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Dering Harbor appoints new deputy mayor

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

REPORTER FILE PHOTO

Elizabeth “Betsy” Morgan is the new deputy mayor of the Village of Dering Harbor.

Ms. Morgan was appointed during a busy September 2 meeting of the Village Board where the hiring of new attorney was also discussed.

The board reviewed a letter of engagement drafted for the purpose of hiring Wayne D. Bruyn, of the Southampton firm O’Seah, Marcincuk & Bryun, to replace long-serving Village attorney, Joe Prokop, who resigned a week earlier.

Of concern was wording in the letter requiring the firm to disclose to the Village potential conflicts of interest. After some discussion, it was agreed the firm’s offer to seek village permission on a case-by-case basis was sufficient to protect the village.

The two appointments fill the last openings after former mayor Tim Hogue resigned (along with members of the village’s part-time staff) following defeat of three incumbents he supported in June’s village election by three write-in candidates.

While the new mayor, John T. Colby Jr., and new board members — Ms. Morgan, Ari J. Benacerraf, Karen Kelsey and Patrick Parcells — are inexperienced in their positions, they have won praise from residents for their quick response to on-going problems with the village water supply, for keeping residents informed, and for getting the village ready for business again.

That said, the board had to table a discussion of the proposed contract to purchase a replacement for the Village’s aging water tank while trustees and their newly hired part-time clerks continue to search for documents relating to the tank and to the interest-free loan granted by the state to pay for it and a required emergency generator.

The September 2 meeting got off to a false start when enough trustees to form a quorum arrived early and, sitting together at the antique kidney-shaped table in Village Hall, began discussing items on the agenda. The exchange — a breech of the state’s open meeting law — ended when the error was brought to their attention.

New York State’s open meeting law states: “It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy.”

In short, a meeting should not begin before its posted start time.

Resident Bridgford Hunt reminded the mayor and trustees that they should limit intra-board communication via email or other means of private communication, which had been a source of frustration during the previous administration.

The board also heard from Arthur Bloom, the village Fire Marshal, on options to change its response to code enforcement issues. The current part-time code enforcer lives off-Island, which creates a lag that may impede timely investigation of complaints.

Mr. Bloom also suggested that as it works to resolve issues related to water service, the Village might consider formally testing the several fire hydrants hooked to the system.

Resident Jim Goldman pressed the mayor and trustees to look further into possible options for improving water services in the village, perhaps foregoing use of the public system altogether. Mr. Parcells reminded those present that the village cannot, by law, abandon its obligation to provide public water services.

Mr. Goldman also said that it was important not to drop other topics of interest, including the possible renaming of Shore Road (to avoid confusion for emergency first responders with the other Shore Road that runs along Crescent Beach) or abandonment of the road; and improving the way the village handles resident concerns, like his earlier this summer about a much delayed application for a mooring.

The board will next meet on Saturday, October 14 at 10 a.m. After that, meetings of the board will be held the first Saturday of the month, except in January when no meeting is scheduled.

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