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Shelter Island gears up for hurricane season

JULIE LANE PHOTO Police Chief Jim Read told the Town Board Tuesday that Shelter Island has a reliable emergency preparedness plan in place.
Police Chief Jim Read told the Town Board Tuesday that Shelter Island has a reliable emergency preparedness plan in place.

Whether Shelter Island gets hit with remnants of Hurricane Irma or a future storm, Police Chief Jim Read believes the town is prepared.

But he told the Town Board Tuesday that residents should be prepared with enough food and water for 72 hours without power.

PSEG will have a crew stationed on the Island throughout a storm and begin making repairs as soon as it becomes safe to do so, Chief read said.

The relationship with PSEG “is strong and we expect it to remain strong,” the chief added.

As for telephone service, he said the relationship with Verizon “isn’t quite as strong” as with PSEG, but he expressed confidence that efforts would be made to keep phone service operating.

Those who haven’t yet registered for the “Code Red” emergency notifications should do so and list all numbers, including land lines and cell phones that can serve as backups if wires go down servicing land lines.

Code Red registration is available on the Police Department’s website at shelterislandpolice.us.

The town has two emergency shelters, one at the Senior Center in the Medical Building that has its own generator and can accommodate those in need. In the event of a major storm, the school would be opened and, it too, has a generator, Chief Read said. It would be staffed by both town and school personnel.

Town Hall, the Police Station and Justice Court all have generators. Police, Emergency Medical Services staff and the Shelter Island Fire Department are prepared to coordinate needs with the Fire Department, and all departments will work in conjunction with North and South ferries to handle evacuations if necessary.

Currently, Shelter Island has its own emergency management plan, but there’s an effort under way to develop a unified Suffolk County plan, Chief Read said.

“In some ways, it’s a new face to an old plan,” he said about the prospective unified plan.

With four months remaining before the $440,000 allotted for water quality projects is to be spent or revert to the Community Preservation Fund, the Town Board is discussing legislation that would set the framework for how grants would be assessed for those seeking funds to install upgraded septic systems.

If a law covering the framework can be quickly passed, the Town Board wouldn’t have to hold public hearings on each application, according to Town Attorney Laury Dowd.

There was a discussion at Tuesday’s work session about hiring a water quality expert to provide advice on the law and, possibly, on applications.

“It’s a crisis,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty said about the need to start replacing aged systems that are failing to reduce the nitrogen content in both ground and surface waters on and around the Island.

The Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board can’t act until the Town Board reaches agreement on how the process is to be conducted. The water quality committee has been discussing getting money to people who can’t afford to pay anything for a new system, but whose existing systems are posing the greatest risk to water safety.

Suffolk County has been encouraging communities to concentrate on areas near shorelines where high levels of nitrates pour into the water. But some of the most inefficient older systems are in the Center where the need for upgraded systems is necessary to keep nitrates from affecting the aquifer, according to Town Assessor Craig Wood, who has been monitoring many of the water quality committee meetings.

The discussion on how to proceed will continue at the September 12 work session.

In other business: The board will approve at its September 15 regular meeting a fireworks display by Grucci in the Dering Harbor area on September 24, providing the group sponsoring the event pays a $5,000 fee to cover incidental expenses. Any money not used will be returned to the sponsoring group. This is a private event and details of its purpose were not immediately available.