Supe ready to take plunge into Fresh Pond

JULIE LANE PHOTO Supervisor Jim Dougherty met with a Shelter Island high school government class Friday for a wide ranging discussion of the issues

Supervisor Jim Dougherty met with a Shelter Island high school government class Friday for a wide ranging discussion of the issues.

Yes, Supervisor Jim Dougherty will swim in Fresh Pond this summer as he has done in past years.

That pledge came as students in Brian Doelger’s high school government class questioned the supervisor Friday morning on a host of issues, including taking a dip in the controversial watering hole.

“I’m leaving,” he joked when the question was initially posed. But then he said that tests are being conducted frequently and he believes the water is safe if “not perfect” for swimming.

“I don’t want to make the landowners villains,” Mr. Dougherty said about those who live near Fresh Pond.

But he said residents could help improve the situation with careful attention to water use and the avoidance of dangerous fertilizers and pesticides on their properties.

“I promise you, I will swim in Fresh Pond” this summer, Mr. Dougherty said.

In a wide ranging discussion with the class, the conversation flowed to land preservation on Shelter Island. Mr. Dougherty pointed out that more development costs the town more money in services than it reaps in taxes and contributes to increased pollution.

“Development increases taxes,” Mr. Dougherty said.

Before becoming supervisor, Mr. Dougherty led the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board for about 10 years. There were three separate referendums that all drew solid support on the Island to establish the fund and buy properties that would increase protected open spaces here, Mr. Dougherty said. Some realtors don’t like the fund because money comes from a 2 percent tax buyers pay on property purchases. But it has been an effective means of ensuring the town retains its character, instead of undergoing major development, which has happened in towns farther west.

With respect to Shelter Island’s “very grave” financial situation, as Mr. Dougherty referred to it at the March 4 Town Board work session, he said he’s still negotiating on $150,000 in bills he thought had already been paid.

Town coffers aren’t going to increase from any attempt to bring in chain stores that, in all likelihood, wouldn’t be interested in locating here because of the small year-round population. Chains would, of course, also markedly change the ambiance of the town.

“We don’t want to become some high tech suburb,” Mr. Dougherty said.

While Shelter Island is spending an increasing amount of money to try to decrease the deer herd and the tick population that leads to Lyme and other diseases, the supervisor said he’s not sure if the deer population has increased. And deer aren’t the only carriers of the ticks that cause disease, he added.

He doesn’t favor the use of United Stated Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to cull the herd. The town had a lot of push back from residents when the program was being considered, Mr. Dougherty said.

Only Southold of the East End towns has gone ahead with the sharpshooters after winning court battles against those who tried to stop the hunt.

On the other hand, the supervisor would like a longer hunting season on the Island.

With respect to the PSEG project to provide reliable backup power to the town, Mr. Dougherty said he expects a follow up conversation with utility officials within the next week to 10 days to get an idea on how the project is moving forward.

He indicated that a substation on Shelter Island could be built, but it raises the question of where. No one wants it in their backyard, Mr. Dougherty said. A substation would enable PSEG to tap into a high powered line that already crosses the town, but supplies power only to the North and South forks. The other alternative would be to revive the project that failed last year to run cabling from Crescent Beach to Greenport. That would require new bids to get a contractor in place.

In any case, he reiterated that no work would be done this spring or summer and that generators would be back on the Island to provide backup should it be needed.

Oh, on important matters of shopping, although he’s not knocking IGA, where he frequently shops, he gave Schmidt’s a thumbs up.

“It’s been a real asset to the Island,” Mr. Dougherty declared. People may have expected its prices to be very high, since it’s an offshoot of a Southampton business. But comparative prices on some basic products were actually lower at Schmidt’s than the IGA, the penny-watching supervisor said.