentum up in serving the public and get work done.”
At the town’s work session Tuesday, the Town Board agreed to appoint Fred Lang Jr. as a part-time building inspector at $30 per hour.
Mr. Cantwell said Mr. Preiato will stay on with the town for at least two more weeks. Mr. Gilbride said Mr. Preiato will start his new position on Friday, November 7, and will work alongside Jose Escalante, a junior building inspector who is “just entering the field.”
“I think Tom will be a great addition and help Jose immensely as he learns,” Mr. Gilbride said.
Mr. Preiato had applied to the new position when it was announced, according to the mayor, and he was the best candidate.
“There’s an effort on behalf of the entire Village Board to get the backlog cleared up and get things going and get inspections out there if there are some projects going on without building permits,” he added. “We’re looking to catch up with them and we’re trying to take care of our residents.”
In 2013, the town appointed Mr. Preiato as chief building inspector on a provisional basis, increasing his salary from $61,500 to $75,000. Mr. Preiato had been a senior building inspector at the time and had acted as chief for some time. Prior to Mr. Preiato stepping in, the post had remained vacant since former Chief Building Inspector Don Sharkey died of a heart attack in July 2009.
In his new position in Sag Harbor Village, he will continue to make $75,000 in salary.
When Mr. Preiato was appointed as provisional chief building inspector, there had been some words between the former Town Board and Mr. Cantwell, since the decision was made just two months before the Wilkinson administration ended.
Mr. Cantwell had said that appointing a chief building inspector and a police chief—as the Town Board did on the same evening—were “two very important decisions being made by a board that is leaving office in December, and I would have preferred to have been a part of that discussion.”
But the sitting supervisor at the time said there was no political agenda to the appointment. “It shouldn’t be perceived that this appointment is a Machiavellian gesture to deny Larry Cantwell his ability to appoint his own chief building inspector,” Mr. Wilkinson had said. “Mr. Preiato is owed a shot at this title. As everyone knows, under Civil Service, it’s a provisional designation—so if Mr. Cantwell isn’t satisfied with his performance, he can terminate the relationship.”
When reached on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Preiato said his leaving has nothing to do with ill feelings or issues within the town. “The town has interviewed for a chief building inspector, and I did interview, but I decided on my own to pursue this opportunity,” he said, noting that he did not know the outcome of those interviews. “I made my choice.”
He said when Sag Harbor Village offered him the position, he decided to take advantage of it.
“I feel this is a good opportunity, and I will get to be in my home village and bring the same work ethic and expertise that I give now to East Hampton to Sag Harbor Village,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, but I’m leaving on good terms and I feel positive about the move. I have no bad feelings, and I wish the town success in my absence.”