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Retiring Shelter Island Councilwoman Ianfolla says ‘Future is now’ for issues facing town

Councilwoman BJ Ianfolla was elected to the Town Board in 2021 to finish the term of Mike Bebon, who resigned from the Town Board in June 2021 with two years remaining. She opted not to seek re-election this year or speak to the Reporter on her years in office.

Councilwoman BJ Ianfolla won her seat after serving two terms as a town assessor. As a candidate, she told voters attending the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum she was running because of her sense of urgency that the Town Board focus on problems of water quality, housing and taxes.

“The future is now,” she said about the need to work on these issues.

In addition to her knowledge of assessments, she brought a background in psychology, research, data and statistics to the Board.

She worked along with Councilwoman Meg Larsen on furthering development of a long overdue Comprehensive Plan. She and Ms. Larsen were tapped as Task Force members to work on an updated plan. In addition, she has been Town Board liaison to the Water Advisory Committee, the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board, the Waterways Management Advisory Council, the Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board, and the Taylor’s Island Preservation and Management Committee.

She has publicly noted the hours the job takes for the salary of $42,037 in her first year and $43,718 this year.

It was at her suggestion, in an effort to consolidate meetings, that the Town Board abandon its Friday night regular meetings. Instead, throughout much of her term, the Town Board has continued work sessions on Tuesday afternoons, but for regular Town Board meetings, it has been meeting on Tuesday evenings once or twice a month.

Early on in this political year, Ms. Ianfolla announced she would not be seeking re-election.

That she won’t be seeing a new Comprehensive Plan come to fruition this year doesn’t diminish the contribution she has made to move the draft forward during her two years on the Town Board.

That has involved not only lengthy meetings with the entire group, but numerous meetings she and Ms. Larsen have had with neighborhood associations, the Heights Property Owners Corporation, Shelter Island Association and other groups to gather input that has helped to shape the draft.

In addition to her efforts on the Comp Plan, Ms. Ianfolla became a passionate advocate of a central wastewater treatment system to serve several public buildings in the Center.

When delays resulted in the Shelter Island Board of Education opting to drop out of the proposed unified system, Ms. Ianfolla pressed school officials not to abandon the project. She made an impassioned speech at a Board of Education meeting why the school district might be better served by a central system that could easily be adapted to deal with future emerging contaminants.

But the administration and Board of Education opted to push ahead, installing individual I/A septic systems, fearing the existing aged septics on the site could fail before the town could implement a central system.

Since the decision to abandon the larger project and subsequent criticisms of a central system, the town has, at least temporarily, slowed down its decision about how to proceed with treating Center wastewater.

While there’s no indication what Ms. Ianfolla’s future activities will include, she might be expected to continue to watch decisions made about septic systems and water quality as well as to monitor work on the Comprehensive Plan that she hopes will be adopted at some point in 2024.