09/24/13 8:00am

COURTESY PHOTO | A worker testing for ticks in an open field last spring. Tests in June showed a spike in the tick population of 200 percent at Mashomack in one year.

In an effort to combat tick-borne illnesses, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) has introduced new legislation to step up pressure on Suffolk County Vector Control, which is in charge of controlling the spread of insect-borne diseases.

The proposed law would require Vector Control to submit an annual plan that indicates steps being taken to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses — including work to be done, active measures being taken and an analysis to determine the effectiveness of the program.

The division has focused mainly on mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile.

Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty has repeatedly said the county should get involved since tick borne illnesses are a more serious public health crisis than mosquito borne illnesses.

Area hospitals reported a spike in tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease earlier this year. Nearly 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported nationally each year, while 1,000 cases of West Nile are reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lyme disease is now the most widespread tick-borne disease in the U.S., but cases are often under reported across the U.S., according to the CDC.

It is estimated only 10 percent of total cases nationally are reported, CDC officials said.

“Towns and villages are struggling to develop plans to respond to the growing Lyme disease cases,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The county should be playing a leadership role in prevention.”

Because of redistricting, Mr. Schneiderman faces off this November against Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, running on the Republican ticket, to represent Shelter Island in the county Legislature. According to Mr. Nuzzi, his opponent’s action is a case of better late than never.

“After [Mr. Schneiderman’s] 10 years in office, I’d say the idea was a good one,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “This should have been done a lot sooner. It makes sense from a regional perspective.”

Mr. Nuzzi and Mr. Schneiderman will square off for a debate October 12 at the library sponsored by the Reporter, The League of Women Voters and The Shelter Island Association.

County Legislator Al Krupski, a co-sponsor of the bill, called Lyme disease an epidemic on the East End.

“Most of us have been impacted in some way by tick-borne disease,” he said in a release. “Suffolk County needs to play an active role to control this growing health problem.”

Mr. Schneiderman said the county has, however, done a good job preventing West Nile.

While mosquito and bird samples have tested positive for the virus, no humans have tested positive for West Nile so far this year, according to the county health department officials.

11/08/12 9:12am

PETER BOODY FILE PHOTO | Town Board members, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar and Town Hall staffer Kathy Sullivan (right) at a recent budget review session.

There were no public comments when the Town Board held a public hearing on its proposed 2013 budget Wednesday.

“For those who get battered in elections every two to four years,” commented Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty, “silence is golden.”

The Town Board appears likely to adopt the plan later this month. It calls for total spending of about $10.71 million, up $335,414 or about 3.2 percent from the $10.38 million budgeted for the current year.

The proposed budget carries a tax-rate hike of 3.9 percent, which nearly conforms to the state’s 2-percent cap on annual tax-rate hikes because of a credit the town is carrying forward from 2012, when its 1.1-percent rate hike was well under the state limit.

The 2013 spending plan, which the Town Board finalized last week but may continue to tweak, calls for raising $6,995,945 in property tax revenue, up 3.9 percent from the current year’s $6,735,220 tax levy, which carried a property tax rate of about $2.21 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The Town Board, which must adopt a final budget no later than November 20, is expected to cut about $7,400 from the proposal in order to reduce the tax levy below the state’s 2-percent limit on annual tax-rate hikes. Counting its credit for last year, the town’s tax levy limit under the 2-percent cap $6,988,464, according to Supervisor Jim Dougherty.

Other sources of revenue include $2,935,433 in various non-tax sources and $786,700 allocated from the annual fund balance or unspent revenues, which are expected to total about $3 million at the close of 2012. That figure is more than double the $340,000 allocated from the fund balance in 2012.

SOME EXPENSES

Townwide general fund spending for 2012 is proposed to rise 9.15 percent from $6,924,842 to $7,579,995, not including the minor cut the board is expected to make. The budget keeps the allocation for the town’s limited 4-poster program at $75,000 —  a plan to raise the allocation to more than $90,000 to expand the program was sidelined — and at last report it retained $7,500 for a new audio system for Channel 22 in the Town Hall board room.

