11/21/13 10:02am
11/21/2013 10:02 AM

Geoffrey Wells (left) and Robert Ghosio.

Elections are over, but there is still one more town position up for grabs. After Republican Bob Ghosio won in his bid for Town Board earlier this month, his seat on the town’s Board of Trustees will become vacant.

Now, the current Town Board is tasked with appointing his replacement.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said the Town Board is hoping to fill the vacant seat after Jan. 1 — when the incoming elected officials are sworn into office. But there are currently no candidates in mind for the position, he said.

“We have plenty of time to discuss the issue and to decide the direction we’re going to go in,” Mr. Russell said. “We haven’t even had a discussion about it.”

Mr. Ghosio, 50, of Greenport easily won the Town Board seat along with incumbent running mate Jim Dinzio. Incumbent Republican trustees John Bredemeyer and Mike Domino also both won re-election easily. And in the closest town race on election night, Republican Trustee candidate Charles Sanders of Greenport was elected to the seat left open after two-term incumbent Dave Bergen did not receive the Republican nomination this time around.

Mr. Sanders edged Democrat Geoffrey Wells, 60, by just 578 votes. It was the slimmest margin of defeat for a losing candidate in a Trustee race since 2001, when Republican candidate Henry Smith was defeated by just 294 votes for a third open seat.

Mr. Russell earlier this month said that Mr. Wells is a viable candidate for the vacant Trustee position, but noted that Town Board members, all Republicans, had not made any decisions yet.

“I think there are lots of viable candidates in the community and [Geoffrey Wells] is certainly one,” Mr. Russell said.

Reached by phone following the election, Mr. Wells said he would consider taking the open position, if it were offered.

Town Board members said they would consider candidates who have previously sought office as well as people with interest and qualifications who have never entered the political arena.

“We have to look at everybody and be open-minded to pick the best possible candidate we can,” Mr. Russell said.

A special election for the final year of the term will then be held in November, Republican Committee chairman Peter McGreevy said.

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11/02/13 8:00am
11/02/2013 8:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Trustee candidates debate issues like water pollution and beach access during Tuesday's forum.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Town trustee candidates at last month’s debate.

TOWN TRUSTEE
Four-year term, three open seats
Salary: $18,344

John M. Bredemeyer III
Hamlet: Orient
Occupation: Incumbent Trustee, professional assistant at Suffolk Community College, retired county health department employee
Party lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence

About him: Mr. Bredemeyer, 62, lives with his wife in Orient, where they raised two children. He is a graduate of Cornell University and has more than 35 years’ experience in environmental monitoring, pollution assessment and public and environmental health enforcement. He formerly worked in the marine unit of the Suffolk County Health Department’s office of ecology. He has worked on numerous environmental initiatives, including building and running a collector for atmospheric nitrogen inputs to the Peconic Estuary. Mr. Bredemeyer was first elected in 1984 and presently chairs to the town’s shellfish advisory committee. He is also a volunteer firefighter.

His pitch: Mr. Bredemeyer believes his experience and education with environmental issues has given him the understanding to make valuable contributions to the Board of Trustees.

In his words: “Your vote for me insures that you, the voter-taxpayer, get a ‘dividend’ on the huge public investment you have already made in my education, training and professional career.”

Michael J. Domino
Hamlet: Southold
Occupation: Incumbent Trustee, real estate investor, retired science teacher
Party lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence

About him: Mr. Domino, 69, has been a Southold resident for the past 17 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology as well as master’s degrees in engineering and education. He is a retired earth science teacher at Rocky Point High School and is currently CEO of Greenport Real Estate Investment LLC. Mr. Domino is a former U.S. Marine, past president of the North Fork Environmental Council and a 15-year member of the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force. Additionally, he is a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation, a certified DEC water sampler and a member of the Southold shellfish advisory committee. In 2012, he was appointed to fill the Town Trustee seat left vacant by current Town Board member Jill Doherty.

His pitch: Mr. Domino said that in his nearly two years on the board, he has placed community and environmental interests first, looking for ways to mitigate potential damage to the environment without compromising constituents’ property rights.

