Island Community Board (ICB) Annual Meeting (open to the public)
October 10, 2015, 4:30 pm
Fishers Island Community Center, Multi-Purpose Room
Directors present: Peter Brinckerhoff (seasonal), Heather Burnham (year-round), Ned Carlson (Walsh Park), Chris Finan (Utility Co.), Mark Gaumond (FIDCO), Nate Malinowski (year-round), Tom O’Neil (seasonal/President), Harry Parker (Ferry Dist.), Tim Patterson (Waste Mgmt. Dist.), Dicky Riegel (seasonal), Marc Rubenstein (IHP), Candace Whitman (year-round).
Directors absent: Joe Brock (Fire Dist.), Louisa Evans (Town Justice), Karen Goodwin (School Dist.).
Public: approximately 30 members of the public attended.
- President Tom O’Neil called the meeting to order at 4:31.
- Tom O’Neil opened by introducing the directors of the board, then moved to his Opening Remarks on the Island Community Board, which has recently established committees on governance, finance, marketing and communications, and Southold relations to focus its work. ICB continues to prioritize transparency and island issues, and encourages the community to raise its concerns to the board by approaching any member.
- Scott Russell, Southold Town Supervisor, reported on Southold’s involvement and progress in four areas:
- Recreational path: Although Southold would usually plan on a bike lane-style approach, it is open to an argument that this is insufficient in this case. The next steps are to get a specific design and budget, along with a clear plan for Southold’s involvement. If there is a public/private partnership, some details will need to be sorted out, but Scott does not think this is an insurmountable problem. If public money is involved, then the project has to be open to bidding and pay prevailing wages under New York State laws.
- Tiny houses and affordable housing: Over the summer, the Town Board rezoned a parcel on the West End by the airport for four units under Kandi Sanger’s tiny house plan. Scott thinks this is a model example of community support for an innovative affordable housing project, and is happy to support these sorts of initiatives on Fishers Island and throughout Southold.
- Septic issues at the Yacht Club: A meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 15, with the Suffolk County Health Department, Town representatives, the Town’s representative legislator, and Fishers Island representative(s). To the extent that Southold town code is preventing progress, the Town Board can and will make minor changes to allow the project to proceed. The county health department is resistant to Fishers Island’s proposal to join a pilot program of newer alternative treatment technology (with or without using the public money set aside for the pilot program), preferring time-tested technology. Scott is hopeful that the upcoming meeting will provide a path forward.
- Road and sidewalk repairs: Per regulations, the repair work was put out to bid. The lowest bidder has not been responsive, so Southold has engaged legal counsel and is working through its legal obligations before moving to the second-lowest bidder and passing the additional cost to the lowest bidder. The timeframe is unknown. Scott reminded property owners that sidewalk maintenance (e.g., clearing it of snow or overgrowth) falls to the owner, though pavement repair work (e.g., potholes or upheaval from roots) would be the Town’s responsibility. If a sidewalk is defective or hazardous, individuals should notify Scott, the Town Clerk, and/or the Highway Supervisor in writing, which will prioritize that project.
- Scott Russell, Town Supervisor: 53095 Main Rd, P.O. Box 1179, Southold, NY 11971, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Elizabeth A. Neville, Town Clerk: 53095 Main Rd, P.O. Box 1179, Southold, NY 11971, email@example.com
- Vincent Orlando, Highway Supervisor: 275 Peconic Lane, Peconic, NY 11958; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bonding: In addition, Scott answered a question from Harry Parker about the decision-making process for taking on public debt. The Town Board prefers to minimize its bonds, in that debt service represents a fixed cost in the town budget and that interest rates are most favorable when the Town has not borrowed all the money available to it. Therefore, the Town Board is most receptive to new projects requiring bonding when old bonds are about to be retired.
- Ned Carlson, co-president of Walsh Park, reported on its recent work to increase transparency in the application, selection, and maintenance processes; to professionalize the organization, including a paid employee; to make capital improvements to its 27 properties; to reach its goal of $3 million in its capital campaign (Walsh Park has currently raised about $1.7 million); to research tax abatements and grants that might apply to its properties; and to add to its inventory, specifically in the area of 1-2 bedroom units, which would give Walsh Park better options for young singles/couples, small families, and empty-nesters. A timeframe can only be determined when funding and personnel are in place. Walsh Park also intends to work more closely with other island organizations to provide the integrated trifecta of a place to live, a way to earn money, and a community to be a part of, all of which are needed to grow the year-round population.
