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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor


Town doings
To the Editor:
I suggest to my fellow Shelter Islanders to take a few minutes whenever you can to watch Town Board doings on channel 22.

This past Tuesday, August 23, for example, two exciting and very important subjects were discussed.

The Town’s auditors, AVZ, through senior partner Jeff Davoli, delivered the 2015 audit of the town’s finances and made the auditors’ official report to the Town Board. Once again we ran a slight surplus over the tight budget we approved for 2015 and were commended by Jeff for running a “lean and mean” operation.

He said the town was in very solid financial shape, possessed adequate reserves for unanticipated expenses and commended us for keeping taxes low and not taxing today’s taxpayers for no present purpose, other than to stockpile stagnant pools of money for possible use some time in the future. Tom Mager of Cullen and Danowski was there also and both firms are big players in helping the Town Board keep Shelter Island not only lean and mean, but financially healthy.

The hurricane season is here. Shelter Island is an isolated community dependent on underwater cables for its power. We lost one of two essential underwater cables, on the north side of the island in Hurricane Sandy.

I announced at the August 23 work session that I met with top officials at PSEG August 17 and 19, and LIPA/PSEG that week served the Village of Greenport and Shelter Island Heights Association as well as us with the official Notice of PSEG’s intention to file on September 7 the definitive application with the state for an immediate easement, permitting laying of the underground cable from Greenport to Shelter Island.

Tentative plans are to start assembling materials on the Greenport side after Columbus Day and to begin work November 1 with a target of a December 31 completion. Greenport Village and the Shelter Island Heights Association each seem to be close to an agreement with PSEG on the details.

This will not only assist us this hurricane season but is essential for our long-term power needs. Thanks from all of us to PSEG for “hanging in there” on this terribly important matter.

Supervisor, Town of Shelter Island

Editor’s note: The Reporter had articles last week on both issues Mr. Dougherty referenced. See “Auditor’s report of town released,” (August 25), and “Greenport-to-Heights cable takes a big step,” (August 25).

Short-term rentals
To the Editor:
Sitting in at the Town Board meeting on August 23, many of us were moved to hear the statement of a young woman living in New York City who had grown up on the Island. She stated that using short-term rentals to finance a starter home she has purchased was part of a long range goal — to find jobs and live on the Island.

Those present noted that the lack of affordable housing made it difficult for young families to stay on here; others noted that short-term rentals actually drove up the cost of housing in a given location — both rental as well as residential sales.

Whatever the Town Board’s decision regarding a policy on short-term rentals, it is important to distinguish between affordable housing and short-term rentals.

Shelter Island certainly needs affordable housing, and arrangements such as land banks exist to enable communities to create and ensure affordability over the long run. However, we must not conflate short-term rentals, which can have negative consequences for real estate markets and communities, with affordability.

Shelter Island

Control mechanism
To the Editor:
In response to the article in last week’s Reporter, “New Poll Released on Short-Term Rentals” my comment is that the short-term rental practice has been alive and well on Shelter Island for many years.

What makes this different today is the ease with which a short-term rental is promoted by the use of social media and websites like airbnb and others to rent out an entire house or a portion thereof. Once this occurs, you lose control. The homeowner knows virtually nothing about the potential renter other than a name, email address and that they will pay upfront.

I applaud the Town Board for taking a serious look at the pros and cons of this issue.

There must be a control mechanism. In many parts of the country, such as Chicago, the airbnb concept has been banned. If it was such a great concept, then why was it banned?

There are compelling arguments to be made on both sides of the issue. Yes, rental income to help a homeowner pay the bills is a good thing. Yes, the increase of guests to our Island helps stimulate trade for our commercial businesses. That’s a good thing.

On the other side, if homeowners are able to open their doors to renters without a set of rules and regulations, the established hotels and B&Bs may suffer. Beyond that, uncontrolled rentals offer no tax benefit to our town.

I am sure that the board will find a fair and equitable solution to the issue.

Shelter Island

Fresh Pond
To the Editor:
All dedicated Islanders should breathe a sigh of relief, as Fresh Pond quickly recovers its healthy blue cast after a bout of green-ishness following this summer’s heat wave. Even those who fear the giant snapping turtles, or heed the perennial, semi-rural legends of pollution, or who would never swim in the pond, should care. Why? Because Fresh Pond is nothing less than a window into the chemistry of Shelter Island’s aquifer system.

The resilience of the pond this season tells us that the aquifer, overall, has not yet been seriously damaged. Keep the geese off and attend to the nutrient absorbing lily pads, and fresh ground water refills evaporated pond levels, the fish still teem. Giant turtles, older than any of us, thrive.

