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Squaring off for supervisor: Williams vs. Dougherty at women’s group

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty, left, and candidate Art Williams, after speaking Tuesday to the Women’s Community Club at the Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty, right, and candidate Art Williams, after speaking Tuesday to the Women’s Community Club at the Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall.

Incumbent Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty defended his record and candidate Art Williams attacked it.

There were no surprises at a meet-the-candidates luncheon Tuesday hosted by the Women’s Community Club at the Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall.

The WCC had invited Mr. Williams, a Republican and Mr. Dougherty, running for reelection as a Democrat, to speak to the group. Also present were Republican Town Councilman Paul Shepherd, running for reelection, challenger Democrat Jim Colligan and  Quinn Karpeh, running unopposed for town assessor. Emory Breiner, running for Town Board on the Republican ticket, was invited but was not present.

Mr. Dougherty said he would continue to work to keep residents’ real estate taxes low, “which are the lowest on Long Island by quite a margin.” But in addition, he was dedicated to “delivering on our obligations” to the town.

He and the Town Board — “a cohesive team” — were out in front of issues such as the quality of surface and ground water, Mr. Dougherty said, and bringing updated septic systems to the Island. Equally important was continuing to focus on reducing the incidence of tick-borne illnesses through the 4-poster program — feeding stands that brush deer with a tickicide.

Answering a question from the audience about the Police Department’s budget, the supervisor noted that Suffolk County had increased its funding to the town by 13 percent for the department,  a total of $147,000 that didn’t go to salaries but to services.

He also mentioned that in negotiations with the police union on a three year contract, he was pushing for contributions from department members to their health care coverage.

“I love what I do,” Mr. Dougherty said. “I’m humbled and proud to work for you.”

Mr. Williams, who noted that he was a certified public accountant and has extensive work experience in the financial sector, was qualified to be the chief financial officer of the town, which is one of the roles of the supervisor. He had held the office from 2002 to 2005, and said he left the “town coffers in good shape” with a robust fund balance, which has now dwindled precipitously.

Mr. Williams could do a better job than Mr. Dougherty managing the town’s affairs, he said, by installing more secure financial methods and not merely “dressing up”  flawed budgets, touting low taxes while fund balances evaporate.

He called for  new and strong revenues from fees rather than just depending on real estate taxes. When questioned for specifics by an audience member Mr. Williams noted that fees could be raised at the Recycling Center and at the Building Department.

“Some fees haven’t been raised for years,” he added. (The Town Board discussed raising some fees at the Recycling Center later in the afternoon at its work session).

Mr. Williams said that his administrations had been aggressive in preserving open space, and acknowledged that Mr. Dougherty, who led the Community Preservation Committee, was instrumental in that effort.

Mr. Williams said the 4-poster program needs re-thinking, since now “we’re feeding the deer,” referring to corn that is used as bait in the feeding stands.

In his terms as supervisor he had called a town-wide meeting on water issues and put in place a ban on sprinkler systems using water from the aquifer.

Mr. Colligan told the WCC members that he was qualified for the Town Board and would work tirelessly for the residents on the major issues the town faces. Mr. Shepherd spoke briefly, noting it was important to get involved in the issues. “If we want government to work for us, then we sometimes have to work within it,” the councilman said.

Mr. Karpeh, running unopposed for Town Assessor, said he would work diligently to represent the residents of “the town I love.”

Mr. Shepherd said he was “sincerely grateful” that someone of Mr. Karpeh’s youth and positive attitude was seeking public office. “And I’m sincerely grateful you’re not running against me,” he added.

In other election news, Mr. Dougherty received the endorsement of the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum (LIEVF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental group that says it was created to identify and “campaign for pro-environment candidates.”

Asked why the group is endorsing Mr. Dougherty, LIEVF Executive Director David Reisfield said, “[Mr.] Williams didn’t respond to our candidate questionnaire requests — a requirement for endorsement — and [Mr.] Dougherty has a long record of environmental activism from the early days of the Community Preservation Fund, to aggressive open space purchases, to current efforts to upgrade individual septic systems to reverse declining water quality.”