Among the higher costs (some of them offset by spending cuts in other areas) that have been allocated in the 2013 spending plan:

• Employee retirement benefits, up $131,826 or 22.35 percent from $589,826 to $721,652.

• Public Safety, including police salaries, up 7.61 percent or about $118,000 from $1.549 million to $1.667.

• The new Length of Service Award Program for the town ambulance corps, up from nothing budgeted in 2012 — when the program was approved by voters — to $100,000 in 2013.

• Landfill operational costs, up $104,500 or 12.93 percent from $808,147 to $912,647.

• Social Security payments for employees, up 17 percent or $35,471 from $207,755 to $243,226.

• Debt service up 11.93 percent from $200,146 in 2012 to $224,042.

• The new town ambulance squad, acquired at the beginning of 2012 from the Red Cross, up 35.83 percent or $20,550 from $57,350 budgeted for 2012 to $77,900 for 2013.

• Nutrition Program, up 13.82 percent to $108,568

• Senior citizen services, up 15.42 percent to $73,369

• Silver Circle up 5.7 percent to $29,220

• Senior Center up 438 percent from $8,623 to $46,469, mostly due to the allocation for maintenance costs rising from $2,250 to $27,250

SALARIES

Most salary increases are limited to 2 percent except police, highway and CSEA union employees. Town Board members except for the supervisor are to receive a 2-percent raise from $35,005 to $35,705. The supervisor’s salary remains $70,000.

• The two town justices will receive 2 percent raises from $23,632 to $24,105.

• The highway superintendent salary is up 2 percent from $50,959 to $51,978, which does not include pay as public works commissioner.

• Assessors will get raises of just below 2 percent: head assessor Al Hammond’s salary will rise from $62,032 to $63,270 and the two part-time assessors will receive raises from $18,344 to $18,700.

• Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar’s salary, up 2 percent from $72,148 to $73,592

• Deputy Clerk Sharon Jacobs’ base salary will be up 8.75 percent from $29,605 to $32,197.

10/29/12 12:00pm

Shelter Island Supervisor Jim Dougherty sent the following letter to the editor of the Reporter midday on Monday:

To the Editor:

Thank you Shelter Islanders for your courage and determination in preparing for and coping with Sandy.

Your Town Emergency Preparedness Team and countless volunteers are working around the clock under Police Chief Jim Read to minimize the impact on all our residents and to restore your lives to normal as soon as possible.

Please remain patient and thank you.

10/23/12 8:06pm

PBB PHOTO | Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty at a recent Town Board meeting.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty announced Tuesday he had learned that he probably has non-Hodgins lymphoma and that he’d spent 12 hours at Eastern Long Island Hospital on Monday undergoing his first chemotherapy treatment.

He said the treatments were expected to go on for “a couple of months.”

The diagnosis came after he had taken routine tests at Lenox Hill Hospital ahead of a scheduled hernia operation, he explained during the Town Board work session Tuesday.  He was told to get a sigmoidoscopy because of something “suspicious,” he said.

“We make plans,” he said, “and God is in the bushes laughing.”

The disease is a cancer of the lymph nodes. The supervisor said tests of six of his lymph nodes showed no evidence of cancer but his doctor remained concerned.

“Anyway, I’m going to lose my hair at some point and I thought you’d like to know,” he said after noting that the utterly bald actor Yul Brynner had been voted “the sexiest man alive.”

Supervisor Dougherty gave the news as a “personal matter” during the “Around the Table” portion of the work session when each Town Board member offers updates on issues and topics in which they are involved.

10/19/12 8:00am

PETER BOODY FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Jim Dougherty at a Town Board session.

Adequate medical services are not being provided by Island Urgent Medical Care “as promised” when the company signed a lease for the front office space of the Town Medical Center, Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty agreed on Tuesday when a resident complained about staffing to the Town Board.

This fall the company has been providing a doctor only on Tuesdays and a physician’s assistant on Mondays and Thursdays, Mr. Dougherty reported at Tuesday’s work session.

