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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor: Feb. 10, 2022

Inevitable results

To the Editor:

We are nearing a total collapse in communication and transparency in Town Hall. Public confidence has eroded to the point where community housing, water treatment and a Comprehensive Plan are in severe jeopardy.

What happened to our former Town Attorney Bob DeStefano was the inevitable result of the current climate. Mr. DeStefano found out he was potentially being replaced, not through conversations or performance reviews, but through an ad in the Reporter.

Mr. DeStefano was offered an opportunity to interview, but on the day of his interview, before it could commence, he was dismissed. Graciously, Mr. DeStefano has agreed to assist in the transition process.

The public was told that the Board “cast a wide net” and conducted an “exhaustive search.” Exhaustive searches, from ad to hire, are not completed in a few weeks. Exhaustive searches don’t include proceeding with interviews while a Town Board member is away at a funeral. Exhaustive searches require due diligence regarding potentially massive conflicts of interest.

New Town Attorney Stephen Kiely represents the legal interests of the Soloviev Group, which is now the largest commercial real estate developer on Shelter Island. We are told that Mr. Kiely will recuse himself on potential litigation, zoning and planning issues that involve Soloviev’s interests. The $50,000 increase in Mr. Kiely’s salary, and his inevitable recusals, will add an extra burden on taxpayers as outside law firms will be hired to handle basic matters.

The lack of communication between the Board and Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar was on full display during the mooring issue at the start of the Feb. 2 Board work session where once again an issue devolved into a shouting match. While the merits of a new “legislative assistant” position can be debated, what cannot be debated is that Mrs. Ogar won the election for Town Clerk.

We must ensure the results of the election are not circumvented because certain Board members disliked the result. The Town Board must exercise caution moving forward as it defines duties for this new position.

Immediate steps need to be taken to restore trust and professionalism in our town including: yearly performance reviews; detailed job descriptions for department heads and town employees; and re-constitute the Ethics Committee.

The Town Board should be eliminated from the appointment process and the Ethics Committee should have full autonomy.

GARY BLADOS Chairman, Shelter Island Republican Committee

Not quite expected

To the Editor:

Hmm … Let me get this straight. At an almost 50% increase in salary, the Town couldn’t find a lawyer in Suffolk County who won’t have ongoing conflicts of interest, representing someone who, rightly or not, is making people on the Island very uneasy? (“New Town attorney is Soloviev’s lawyer,” Feb. 3). And we get to pay additional lawyers fees when he recuses himself? And, he will be advising the Zoning and Planning boards?

While many of us were unhappy with our previous lawyer’s performance, Supervisor Gerry Siller is quoted as saying to Mr. DeStefano that the Town Board wanted to “go in a different direction.” Just what new direction is this?

An “exhaustive  search” and this is where we end up? Not quite what I had hoped for, or expected.


Grandpa’s grave

To the Editor:

This doesn’t happen very often, I’m happy to say, but this time it’s real. I’m angry!

The Town is setting out, in all seriousness, to undertake a project that will insult and denigrate one of its most revered families, a family that has long been part of its crucial fabric and whose name has been quite recently honored (by an action of the Town Board) by naming a newly preserved piece of valuable open space in memory of its much loved patriarch, Frank Klenawicus.

Shelter Island’s Klenawicus Airfield, recognized by the FAA as such, has long been the home of aviation on this Island, and Frank was one of its biggest boosters

Now some engineering firm that none of us have ever heard of comes along and suggests to the Town Board that a good area of open space that could be made available to deal with our well-recognized sewage disposal problem would be … Yes, you read it here: Klenawicus Field.

And this obviously carefully studied choice appears to have found some favor with our new Town Board. I wonder how many of them ever really knew Frank? I did — he greeted me when I first flew my 1930 Tiger Moth biplane into Shelter Island, and offered to build me a hangar for it.

To hell with our carefully accumulated funds set aside for open space preservation. Sewage! To hell with the fact that the Klenawicus family sold this long-treasured piece of family property to the Town at what looks like a bargain price, so that it could be used for open space. No, sewage! Forget the promises made or implied to the Klenawicus family when we honored them — sewage!.

The late, but still revered, British comedian Peter Sellers had a popular song he used to sing entitled “Grandpa’s Grave.” I believe its lyrics would make an appropriate coda to the short-lived efforts of our Town to honor Frank’s family.

“They’re moving grandpa’s grave to build a sewer

They’re moving it regardless of expense

They’re removing his remains to lay down nine inch drains

To irrigate some rich folks residence.

Now what’s the use of having a religion?

If when you’re dead you cannot get some peace

‘Cause some society chap wants a pipeline to his tank …”

MICHAEL COLES, Shelter Island


To the Editor:

The Community Housing Fund Advisory Board (CHB) continues to move forward in an attempt to garner funds from a half percent additional tax on home sales to be allocated for affordable housing if a referendum on the issue passes in November 2022.

As stated in the Reporter, “The CHB members agree there is a need to educate residents about gaining permits for various projects”

What we know: The town supervisor and the Town Board are in favor of affordable housing. Shelter Island is unique unto itself. You can travel on and off the island from 6 a.m. until midnight. The town budget is solely derived from property tax revenue.

What we don’t know: How many persons will be beneficiaries of this program? How will the beneficiaries be selected? What are the projected costs of this project (buildings, septic, landscape and legal fees)? Will income be the sole qualifier for this benefit? If select persons or groups are given this benefit, would this then be considered affordable housing or a subsidy? And would this be problematic with funds garnered from the Peconic Trust?

Does the Town have a comprehensive plan in regards to being: builder, landlord, and administrator? Will the Town have to expand administrative services in order to facilitate this program? Is the Town willing to put out a letter of intent containing the salient facts — details of implementation of the proposed plan or a facsimile.

Though I believe the Town Board and the CHB’s vision of affordable housing is well intended; at this point it is emotionally driven and lacks substantive facts for the voting populace of Shelter Island to make an educated assessment. The talk of obtaining permits for projects before full disclosure is very premature.

I suggest a separate referendum of all registered voters of Shelter Island in late June or no later than early September to measure support for this proposal from all Islanders. This would afford time for the Town Board and the CHB to educate the populace and answer questions in regard to this program.  This would be totally irrespective of the Peconic November Referendum. 

P.J. HUDON, Shelter Island

Is this fair?

To the Editor:

I am writing this in support of Dorothy Ogar, who has helped me in the mooring application process for years, both efficiently and pleasantly. 

I object to the unfair treatment of her, which is making radical changes to her job without consulting her. I find this particularly egregious since she won the recent election and it seems that her jobs are being given to her opponent. Is this fair?

No, it’s a travesty.

ROD GRIFFIS, Shelter Island

Survey fatigue

To the Editor:

Too many companies are asking for our opinions and too few share if they ever do anything with the feedback received. Survey fatigue makes it all too easy to ignore the request to spend time replying to questions about a recent visit to a health practitioner.

Dr. Anthonette Desire’s column (“The Doctor Is In,” Feb. 3), on caring explains that your health care provider is reimbursed based on the survey results. Financially, those survey results are a big deal.

And with all that health care providers have gone through since the start of the pandemic, there has never been a better time for you to show your appreciation by completing your patient experience survey. It matters!

SUSAN KEANE BAKER, New Canaan, Conn.