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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor

Residents deserve an explanation

To the Editor:

Since June 2020, the mayor and trustees of the Village of Dering Harbor have had possession of the New York State (NYS) Report of Examination of Board Oversight (Fiscal 2013-2020) but have not shared it with residents or discussed it during open meetings.

The village response to the audit is dated May 18, 2020 without either public discussion or resolution. Why have the mayor and trustees not been forthcoming?

I was mayor from July 2017 through June 2018 following the resignation of Tim Hogue. About 10 years ago, Mayor Hogue asked me to run as trustee based on my experience installing general ledger, financial control and reporting systems having done this work for the two largest media companies in the world and a Nassau County chapter of a well-known national non-profit, specifically to help prepare its 30-member board for NYS audits. I served 17 years as either board president or treasurer.

When I became a trustee in 2016, I began preliminary work. While mayor, I prepared a monthly reporting package for the current board and village residents (providing copies to the Reporter) beginning September 2017 through my last meeting in April 2018, including forecasts, budget analyses, and variance reporting — all required by the state.

The current board failed to disclose any of these financial packages to the state auditors, despite receiving them for eight months while I was mayor. NYS accused the current board of failing to compare and forecast actual revenues and expenses versus budget versus prior year. The board’s response blamed “the transition,” their own self-serving “volunteer audit committee” (Jenkins, Ferris, Deutsch, Cary), and the prior board.

What the mayor and current board do not know is that I discussed these reports, scope and procedure with NYS auditors, providing copies of each. However, NYS could only review what the Village Board provided, not what I submitted.

You can imagine how the auditors and I watched with bemusement as Mayor Morgan, trustees Benacerraf, Kelsey, Parcells, and Kelly tied themselves into a pretzel defending their prevarications, stumbling over a variety of excuses and denials, laboring under the illusion they could hide this material without NYS knowing about it. Oops.

It is evident the mayor and trustees have no idea how to prepare financial statements, having failed to establish any monthly variance reporting contrary to NYS guidelines.

Residents deserve an explanation.

John T. Colby Jr.

Shelter Island

A time for discipline

To the Editor:

Municipal and state governments across the nation are facing an unprecedented financial crisis.

However, our Town Board acts like it is immune from this reality.

We have employed a consultant ($10 to $20,000 per year) to assist with the implementation of short-term rental regulations. Before renewing this contract, a detailed review of their contribution is in order. What specifically and quantitatively have they accomplished that was not already being accomplished in-house? How much in fees or fines have we collected as a direct result of their efforts?

At the same time, the town is contemplating hiring a consultant ($100 to 150,000) to oversee the development of a new Comprehensive Plan. Before proceeding to this step, there should be a business plan for a project of this magnitude:

1) Objectives and its planned use;

2) Time line for progress and completion;

3) Resources necessary.

Such a plan may exist but I don’t recall seeing it shared with the public.

The number of residences and the population of the Island have not and will not change significantly. Therefore, the value of a Comprehensive Plan is questionable. Whatever one may feel about the usefulness and importance of a Comprehensive Plan, this seems an unnecessary expenditure in the current environment.

For almost two years I have asked the previous and current supervisors (the chief financial officers of the town) to comment on the town’s unfunded liabilities. What is the amount? How and when will it be paid? What impact will it have on future budgets and taxes? Thus far I have been unsuccessful, yet this is one of the major threats in the current national crisis.

I urge the board, instead of looking for new and creative ways to spend money, to devote more of its time and focus to controlling, and even reducing, existing expenses.

This is a time for fiscal discipline.

Don Bindler

Shelter Island

No comparison

To the Editor:

So, the short-term rental (STR) business rears its ugly head again.

Here, at the end of the summer of 2020, with the world-wide pandemic of  COVID-19, people have been seeking refuge wherever they can. Shelter Island seems to be one of the places many feel safe, and have signed on for long term rentals. Those homeowners who have chosen not to do a long term rental, but want to continue to do STRs, are advertising through many sites available for this purpose. (A little scary considering quarantine rules.)

I understand there seems to be an issue whether or not the STR inspector du jour is doing the job effectively. The consulting firm the town hired to do the job of seeking out STR bandits is not effective. My question is: “Why do we need to hire outside consultants for hometown issues? And what is the purpose of checking on who is renting short term when we have a registry? Just call any realtor on the Island and they can tell you who is renting what. Or check any one of the websites offering STRs.

I have an idea: abolish the legislation immediately.

And the board is seeking out a consultant for the Comprehensive Plan? Is it not already in place? The board wants to revise it? There’s no one on Shelter Island who can’t effectively have input for a revitalization of the plan in hand?

I am tired of hearing what other towns have. The mere fact that we are an island means we can’t compare their insights for their town policy and legislation to us.

Tell me, what are we going to do about that Indian in the canoe on the town’s official seal? Hopefully, the Indian mascot for the high school sports team will stay since many Islanders like the fact that they all grew up with this logo for their sports teams, and looked upon their Indian as a brave soul and one to be revered.

I’m extremely tired of these progressives throughout the country trying to suppress our history, saying “That was then, this is now, the past is not happening anymore.” So let’s try to learn from it and not make the same mistakes.

A report on the ospreys, Tom and Tillie, I’ve been observing: They have a kid who doesn’t want to fly. Not good.

Georgiana Ketcham

Shelter Island

Thanks to all

To the Editor:

I want to say thank you to everyone who bought golf balls and lemonade at our Goat Hill lemonade stand. I had a blast selling to everyone and seeing your incredible shots!

It really makes my day how kind everyone is toward my sister and I. Even in times of COVID-19, when everything is uncertain, your smiles and patience was all I could ask for. Now I will hand over the rest of this letter to my sister who runs the lemonade portion of the stand.

Thank you for buying at my stand. I enjoyed selling lemonade to all the golfers. It’s very fun and I enjoy selling to you.

I really loved ringing the bell and doing my little jingle. I want to say thanks to the golfers who bought from me.

Theo & Chloe Pellicano

Shelter Island