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Moratorium for the irrigation moratorium

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Irrigation Committee Chairman Thom MIlton addressing the town board Tuesday. From left, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Councilman Ed Browne. Not seen, Councilwoman Chris Lewis. Councilman Peter Reich was absent.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | Irrigation Committee Chairman Thom MIlton addressing the Town Board Tuesday. From left, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and Councilman Ed Browne. Not seen, Councilwoman Chris Lewis. Councilman Peter Reich was absent.

The Town Board is expected to pass a resolution to set a public hearing on extending the moratorium banning certain irrigation systems through December 31.

The board was in agreement at it’s Tuesday work session to pass the resolution at it’s Friday meeting.

Thom Milton, chairman of the town’s Irrigation Committee, went before the board Tuesday to ask for the extension. He noted that the committee’s report to the board — first scheduled for this month — would likely be ready in late July, since new testing was required to update information 20 or 30 years old on the quantity and quality of the Island’s water supply.

An over all ban on installing certain automated irrigation systems was due to take effect in September 2013. The ban was enacted in September 2003, with the provision that existing systems could be used, but that use would sunset in 10 years. After a public hearing last August, the Town Board voted for a moratorium on the law until May 2014 for further study. Now that moratorium is likely to extend through the rest of the year.

Mr. Milton asked the board Tuesday for clarification on the committee’s role. Several committee members believe it is overstepping the bounds of its charge by the Town Board, and made their concerns known at a meeting on February 20.

The disagreement centers around what some members feel is the committee wasting time on matters not related to honing recommendations for the Town Board. Mr. Milton’s position is that to study the quality of the Island’s water supply, it’s necessary to look at what people do with property, including pesticides, and to research agricultural and golf course exemptions to banning of irrigation systems.

At Tuesday’s work session Supervisor Jim Dougherty said that although he agreed that gathering information was important, the committee should keep its focus.

“So long as you don’t lose sight of the basic mission we charge you with,” Mr. Dougherty said, information should be sought. “But we want recommendations on existing and perhaps proposed legislation, and I don’t what us to drift into being a fact finding committee that is an encyclopedia of knowledge.”

Mr. Dougherty also asked for an explanation of a bill from the committee’s hydrogeologist, John Benvegna, who works out of the White Plains office of the Connecticut-based consultants, Leggette, Brashears & Graham. Mr. Dougherty said fee arrangements on the order of $5,000 was agreed to for Mr. Benvegna’s work, but a bill presented recently was for $10,500.

Mr. Milton said he hadn’t had time to go over the bill in detail, and that, “I’ve tried to stay out of the billing.”
He added that more field tests and analysis had taken place than originally expected, and Mr. Benvegna’s next meeting with the committee will be via Skype.

“We need to know pronto if there’s going to be an unforeseen financial burden on the town,” Mr. Dougherty said.

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