- Mark Gaumond, chairman of the Fishers Island Development Corporation (FIDCO), reported on personnel changes on the FIDCO Board and reminded all to model safe driving on the East End Road and maintain driveway accessibility (15’ wide, 15’ tall) for Fire Dept. vehicles. FIDCO recently purchased a house on Jay Street as employee housing/year-round rental (currently occupied by an employee) and completed the water and electricity upgrades to its dock in Silver Eel Cove. Future projects include sealing cracks in the East End Road, continuing to grade the dirt road on the East End, and making minor changes to the guest pass system in response to some abusers this summer.
- Laurie Finan, Vice President of the Board of Education, delivered the Fishers Island School Report on behalf of Karen Goodwin. The school has 70 students and additional interest from much of southeastern/coastal Connecticut, and much to celebrate. It is a finalist for a $150,000 federal Sea Grant, has recently hired a new business manager and new Pre-K, 3rd/4th grade, Special Education, and Math teachers and continues UConn distance classes, meaning students can now earn 13 transferrable college credits. Voters approved a budget that is 2% less than last year and reduces by 25% the past practice of using $100,000 of the reserve to fund the budget. New York State has approved the proposed renovation, which will provide renovated spaces for a music room, computer lab, and handicapped bathroom. Laurie invited the community to the Oct 21st BOE meeting, where the architect that recently completed a review of the school’s roof, heating/ventilation/air conditioning system, intercom, and fire alarm system will be present to answer questions.
- Jane Ahrens, editor of FishersIsland.net, the Fog Horn, and associated entities, gave a brief presentation on its numbers since its January 2014 reboot: 1500 stories, 5800 edited photos, 6600 community events, 157 businesses in the Island Directory, 2100 Fog Horn subscribers, and over 95 email inquiries. August’s 6200 unique visitors and September’s 4100 unique visitors exceed the expectation for this community. Anecdotal evidence suggests that FishersIsland.net is the place where house guests, new renters, golfers, and many other non-residents learn about Fishers Island. FishersIsland.net’s report recap.
- Tom O’Neil added that FishersIsland.net is a critical hub for island communications and for island organizations to get their message across. ICB, the Yale study, and the Fishers Island Strategic Plan 2007-2017 believe it is critical to keep FishersIsland.net and the Fog Horn a free service, but it cannot cover its operational costs through advertising and only survives because of the extreme generosity of a few donors. If each Fog Horn subscriber gave $30/year, the costs would be covered. Supporting FishersIsland.net
- Tom O’Neil then introduced the Waste Management District, emphasizing that ICB endorsed no position on any plans, but was providing time on the agenda as an informational service to the community. Greg Thibodeau, FIWMD board member, introduced Dave Brown, a representative from Project Management Associates, LLC, the firm the FIWMD had engaged to analyze the options.
- Dave Brown presented the FI Waste Management Facilities Planning Report Draft along with the goals of the district: to reduce transportation costs by reducing amount of materials shipped off island, to increase composting and control of that process, to upgrade the site(s) to current worker (OSHA) and customer safety requirements, to provide environmental protection in accordance with industry best practices by collecting and treating storm wastewater, to meet all current New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) requirements, to incorporate other industry best practices, and to protect current capital assets (such as the shredder and chipper) from weather-related depreciation. He noted that the report did not include estimates for storm water collection and treatment at the transfer station or for transport to the compost station of organic material (e.g. kitchen waste) collected at the transfer station. The report was uncertain whether the bids for this project (taking into account the need to pay NY prevailing wages, licensure in NY, transportation of materials from CT, etc.) would be in line with similar projects in the region.
- Greg Thibodeau supported Dave in the question and answer period, specifically with regards to financing and approval processes:
- Who proposes and approves? FIWMD is considered a special district under NYS law, and as such, does not require voter approval. FIWMD will go to the Town Board with its proposal, the Town Board will hold a public hearing, and then the Town Board will vote on the matter and commit to bonding for the project without it being put to public ballot.
- Is there a specific timeframe we’re working with? No, but if any upgrades are made, then safety and environmental agencies will take a new look at FIWMD’s compliance.
- How would this be financed? The estimated cost is approximately $5 million, but the DEC has available grant programs for up to 50% of the total cost of projects that enhance municipal recycling infrastructure by purchasing equipment or constructing facilities (an anticipated $2 million or more). The remainder would be bonded.
- How do the operational costs in the combined-site option compare to the current operational costs, and when will the savings cover the project cost? FIWMD is currently compiling that data.
- Tom O’Neil read a letter and displayed graphics from Tod Williams and Billie Tsien questioning whether all options had been explored, especially consolidation at the current (eastern) transfer station site.
- Greg believes that, should the sites be combined at the western compost station, that Southold would be interested in the elevated eastern transfer station site for its salt barn.
- There being no general discussion, Tom O’Neil adjourned the meeting at 6:35.
Elizabeth W. Burnham, Secretary