In his words: “As one of two incumbents seeking re-election to the Southold Town Board of Trustees, I possess a unique and balanced skill set that sets me apart from other candidates and makes me worthy of your vote.”

Joseph J. Finora Jr.
Hamlet: Laurel
Occupation: Independent businessperson
Party line: Democratic

About him: Mr. Finora, 53, lives in Laurel with his wife and children. He is a self-employed financial media-relations specialist and business writer. Previously a journalist, he has also written two business books and one novel. Five years ago, he establish the North Fork Ospreys baseball team in Peconic. He is a longtime volunteer youth baseball and basketball coach and recently raised money for new dugouts and modernizing the Mattituck High School baseball field. This is his first time running for public office.

His pitch: Mr. Finora said he believes in fairness, openness and helping neighbors. He said there is a need for greater balance in Southold’s government and looks forward to hearing and resolving the concerns of Southold Town residents.

In his words: “Most people around Southold know me due to my affiliation with sports. I’ve recently worked as an umpire learning to enforce rules and settle disputes. This is a great place to live and raise a family, but there’s much to be done. What we do today will affect how we live tomorrow in Southold Town.”

William C. Funke
Hamlet: Cutchogue
Occupation: Retired insurance manager
Party line: Democratic

About him: Mr. Funke, 66, retired to Cutchogue after living in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Germany. He is currently working toward earning a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in environmental science. He spent more than 30 years insuring ships, cargoes and terminals. As a marine underwriter, he was part of the team implementing the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1970. He later went into software and hardware development for several small companies in New Jersey. This is his first time running for public office.

His pitch: Mr. Funke believes his experience as a marine underwriter taught him how government and the private sector can work together for a common goal. He said he wants to apply his skills to improve Southold’s waterways.

In his words: “The Sound and bay are unquestionably in a death spiral and I want to do what I can to help stop that.”

Charles J. Sanders
Hamlet: Greenport
Occupation: Associate broker, Town and Country Real Estate
Party lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence

About him: Mr. Sanders, 45, has lived on the North Fork since 1996. He worked at Hargrave Vineyard before beginning a career in real estate in 1999. He previously owned a real estate business and retail store. He is currently an associate broker at Town and Country in Southold. He joined the Air National Guard in 2008 and has served two tours in Afghanistan. This is his first run for public office.

His pitch: Mr. Sanders said he wants to contribute a balanced approach to the administration of Southold’s wetlands and the protection of a residents’ right to enjoy their property.

In his words: “My civilian and military experience has instilled in me a strong work ethic and extensive administrative and interpersonal skills that I pledge to bring to the job of Trustee.”

Geoffrey M. Wells
Hamlet: Southold
Occupation: Retired television IT specialist; writer
Party lines: Democratic, Working Families

About him: Mr. Wells, 60, retired to Southold in 2013 with his wife. He grew up on a farm in South Africa before immigrating to the United States in 1980 and beginning his career in information technology. Mr. Wells was vice president of television information technology at Disney, ABC and Fox. In those roles he was responsible for creating and managing three new IT departments, implementing sales and creating and staffing a new East Coast data center. Mr. Wells is currently working full time on his second novel. His first, “A Fado for the River,” was published in 2012. This is Mr. Wells’ first run for public office.

His pitch: Mr. Wells believes his experience in communication and problem solving in the corporate world will be an asset to the Town Trustees. He said he would seek win-win outcomes and work toward making the board’s processes more transparent for residents.

In his words: “Change is inevitable. As Trustee, I will ensure that change is managed in such a way that our shoreline is protected and our quality of life as both private citizens and public custodians is not diminished.”

Read our endorsements for town trustee here

11/02/13 7:59am

(from left) John Bredeymeyer, Michael Domino and Geoffrey Wells.

There is perhaps no candidate better qualified for his position in this year’s Southold Town elections than incumbent Trustee John Bredemeyer.

Ivy League-educated and armed with a résumé that boasts more than three decades of experience in the areas of public health, science and the environment, Mr. Bredemeyer is almost too qualified for the post. It’s a blessing for the people of Southold Town that someone with this type of experience has been on the Board of Trustees for a total of 14 years, having served from 1984 to 1994 before being elected in 2009 to his most recent four-year term.

