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Supervisor: No date certain on Med Center opening

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, members discussed amending the local law on septic system requirements; an offer from the Planning Board to become the lead agency in updating the Comprehensive Plan; hiring a confidential secretary for the Assessor’s office; and an update on the re-opening of the Medical Center.

On the latter, Supervisor Gerry Siller said there’s no certain date on when the Center will re-open. Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, which will manage the Center, was supposed to open the doors Feb. 1, but Mr. Siller said there have been delays. The hospital group is installing all the IT equipment and the town is painting, putting in the floors and plumbing. Mr. Siller said that the hospital group has not made a commitment on an opening date.

Changing the local law on requiring new I/A (Innovative Alternative) septic systems to reduce nitrogen flowing to the aquifer was discussed. One suggested change to the law that drew the most comment was amending the requirement to install the new systems if there’s been a 50% or more expansion of structures, to a 1,500-foot expansion. Using percentages, Town Attorney Bob DeStefano said, to determine expansion was an inexact science and using square feet is more precise. 

Several board members said this could hurt owners of small houses who want to expand. Former councilman Paul Shepherd, who was in the audience, commented later in the meeting that he agreed that the law should protect small homeowners. He asked for clarification on grants for I/A installations. Councilman Jim Colligan said that homeowners must apply to the state and county for grants before applying for a town grant. He added that, for a $22,000 system, the state and county could provide $15,000 and the town would pick up the rest.

The board agreed to further discussion on amending the law. 

Planning Board member Edward Hindin went before the board to discuss a letter sent to the Town Board last June asking for approval to allow the Planning Board to become the lead agency running an update of the Comprehensive Plan. A municipality’s comprehensive plan dictates policy on several fronts, including development, land use, transportation and housing. In 1994, a Comprehensive Plan was adopted by a Town Board resolution. A seven-month effort of discussion and research a decade ago produced an update to the plan, but the board rejected it.

Mr. Hindin said that as a former licensed professional planner, who had worked in two municipalities creating comprehensive plans, “I understood how difficult it was to get consensus around the various issues that surround communities, large or small.” The Planning Board, he added, will “find ways to help that consensus evolve.” 

In the letter from last summer, the Planning Board outlined “guiding principles” and 11 steps to take to achieve the goal. Nothing happened with the propsal.

Although thanking Mr. Hindin and the Planning Board for its suggestions, the board rejected the idea. Councilman Mike Bebon said a better course now would be to get input from town committees to “come up with a more holistic approach to an update of the Comprehensive Plan, rather than decide who is the lead agency.”

Craig Wood, chairman of the Board of Assessors, asked the board to consider a resolution allowing the assessors to hire a confidential secretary, similar to the role in the supervisor’s and highway superintendent’s offices. Documents and conversations, such as tax returns, must be confidential. Members agreed that privacy for residents and the town was necessary. 

Near the end of the meeting, Mr. Shepherd notified Mr. Siller that landline phone service in his neighborhood on Bartman Road, among others, cuts out during and after heavy rains. He calls Verizon, he said, to note the outages and is told that they’ll come fix the problem in three days. “But in three days, it’s dried out” and service is restored, Mr. Shepherd said.

Mr. Siller promised to look into the matter. “I’ll make a phone call,” he said.