This is nothing to be taken for granted. In 2012 the NYS DEC declared Fresh Pond “impacted” by high levels of orthophosphates. Chemistry is scary to most of us non-scientists, but phosphates are not a problem in terms of human consumption. Just open a can of coke and drink your fill. Indeed, as any good gardener knows, phosphorus is a critical nutrient for plant life, and therein lies the rub … too much algae can cause serious problems in fresh water.

Still, your instinct to be concerned, even if you can’t find Fresh Pond on a map, should be heeded. Where is the excess phosphorus coming from? There are three potential sources: fertilizer runoff, wildlife and our septic systems. Our present understanding is tentative, but of these, the likeliest concern is septic. The Island long ago made the decision to handle waste and drinking water delivery via private owner septic systems and wells. When our population was lower, this worked. Now, our town engineer estimates that up to 5 percent of the water we drink is wastewater.

I’m not writing to spread alarm. This is a manageable problem. Testing planned for this fall should be sensitive enough to detect the fingerprints of septic waste. We should all expect that we may need to adhere to more rigorous procedures for testing, cleaning and pumping our septic systems. Over the long-term we may upgrade some of our systems to more effective technologies, or adopt small, local municipal waste systems that allow us to address our problems collectively.

In all cases, I see a future with crystal-clear, inland waters that we can all share.

Member, Shelter Island Water Advisory Committee

Cast your fate
To the Editor:
Last week’s letter “Promoting Nuclear,” (August 25) asserting that nuclear power is clean and safe, was reminiscent of tobacco company executives who told congress that cigarette smoking is safe and not addictive. The letter writer, Arthur Kremer, is also a powerful lobbyist in Albany. Some of his clients have been LIPA, PSEG-LI and the NY Power Authority.

Nuclear power plants are neither clean nor safe. For example, take the two aging Dominion Millstone nuclear reactor power plants in Waterford, Connecticut, which are less than 20 miles from Shelter Island.

Millstone constantly vents small amounts of ionizing radioactive effluent, sometimes more when there is an “Unusual Event” or an emergency “Alert,” and much more when fuel is replaced. Like the acid rain from fossil fuel power plants, once this radioactive effluent is released into the atmosphere, it’s no longer the nuclear power plant’s problem. The American Cancer Society declared that lifelong exposure to low level ionizing radiation is a carcinogen. Millstone says that’s not a problem.
Millstone continues to experience numerous near-misses and “Unusual Events.” The latest emergency “Alert” level event was May 15, 2016 when a hydrogen leak caused reactor No. 3 to shutdown.

A 2015 nuclear power plant risk assessment analysis ranked Millstone as the highest-risk nuclear power plant in the U.S.A. A study done in 2013 for the Department of Defense identifies Millstone in the top 10 most vulnerable nuclear power plant terrorist targets. There is more than 2,200 tons of nuclear waste stored at Millstone.

All communities within the 50 mile “Ingestion Pathway Zone” of a nuclear facility participate in the “Radiological Hazards Annex for Fixed Nuclear Facilities, Procedure K;” except for communities in Suffolk County. In an effort to avoid the licensing of the Shoreham nuclear power plant in the 1980s, then Governor Mario Cuomo refused to proclaim Suffolk as a “nuclear county.”

In doing so, he completely ignored Millstone and our radiological emergency preparedness. It is time to correct his omission, now, more than ever.

Nuclear power seemed like a good idea in the 1960s. We now know the dangers of this antiquated technology. Wind, solar, hydro and tidal energy are clean, renewable and safe ways of generating electricity. But corporate greed and the lack of political resolve stymies progress.

For now, follow the PAC money and cast your fate to the wind.

Shelter Island

Simple solution?
To the Editor:
The Shelter Island Fire Department has the training and skill as well as the common sense to know how to burn off the brush, before the greening of spring, to reduce the tick population. It is so simple. It was the way it was done.

We should remember and implement the wisdom of Dr. Garcia, who long ago tracked the increase in the deer population. Pea hens and turkeys eat ticks. There is no one way we will eliminate ticks; maybe the simple solution should once again be tried.

Shelter Island

Put in perspective
To the Editor:
As the editor of our local paper, you have the responsibility to voice your opinion on issues that will stimulate thought regarding the choices we make when we consider who we want to speak for us. Your editorial (“Common sense,” August 18), clearly put into perspective the critical issue that we are facing in the upcoming election.

It is essential to continue to focus on the unwavering support and commitment of Congressman Lee Zeldin, our voice in Washington, for Donald Trump and his campaign based on fear, racism and ignorance.

A vote for Zeldin is a vote for Donald Trump.

Shelter Island

Shelter Island and beyond
To the Editor:
A big thank you to all our friends, Shelter Island and beyond, for making our “Cabi Fashion Experience” a big success at our home last Sunday.

A fun time was had by all with neighbors, new and old friends, enjoying new fashions, food and conversation.
On behalf of my daughter and granddaughter, Helen and Gabriella, my personal thanks and love.

Shelter Island