As the first fresh blanket of snow of 2014 fell upon East Hampton Town Hall last week, a crowd of people gathered inside the boardroom to witness the ushering in of a new administration.
Supervisor Larry Cantwell and new Town Board members Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Fred Overton, Justice Steven Tekulsky, Town Highway Superintendent Stephen Lynch and Town Clerk Carole Brennan took their oaths of office on Thursday morning accompanied by applause.
Other integral positions were filled—Peter Van Scoyoc was appointed deputy supervisor, Mr. Lynch, the public works commissioner and sanitation director, Job Potter, a Planning Board member, and Cate Rogers, vice chairperson of the Zoning Board of Appeals, despite not gaining Mr. Overton’s vote.
Mr. Cantwell will earn $100,800 as supervisor this year; each board member will earn $63,000; Ms. Brennan will earn $85,000 as clerk; Mr. Tekulsky will earn $73,200 as a justice; and Mr. Lynch will earn $85,000 as highway superintendent and $15,000 as commissioner of public works and director of sanitation.
In his inaugural speech, Mr. Cantwell dedicated the meeting to Lee Hayes, a former Tuskegee Airman who died in December, and outlined issues that he and his administration plan to tackle this year, including creating a more transparent government, improving code enforcement, keeping an eye on government finances, including those for the East Hampton Airport, and protecting East Hampton from further storm and erosion damage.
Mr. Cantwell said the new board wants to improve the town’s trustworthiness as well as its transparency. He said not only has he not “wasted” time and money advertising his name on town facilities, but that he wants to publish agendas and resolutions on the town’s website,www.town.east-hampton.ny.us, two days before board meetings and not allow “walk on” resolutions unless “time is of the essence.”
“The public has a right to know the business of the Town Board,” he said.
The new supervisor said finding a way to introduce new, affordable housing for seniors and working families and increasing code enforcement will also become priorities for the town.
“We take seriously the quality of life of our residents,” he said. “We ask our citizens to be good neighbors. We seek cooperation in the first instance; failing this, we expect the Town Code to be enforced.”
Mr. Cantwell said it is also important that the town seek grant funding to prepare a hazard mitigation, resiliency and recovery plan to better prepare for sea level rise and coastal storms and the damage they cause.
“We request the Natural Resources Department to work with coastal scientists and engineers to assist the town in working with the Army Corps of Engineers and completing the project for downtown Montauk as soon as possible, and seek federal and state funding for beach replenishment for Ditch Plains,” he said.
Additionally, the new Town Board wants to complete financial and noise data analyses for the East Hampton Airport to determine if an operating profit could pay for capital improvements and how best to mitigate noise.
Mr. Cantwell said he wants to continue to protect drinking and surface water by reviewing the findings of the town’s wastewater study and using Community Preservation Funds to preserve critical lands.
He noted that there is unfinished business the board must tie up in the way of clarifications of the Town Code, including lighting, noise, taxi and public assembly permit laws, and even the definition of “light trucks.”
Knowing there’s much to do and that other issues will arise, Mr. Cantwell took a realistic approach.
“We face many challenges and addressing them will not be easy,” he said. “If we work together to find common ground and maintain our small-town values, if we respect each other and our differences, if we continue in the stewardship of our extraordinary natural environment, if we demonstrate our compassion for the frail and elderly, and the less fortunate, and those new to our community, and if we support working-class families, who are the community’s backbone, then this great, more than 350-year-old town will survive and prosper.”
Mr. Cantwell said while he feels hopeful and invigorated, he regrets that his parents were not alive to see him take office as town supervisor.
“They shaped the foundation of who I am today,” he said. “I will try as best I can to remember what they taught me: work hard for what you want and treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”