Featured Story

Grant to fund Shelter Island ferry study to deal with rising sea levels

Shelter Island has received a $190,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security to pay for a study on plans to ensure ferry service in an emergency.

The aim, Town Engineer Joe Finora told the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session, is to plug holes in existing plans that limit how to respond to rising sea levels due to climate change, as well as sudden storms.

The ferry companies have taken steps to improve their ability to get people on and off the Island in emergencies. But with rising sea levels and the expense involved in raising ramps and providing other mitigating steps, the study is vital, Mr. Finora said.

He pointed out there are concerns on the Greenport side for North Ferry since the area leading to the ferry ramps involves cooperation with Greenport Village, the Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, all of which are involved in decisions that are made about ferry lines. He described the situation there as “onerous.”

Heights Property Owners Corporation General Manager Stella Lagudis said that in the recent past, the high-water level would have shut down North Ferry had it not been for work completed to raise the east dock on the Shelter Island side and the north dock on the Greenport side. That made it possible to run without having to pause boats for what could be a couple of hours, she said.

At the same time, Ms. Lagudis knows the work done to date has been expensive and going forward, more is needed. She said she welcomes cooperation with the town in getting grant money, which will pay only for a study to identify needs and propose solutions to address problems.

Once a plan exists, money will have to be sought to fund actual construction meant to provide long-range solutions to deal with rising sea levels, Mr. Finora said.

Paying for false alarms

Fire Commissioner Andy Reeve alerted the Town Board to costs of responding to false alarms. Major culprits with multiple false alarms have been hotels undergoing construction, Mr. Reeve said.

On Shelter Island, there has been no fine assessed for the first two false alarms in a year. But Mr. Reeve brought information showing high costs charged in East Hampton and Southampton, and lesser fines in Southold.

On Shelter Island, only on the third occurrence of a false alarm is there assessed a $200 fee; in the fourth and fifth occurrences, that increases by $200 each time.

In Southold, there is no fee for the first two occurrences and $100 for subsequent false alarms.

East Hampton and Southampton both waived fines for the first false alarm and then charge $400 for the second and $500 for the third. East Hampton goes to $700 for the next false alarm while Southampton’s fee is $750 and continues to escalate with each additional false alarm in a year.

Police Chief Jim Read said firefighters responding to the call don’t make the decision about whether the alarm is false; that’s up the fire chief after the call.

Supervisor Gerry Siller said it would concern him if owners of structures under construction turned alarm systems off to avoid false alarms.

Mr. Reeve also said those fined should have an opportunity to appeal. Sometimes, it can be the result of a faulty system and the property owner is dealing with the company maintaining the system to get problems corrected. Nor should owners be penalized if stormy weather causes a false alarm

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely, Chief Read and others will form a subcommittee to discuss the situation and make recommendations.