Southold supervisor candidates clash at Saturday forum

10/23/2011 7:34 AM |

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Supervisor Scott Russell at Saturday's forum.

An angry confrontation between candidates for supervisor marked an otherwise quiet discussion in Orient Saturday among those who want to serve on the Southold Town Board.

Republican Supervisor Scott Russell charged that his Democratic opponent, Bob Meguin, had tried to circumvent the system and get approval for a cell tower by having it placed on town land. An  incensed Mr. Meguin said he resented the personal attack and insisted Mr. Russell had misrepresented the facts.

The Democratic candidate said he had not been representing a client professionally but asking about the opportunity for a friend who does represent a cellphone company. He said the supervisor had agreed with him that there’s a need for more towers to improve reception in Southold.

Mr. Meguin was so angry that he had to be gaveled down several times by the moderator, Orient Association president Venetia Hands, before he lowered his voice and sat down. Mr. Meguin drew laughter later in the forum when he said, “Obviously, I’m not here to be liked.”

The forum, attended by about 70 people, was sponsored by the Orient Association and East Marion Community Association.

Mr. Meguin accused the mostly Republican Town Board — Albert Krupski Jr. is the only Democrat — of failing to offer solutions to problems. He said the Democratic Party website outlined specific ideas for tackling problems in Southold.

He’s running, he said, because he had decided he doesn’t have the right to complain if he doesn’t participate in the process.

Mr. Russell pointed to progress he said the board had made in improving the quality of life for town residents, enacting ordinances to curb noise and protect dark skies. But mostly, he said, he’s proud of having curbed spending in Southold, turning earlier deficit budgets to surpluses in the last two years despite difficult economic times.

But it’s the comprehensive town plan that got much attention from the candidates, Democrats complaining that it’s taking too long to finish and Republicans defending the delays.

Goals are clear and it’s time to provide leadership, Mr. Meguin said. If there are mistakes along the way, they can be reversed, he argued.

“I don’t think we can afford to get it wrong,” Mr. Russell said, noting that if Southold had gotten it right in the past, it would have taken steps similar to those taken in East Hampton to keep ferries out of the town. There have been many complaints through the years about ferry traffic that causes problems on Routes 48 and 25 and yet brings few customers  into local businesses.

Maintaining public involvement in the plan is critical to its implementation, Mr. Russell said, defending the many meetings that have been held in hamlets to assess residents’ priorities.

Four candidates are seeking two seats on the Town Board. Incumbent Bill Ruland is asking for a second terms while Jill Doherty, president of the Board of Trustees, wants to join him as a Republican Town Board member. Democrats Nicholas Deegan and Marie Domenici are running for the same seats.

Mr. Ruland spent 24 years on the Mattituck Board of Education, 13 as its president, before becoming a councilman.
“Serving others is an integral part of what you do in life,” he said. He’s a farmer and his family has worked the land on the North Fork since 1716, he said.

Ms. Doherty worked in Town Hall as a clerk typist for 11 years and has been a trustee for nine years. She’s a lifelong North Fork resident who grew up in East Marion. This is her first term as president of the Board of Trustees.

Because she has worked in Town Hall for so many years, she said she’s ready to hit the ground running because she understands the work of various departments.

“I work hard and I can get things done,” she said.

Ms. Domenici has a corporate background and has served the current administration on its alternative energy committee. She’s a strong advocate of solar energy who said she’s working to protect public health by pushing for environmentally safe energy.

“If we don’t take care of Mother Nature, she won’t take care of us,” Ms. Domenici said.

She described herself as the relative newcomer to the North Fork, saying she has seen what happened “up island” and doesn’t want that to happen here.

Mr. Deegan has lived on the North Fork for 22 years and came to the United States from Ireland. He’s a Mattituck Park District commissioner and served as chairman of the commission. He has also been active in various community programs from Scouting and Little League to soccer and is an advocate for shared services among the various hamlets and park districts.

“With efficiency and accountability, you can provide services that we’re accustomed to on the North Fork,” he said.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 8, with polls open throughout the town from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.