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Board discusses bus and bicycles

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, discussions covered an upgrade for senior transportation, setting a schedule for meetings on the 2020 budget, safety signs for bicyclists, tweaking the code for building permits and even, depending on your sense of humor, a brilliant or awful pun.

Former councilwoman Chris Lewis said the Senior Citizens Foundation of Shelter Island are buying a bus for $85,000 to replace one that has “broken down.” The foundation is asking the town to foot the bill for permits, insurance and to pay bus drivers for approximately 20 hours per week.

Transportation is needed for senior citizens, Ms. Lewis said, not just for doctor’s appointments. Older Islanders might have problems driving because of disabilities or can’t drive at night, but would like, for example, to go shopping off-Island, see a play in Port Jefferson or, closer to home, attend evening library events.

Many seniors have no problem asking a neighbor to drive them to medical appointments, Ms. Lewis said, but are hesitant to ask for a ride for other purposes.

“We want to see the bus used to benefit the most people in the most efficient way,” she said. “Lots of seniors are fragile. But they’re ambitious.”

The board seemed agreeable to the proposal.

The board will meet for budget discussions with heads of town departments next week and the following week. (The Reporter will post dates and times of the discussions on its website.) The board must present a budget by Oct 5; it must be adopted by Nov. 20.

Councilman Jim Colligan noted that the number one issue he hears from residents isn’t Lyme disease, short-term rentals or water quality, but bicycle safety. He’s proposed signage around town to urge bicyclists to follow the rules of the road. He has a list of rules he’d like to see posted at the ferry terminals, and simpler “Ride in Single File” signs posted periodically on main thoroughfares.

Police Chief Jim Read is not in favor of signs that become something cyclists, motorists and pedestrians don’t see after awhile because there are too many of them, and Councilman Paul Shepherd agreed.

Supervisor Gary Gerth noted that Route 114 is a state road, and that discussion with representatives in Albany are ongoing about a “bike path” for that road with state-posted signs, which the town wouldn’t want to duplicate.

It was suggested that a brochure with rules for bicyclists be provided at Piccozzi’s bike shop. Ms. Brach-Williams noted that bicycle groups request permission to tour the Island and part of the permitting process could include a safety brochure.

Code Enforcement Officer Arthur Bloom and Building Inspector Chris Tehan requested permission to change the wording of the Town Code on certificates of occupancy. Mr. Bloom said some homeowners don’t realize that they have building permits that haven’t been “closed out” by the town. Most of these are insufficient compliance on swimming pools, in regard to plumbing, electrical wiring, fencing and alarms on doors to pool areas. The board agreed to change the language in the code to simplify compliance.

In the “around the table” section of the meeting, when members can speak about issues not on the agenda, Mr. Shepherd asked if the town could get involved in the local real estate market by simply buying houses and selling them as “affordable.”

Instead of purchasing land and having developers build affordable houses, the town could become the landlord if it purchased existing houses. Asking his colleagues what would be the downside, Councilman Albert Dickson answered by saying, “Money.”

Purchasing property, he said, and then having developers build on it, was far less expensive than an outright sale to the town.

Members agreed to discuss the idea further.

Mr. Colligan reported on a recent meeting of the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC), which had taken up the proliferation of “invasive species” that kill native plants on the Island. The discussion had turned to “the mile-a-minute” vine, which grows up to six inches a day when conditions are right.

But the killer vine can be killed itself by the introduction of a weevil, the CAC learned. From all reports, the weevil will steadily eat the invasive specie and eventually wipe it out.

Which led Mr. Shepherd to say that it all came down to a case of “the difference between good and weevil.”