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Full agenda for Town Board work session

There were no new COVID cases among town residents to add to the 144 reported since the count started in March 2020, according to Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams. Suffolk County’s number of residents testing positive dropped to 1.5% from last week’s 1.9%, she said.

Ethics Board: The Board anticipates appointing a three-member Ethics Board on Friday. Nine candidates have been interviewed.

Center wastewater system: Work continues to examine sites for a treatment system for liquid wastes. All alternatives remain on the table, according to Councilman Jim Colligan. The original preferred site was Klenawicus Airfied, recommended by Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates, the consulting company hired to assess ways to treat nitrogen and other potential contaminants in the Center’s water. Residents protested strongly. No decision has been reached, Mr. Colligan said.

West Neck Water District: Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams said she’s working on numbers from the Suffolk County Water Authority on fees involved to have SCWA operate the West Neck Water District on a 40-year contract. Town Engineer Joe Finora is speaking with grant writer Jennifer Higham Messiano about possible sources of grants to offset $1.7 million needed for initial improvements to the system before SCWA takes responsibility for infrastructure.

Community Housing Fund: Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said it’s necessary to create a Community Housing Fund in advance of a November referendum to decide if voters want to participate in the state-created program that could make money available for affordable housing. If voters turned down participating in the program, the fund could be dissolved or serve as a repository for money that could come from grants, contributions or other sources. An Advisory Housing Board of up to 15 members is being created to write a plan for how money could be used if the town participates in the state-created fund.

Assessors: The chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties appeared  at Tuesday’s Town Board work session to appeal for a change in how assessors are selected.

Shelter Island is one of only about 40 municipalities statewide that still elects assessors, but is considering hiring professionals for what Democratic Chairwoman Heather Reylek and Republican Chairman Gary Blados said should not be determined politically. It takes professionals with mathematical, analytical and computer skills, Ms. Reylek said.

There should be continuity in the assessors office, she added, and that’s not guaranteed if assessors are elected. Mr. Blados agreed while calling for job security for the two current assessors — Patricia Castoldi and Judith Lechmanski, who were elected to their posts. The Board could appoint a third assessor, since  Craig Wood resigned in December.

Ms. Castoldi has been an assessor for the town for 12 years. Ms. Lechmanski was elected in November 2018.

Both women said elected assessors have demonstrated longevity in the job and saw no reason to change the practice. Ms. Castoldi said given the few professional assessors in the area, it would likely mean attracting them from another town, and distance involved in travel could be an issue.

If the town opts to hire rather than elect an assessor, the two women would  have part-time hours and hold their jobs for another six years. A decision could be made by the Board following a public hearing, or submitted to voters in a referendum.

Oyster reefs: The Board heard from three environmentalists — an Island resident and two representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension — who appealed to create oyster reefs in waters around the Island to build the oyster population. Kate Rossi-Snook, a member of the Shelter Island Board of Education, Kimberly Barbour, a marine program outreach organizer; and Gregg Rivara, an aquaculture specialist, outlined a program that would, they said, serve as a nursery for oysters and wouldn’t adversely affect the work of baymen.

Bayman Tom Field disputed that, saying baymen would have a problem with the action. He’s due to talk about that and other concerns at the March 29 work session. A story about the proposed oyster reef program will appear online and in the March 17 paper.

Aid to Ukraine: Mr. Colligan appealed to Islanders to support residents of Ukraine. He recommended four accredited organizations raising funds. They are: Direct Relief of Santa Barbara, Calif, directrelief.org; Mercy Corps, mercycorps.org; the International Medical Corps, internationalmedicalcorps.org; and Save the Children, savethechildren.org.

“They’re fighting for all of us,” Mr. Colligan said.