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Water consumes Town Board’s attention

JULIE LANE PHOTO Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams tells her colleagues she will ask Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board members about providing money for a salt water intrusion study.

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams tells her colleagues she will ask Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board members about providing money for a salt water intrusion study.

The Town Board is exploring ways to provide water to those who don’t have reliable wells and those who need nitrogen-reducing septic systems to protect the water they have.

At the board’s Tuesday work session, members said they’re aware of residents who have drilled wells on town property to have potable water.

The members want a discussion — including with Suffolk county — on legalizing a system that will provide potable water without forcing property owners to break the law. To legally place wells on town land, a property owner must obtain a variance from Suffolk County and demonstrate that, short of trucked-in water, there’s no solution to their situation.

Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. said those allowed by the county to drill wells on town property should register with the town and not be allowed to have irrigation systems. He also warned that if the board moves to legalize some well installations on town-owned land, it could open questions from those who had requested similar help and were turned down.

While town permission could be written into the code, board members generally agreed with Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams that there shouldn’t be any kind of blanket permission, but the board should act on individual applications.

Supervisor Gary Gerth said he wants to consult with Town Engineer John Cronin on what restrictions should be incorporated in judging applications.

A subcommittee on the issue was appointed, including the supervisor, Mr. DeStefano, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Commissioner of Public Works Jay Card Jr. and Building Permits Examiner Lori Beard Raymond.

Ms. Brach-Williams said she will speak to the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board about allocating money for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to drill four new test wells to assess salt water intrusion.

Along similar lines, the Water Quality Board is asking the Town Board for advice on how to disperse its grants for installation of nitrogen-reducing septic systems without property owners being taxed on the grant money. Following Southampton’s lead, the board expects to identify reputable vendors who install the systems and register them.

Another hurdle could be how much money contractors want in advance. That could be worked out through a loan program that Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) favors to assist property owners.

There would also have to be coordination with Suffolk County for those who have applied for and been approved for grants for both the county and town.

In other business: The board is weighing a proposal from Mike Bebon of the American Legion to allow a Shelter Island woman to use the kitchen at the Legion post for a food truck.

Details would have to be worked out in terms of liability, responsibility for maintenance, security, repair of equipment and how to grant priority use of the kitchen for that purpose over other uses.

Mr. DeStefano is to meet with the principals of the plan and Mr. Bebon and report back to the board.

There was discussion of making a deal with Dering Harbor for a town highway crew to handle a mile and a half of its snow plowing, sanding and salting. Richard Surozenski has been in charge of village roads and would continue doing some of that work.

If it happened, it would likely start as a single-year agreement and then be evaluated. Shared services imply savings for both partners, but while the town would be paid for its services, it would be at cost, not a profit. There’s also concern about liability.

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