“You ought to be allowed to get sick on a Wednesday,” former Town Supervisor Hoot Sherman said  from the audience. He had told the board that a doctor was rarely available and he knew of someone who had needed blood drawn but had been turned away “three or four times” because no one was there to do it.

“That’s just not service,” Mr. Sherman said. “Make them live up to what they promised.”

Supervisor Dougherty agreed that the company was not following through on its pledges. He said he had talked to the company and “they promised me a new face … They’re struggling but you’re absolutely right.”

The firm has “promised an impending change,” the supervisor said, adding he would “report back next Tuesday” on the issue.

“They’re trying to take advantage” of the fact that the demand for services declines dramatically after the summer, the supervisor said.

He added that the physician’s assistant there, Islander John Reilly, was “doing good work.”

The lease makes no reference to the required hours or days for a physician to be available.

Dr. Daniel Ferrara, Island Urgent president,  signed the lease on April 6, 2010 with the agreement that the rent would be $1,600 a month plus an annual consumer price index adjustment.

Dr. Ferrara agreed to do his best to have a Shelter Island resident as a doctor and, if that was not possible, he would be required to have  a doctor stay on the Island if a severe storm were forecast and ferry service might be interrupted. The Police Chief was to coordinate that and notify Island Urgent if such a need occurred.

DERING HARBOR PLAN

Also at Tuesday’s brief work session — kept short to give the board more time to resume its line-by-line review of the 2013 budget plan -— Bay Constable Peter Vielbig reported that the town had done all it could to be ready to revive a special conditional shellfishing program for Dering Harbor and it was now up to the DEC to approve the program.

“They opened the door,” he said, and in response the town “had put the ball in their court. There’s nothing more we can do” but wait for the DEC to approve the program.

The supervisor said he had heard from the DEC’s William Hastback, the acting head of the regional shellfisheries section, that the DEC would work with the town to resume the program, which the DEC suspended in 2008 due a drop in staffing. But this year, new staff was added to the shellfisheries section, allowing the program to resume, Mr. Hastback told the supervisor in an October 4 letter.

Dering Harbor is off-limits only because of its proximity to the Heights Property Owners Corporation’s sewage treatment plant west of the North Ferry slips. Mr. Vielbig said Julie Ben-Susan, general manager of HPOC, was cooperating fully and that a telephone hot line remained in place and was working, which will allow Sam Case, who manages the plant, to immediately report any problems there — one of the requirements for the special program. Mr. Vielbig will collect required water samples to be sent to the DEC for regular testing, at no expense to the town, he said.

“My clam rake’s right by the garage,” Mr. Vielbig said.

UNDERWATER CABLES

Councilman Peter Reich reported he’d “had a conversation” with a LIPA official about the problem of people hooking utility lines when they anchor their boats off the east end of Crescent Beach. Mr. Reich said it had happened several times this summer.

There is a sign on the beach warning of underwater cables in the area but, Mr. Vielbig commented, people don’t necessarily look toward the beach when they drop anchor and perhaps an in-water warning sign was needed. He added that Bay Constable Butch Labrozzi had dialed the number LIPA has posted on the sign to call in case of an emergency “and it’s disconnected.”

An 80-foot Sunseeker motor yacht hooked a cable one day this summer, Mr. Vielbig said, and its owner hired a diver to free the line because the anchor and line were worth three or four thousand dollars.

Mr. Reich said there were four lines crossing from Shelter Island to the North Fork, including a phone line, a 1950s electrical line that is not in use, a 1970s line that is in service and a 69KW line that is the main supplier of power to the Island and LIPA’s main line between the North and South forks. He said no one knows how far apart they are. “Are they 2 feet apart, 20 feet apart?” he asked rhetorically.

Mr. Vielbig said that area for anchoring — which serves boaters headed for Sunset Beach — “is in the worst possible location” in terms of exposure to underwater cables. “There’s probably no place on Long Island with more lines and boats anchoring” nearby.

In addition to anchors that hook the cables and pull them up from under the bottom, strong currents in the area erode away sand and expose them, Mr. Reich said he had been told. “We’ll keep after this,” the councilman said.

pboody@timesreview.com