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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


Arthur Kornberg is credited with leading a team of scientists at Stanford University who synthesized DNA in a test tube.

San Diego, known as a snow-resistant city, had snow 44 years ago with surrounding mountain tops coated in white and temperatures that dropped to 19 degrees Fahrenheit.

Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson announced his retirement from politics and was succeeded by Pierre Trudeau.

The Beatles released “Christmas Time is Here Again.”

Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt was presumed to have drowned when he disappeared while swimming in rough seas at Cheviot Beach in Portsea, Victoria; his body was never found.

And on Shelter Island . . .


School Board approves teacher pay

The Board of Education in December 1977 reached an agreement with its 23 teachers on a new contract that generally gave the teachers a 4.31 percent average raise. The salary scale was based on base pay averages in surrounding school districts. Under the new agreement, a first year teacher with an undergraduate degree would earn $11,520, up from $11,044 in the previous school year.

Teachers also got extra pay based on years of service, degrees earned and extra academic credits.

Teacher pay 40 years ago added up to approximately $450,000, representing nearly half the district’s budget.

POSTSCRIPT: Teachers have come a long way in 40 years. Instructional salaries alone for the 2017-18 school year total $4.5 million of the overall $11.3 million budget. Add to that the cost for benefits and other costs that are tallied under the program component of the budget and the district spends 69.2 percent of its budget on staff.


ZBA wins suit on annex decision

In 1987 an applicant who had been refused a request to convert property for use as a rooming house, had taken the Zoning Board of Appeals to court to try to overturn the decision.

The property, known as the annex, at one time had been a rooming house, but that pre-existing nonconforming use had expired when it went unused. Accordingly, the property reverted to C-zone residential use that allows for a primary single-family occupancy residence.

But 1987 had marked a period in the town’s history when several ZBA decisions had been overturned by courts with many believing the ZBA had overstepped its bounds in rendering poor decisions.

That the court upheld its position  on the use of the annex drew applause along with changes in ZBA procedures that  would assure decisions weren’t made in haste and are clearly stated.

POSTSCRIPT: ZBA decisions are always subject to efforts by applicants to overturn a rejection. But in the last several years, the ZBA has worked with applicants to try to reach compromises on applications that pose problems and has succeeded in avoiding lawsuits.


No contract yet for Village fire protection

The year was 1997 and the Shelter Island Fire Department was expected to sign a five-year contract with Dering Harbor to provide fire protection to the village. But the draft that was expected to be signed got to the village late and failed to include some provisions that then Village attorney Fred Tedeschi said he thought had been agreed upon between the two entities. That held up the process of getting a signed agreement between the Village and the Fire District.

POSTSCRIPT: Today the Village of Dering Harbor is, indeed contracted with the Shelter Island Fire Department for protection, but there is discussion about renaming Shore Road in the Village since there is also a Shore Road in the town.


New runoff rules coming

It was not popular 10 years ago when New York State established what is today known as MS4 — Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer Systems. The mandate was for all municipalities to establish a means of ending stormwater runoff into surrounding waterways to curb pollution.

It’s not that anyone objected to the aim, but Councilwoman Chris Lewis expressed concerns: “We’re getting 90 pages of instructions to do something they can’t give us a model for, they can’t give us funding for and they can’t provide oversight for.”

POSTSCRIPT: Shelter Island’s MS4 efforts have been largely under the direction of Town Attorney Laury Dowd, who has represented the town at meetings and worked with Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. and former town engineer John Cronin to make some improvements.

With Ms. Dowd retiring at the end of the year and Mr. Cronin having left town employment, the MS4 work will likely fall to the next town engineer, according to information discussed at budget hearings in October.