Reporter Editorial: Follow the money


The Town Board fulfilled its charge last week of being a watchdog of the public’s money.

At its work session, the board was discussing Suffolk County’s directive to clean up the water at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church, which had been tested to reveal dangerously high levels of nitrates. Since the church hosts a number of functions that serve the public, including nutrition programs and a pre-school, the county mandated the town pay to have potable water there.

Four board members were in agreement that funds to mediate the problem should come from the Water Quality Improvements Advisory Board (WQI).

But Councilman Albert Dickson said he disagreed.

Mr. Dickson made it clear — even addressing a reporter in the room — that he was all in favor of paying for clean water at the church, but he was concerned about taking WQI funds to do the job. That body uses Community Preservation Funds (CPF) for water quality improvement projects. But Mr. Dickson said the board should be careful when dipping into it. He suggested the town pass a resolution to take money from the town’s reserve fund, and after more consideration, perhaps reimbursing that fund through WQI money.

The board agreed and a resolution was passed April 12 to that effect.

The CPF takes in millions of tax dollars to fund open space and clean water initiatives.

But a few years ago it was used — illegally and disastrously — as a honeypot to cover financial shortfalls by the Town of East Hampton, which brought criminal charges and wrecked the careers of public officials.

We commend Mr. Dickson for his foresight, and his colleagues for following his lead.