The state of the Town of Shelter Island is “good.”
That was Supervisor Jim Dougherty’s assessment, speaking at the eighth annual “State of the Town” address Sunday, a luncheon at the Rams Head Inn hosted by the League of Women Voters of Shelter Island.
Mr. Dougherty noted that Joy Bausman, former CEO of the Island’s Red Cross, is correct in identifying the most important issues to Islanders as taxes, ticks and the aquifer. Mr. Dougherty said his administration was holding the line on taxes, fighting ticks through the 4-poster program and was actively engaged in protecting the Island’s surface and ground waters.
Shelter Island has withstood an “explosion of taxes,” Mr. Dougherty said, because he’s taken inspiration from a statement by President Bill Clinton to look at budgets “line by line, dime by dime.”
The town has saved money, Mr. Dougherty said, by using in-house personnel for three programs instead of hiring outside contractors. Highway Department employee Nick Ryan manages the 4-poster program — units baited with corn that deer feed at while rubbing against insecticide — instead of using an off-Island contractor; Town Attorney Laury Dowd fulfills the requirements of the Multiple Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) regulations linked to the federal Clean Water Act; and town employees handled an audit by the New York State Unified court System.
The supervisor noted that with a town budget of about $10 million, a tenth of that goes to health care coverage for town employees. Currently in negotiations with the Shelter Island Police Department Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, whose contract expired in December, Mr. Dougherty said the town is pushing for a 15 percent share in health coverage costs to be paid by new hires to Police Department.
Other unionized employees, including those in the highway department and clerical staff, plus non-union town employees have agreed to the 15 percent buy in, Mr. Dougherty said.
The town is committed to keeping Island water free of pollution, according to Mr. Dougherty, noting two recent grants for state-of-the-art septic systems at the American Legion hall and Sylvester Manor.
On other infrastructure issues, Mr. Dougherty took a swipe at Jim Colligan, who will be running as a Democrat for the Town Board in November on the same Democratic slate as Mr. Dougherty. Mr. Colligan had said that one issue he would campaign on was the Island’s infrastructure, which he had said, “has been sorely neglected.”
Mr. Dougherty, not naming Mr. Colligan but quoting him, said this was untrue and infrastructure here “is in good shape and we plan to keep it in good shape.”
He also took a jab at the Reporter’s coverage of the irrigation issue and subsequent legislation, saying the paper had not spread the word about the new law and hoped that the paper would do so this week.
The Reporter covered every meeting of the Irrigation Committee and has published more than 40 articles and five editorials about crafting the new law, including a March 4, 2015 report on the board tweaking changes to the law and a new town-produced brochure on new regulations.
Both Mr. Dougherty and League of Women voters Co-President Lois B. Morris remembered Mimi Brennan, who died last week, in their remarks as a stalwart member of the Democratic Committee and a founder of the League.