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A fresh face for the town as new website is unveiled

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO From left, Building Department employee Mary Ellen McGayhey, website developer Louise Clark and town IT Committee member Craig Wood at Tuesday’s Town Board work session, giving a presentation of the town’s new website.
AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO From left, Building Department employee Mary Ellen McGayhey, website developer Louise Clark and town IT Committee member Craig Wood at Tuesday’s Town Board work session, giving a presentation of the town’s new website.

The Town of Shelter Island recently got a makeover.

Well, at least it’s website did.

Thanks to website developer Louise Clark and Shelter Island’s IT Committee, a new site is up and running, and by all accounts looks sharper and is more informative than it’s predecessor.

Town IT Committee member Craig Wood, Ms. Clark and Mary Ellen McGayhey of the Building Department — she and colleague Chris Tehan update and manage the site — gave a presentation at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

Ms. McGayhey noted that it had been a mad dash to get the new site up and running.

In the middle of last month, town officials were informed that Site2You, the company that created the town’s old site, was going out of business, and IT Committee members went to work to maintain the Island’s online presence.

“It was quite a scramble,” Ms. Clark said before the meeting.

Ms. McGayhey pointed out at the meeting that all services provided by Ms. Clark were paid from the town’s budget for technology, so no new sources of revenue were used.

Ms. Clark, Ms. McGayhey and Mr. Wood worked though the Thanksgiving weekend to import information to the new site and provide the town with a picturesque design, replacing what had been functional, if not attractive or efficient.

The Police and Highway department sites are now on the town’s site, making it a one-stop online shopping destination for information. The search function is now user friendly, Ms. McGayhey said. It also will have easily located “bread crumbs,” Ms. Clark said, using tech talk for links a user can use to return to an original search.

Police Chief Jim Read, who heads the IT Committee, said the site, although up and running, would remain a “work in progress” for a while. Ms. McGayhey said she and the IT committee welcomed all suggestions from the board, town departments and committees to improve the site.

In other business: The board again took up the issue of saving Reel Point. Supervisor Jim Dougherty opened the discussion by referring to an email sent by resident John Kerr — which was not distributed to the Reporter or the public — about Mr. Kerr’s concern over a proposal to use taxpayer money to protect and shore up Reel Point.

Owned by the nonprofit Peconic Land Trust with the town having a right of way, Reel Point is the spit of land jutting from the southern tip of Big Ram Island, a natural barrier that guards Coecles Harbor, and the many  homes and several businesses that line its shore, from high seas and destructive storms.

Now the point is eroding and the area and its homes and businesses are threatened by unimpeded waves moving westward from Point Judith, Rhode Island, gathering strength across 40 nautical miles before making a landfall on Shelter Island.

Rather than spend more money dredging and trying to shore up Reel Point, which the town has done in the past only to have it erode after a few storms, the town and the Land Trust spent more than $40,000 on consultant’s fees for an analysis. First Coastal Corporation of Westhampton Beach and LKB Consulting Engineers of Syossett were contracted to investigate the situation, write a report and suggest plans of action.

The consultants produced a comprehensive document outlining steps they advise that, if taken, will provide a long-range solution.

One of the report’s conclusions is eye opening. “Continued over-wash and a breach of Reel Point has the potential to result in significant economic and environmental impacts,” the report states. Sustaining Reel Point, it continues, “is vital to the economic and ecological well-being of the entire Coecles Harbor region and even the Town of Shelter Island itself.”

Businesses in the area that could be affected if Reel Point fails include Coecles Harbor Marina, Clark’s Marina, The Ram’s Head Inn and CH Marine Yacht Builders. Failure to act, the report states, could also destroy private properties on Ram Island and the new luxury residential development being built on the former St. Gabriel’s site.

Solutions that could fix the problem come with different price tags, from one in the high seven figures to one that would cost between $250,000 and $500,000.
Councilman Jim Colligan noted that there should be a process put in place that includes a site plan review, a cost analysis of materials and labor needed, and a review of all permits needed to do the work.

Mr. Colligan has said that Matt Swain, the South Fork stewardship manager of the Land Trust, was supportive of a draft report on what might work to save Reel Point that’s not prohibitively expensive. At the same time, Mr. Swain said the Land Trust couldn’t commit to any specific money, other than to discuss applying for grants and soliciting contributions.

Mr. Dougherty warned his colleagues at the work session several times about “spending money on land owned by a private property owner.”

The discussion was tabled for further discussions.