This week in Shelter Island history

PETER REICH PHOTO | County dredge off Shell Beach at the mouth of West Neck Harbor.


DEC halts shellfish harvesting
In 2003 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation closed all of Shelter Island’s creeks, bays and harbors to shellfish harvesting because heavy rainfalls raised concerns about excessive amounts of stormwater runoff that might result in shellfish “taking up” bacteria from warm-blooded animals, potentially contaminating the shellfish.  Such closings aren’t considered rare, according to DEC officials.

POSTSCRIPT: Despite the wrath of Sandy and Nemo and subsequent other storms, there has been no word of a shut down this spring.


BRC recommends zero growth school budget
Twenty years ago, in an effort to control rising costs of school operations, a citizens group, The Budget Review Committee, recommended scaling back a proposed $4.8 million budget to $4.5 million scraping all additions the Board of Education had recommended. That brought spending down to about $4.2 million and then the BRC added back  increases for salaries, workmen’s compensation, pensions, Social Security and health insurance. The board fought back pointing out how various cuts wouldn’t work. Voters ultimately approved a $4.6 million budget.

POSTSCRIPT: The district is struggling to meet expenses now while staying within a state-imposed 2 percent tax cap. Good news came  last week with word that state aid cuts had been restored, but no total figure is yet available, although school officials have said it’s likely to be in the area of about $10 million.


Christine Lewis runs again
Then Board of Education president Christine Lewis sought her fourth term in 1983, having first been appointed in 1972 to the post vacated by  Charles Dalton. At the time, the school board controlled a budget of $1.85 million while the town’s budget was $1.3 million. Running unopposed, Ms. Lewis received 169 votes for an easy re-election in a year when voters turned down the school district’s $1.9 million budget request. The same budget was resubmitted to voters in June who again turned it down, prompting school board members to opt for a cooling off period before deciding how to proceed.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, Ms. Lewis serves as a councilwoman on the Shelter Island Town Board.


Telco Trencher blocks out TV
Nearly 900 homes on Shelter Island and nearby North Haven were without their cable television programs 40 years ago after New York Telephone crews cut the cable system’s main trunk line. The telephone crew was working near Ketcham’s Corner despite being warned there were cable lines in the area. A telephone company crew member said there weren’t plans to go near the cable, but shortly thereafter, service was cut. The work being done by the telephone company was part of its planned expansion of service to the Island.. It took Cablevision crews about six hours to reactivate some sections of the Island by running an emergency line across the Shelter Island Country Club grounds. But much of the Island remained blacked out from their favorite television shows until the following day.

Ironically, several months earlier, telephone company officials had warned farmers, well-drillers and others who excavate for any reason to call the company for advice on where phone lines were to avoid a loss of service.

POSTSCRIPT: This year, concerns over cutting cable and telephone lines delayed dredging at South Ferry until maps could be checked to determine that the lines were sufficiently buried to allow the dredging operation to take place. It’s now expected that the dredging will take place this fall.