Having Mr. Bredemeyer, a Republican, and Democratic challenger William Funke on opposite ends of the table during the recent Suffolk Times debate was poetic. On one end of the spectrum, Mr. Bredemeyer proved to be a passionate and knowledgeable incumbent that night, while Mr. Funke showed he was simply the opposite. He declined to answer the first question of the night and failed to offer much of anything in the way of perspective for the remainder of the debate.

Profiles: Meet the candidates for town trustee

“How am I supposed to know?” might as well have been Mr. Funke’s campaign slogan.

The science and environmental experience of Mr. Bredemeyer and fellow incumbent Mike Domino, a retired science teacher and a past president of the North Fork Environmental Council, are unmatched by any of the four challengers.

Of those four, we believe Mr. Wells is the best fit for the seat being vacated by Dave Bergen, a two-term Trustee who was dumped from the Republican ticket this year.

A systems and processes guy with an impressive background in corporate information technology, Mr. Wells, a native of South Africa who moved here from New York City this year, is a bright candidate who could offer a unique voice to the board. He may lack institutional knowledge of the community, but we’re confident he’d be a quick study. We’re especially curious to see what type of advancements Mr. Wells, who ran the most passionate campaign of any of the six candidates, can make in the way of technology and modernizing the Trustees’ office.

Both Democrat Joseph Finora and Republican Charles Sanders, a late addition to the ticket after original GOP nominee David Zuhoski dropped out, failed to display much passion during the election season.

The only issues raised during the campaign — both by Democrats — related to beachfront property rights and perceived transparency issues with the current board. Republicans dismissed the former as a bay constable enforcement issue and the latter as not an issue at all. We tend to agree with the Republicans on both counts.

Instead, we wish we’d heard more from both sides about the very real issue of water pollution. During The Suffolk Times debate, Mr. Bredemeyer and Mr. Domino said the board has made improvements in this area, while Mr. Wells said there’s plenty more to be done.

“Leaching is happening on a daily basis,” he said. “It is a very serious situation.”

We’d like to see those three candidates work closely together on helping to improve our water pollution problem over the next four years.

10/17/13 11:07am
10/17/2013 11:07 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Trustee candidates debate issues like water pollution and beach access during Tuesday’s forum.

Democratic Trustee challengers took aim at their Republican opponents Tuesday on the issues of water pollution and public beach access at a candidates’ forum sponsored by The Suffolk Times and hosted by Peconic Landing in Greenport.

Democratic challengers Geoffrey Wells, Joseph Finora and William Funke are opposing incumbent Republican Town Trustees John Bredemeyer and Mike Domino and Republican challenger Charles Sanders for three open seats on the board.

[Related: Deer management, Vineyard 48 hot topics among Town Board hopefuls]

Here’s what the candidates had to say about the issues.

WATER POLLUTION

All the candidates agreed that water pollution, specifically nitrogen loading, is a major and ongoing issue facing Southold Town.

When nitrogen gets into streams, ponds, Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay, it causes an overgrowth of algae, which sucks up oxygen in the water, the candidates said.

Mr. Bredemeyer and Mr. Domino said the board is keenly aware of groundwater conditions and, as a waterfront community with a strong agricultural industry, monitoring nitrate levels is a top priority.

Mr. Bredemeyer said the Trustees base permitting on science and work with sister regulatory agencies, such as the state Department of Environment Conservation, to control water contamination.

It’s a system Mr. Domino says doesn’t need fixing.

“Things are getting better in Southold Town,” he said. “We have to use scientific data to find out what we need to address first.”

Mr. Finora said he believes Southold Town does a better job than municipalities further west, but he suggested there’s room for improvement.

He and Mr. Wells said the primary source of Southold’s nitrate problem is not the farmer, but failing residential septic systems.

“Leaching is happening on a daily basis,” Mr. Wells said. “It is a very serious situation.”

Mr. Wells suggested that the Trustees revisit the manner in which town septic systems are monitored and reach out to other communities dealing with the issue of nitrate pollution, giving Cape Cod as an example. In recent years, several towns on the Cape have adopted legislation to oblige homeowners to purchase new septic systems to reduce nitrogen output, according to news reports.

While stating that nitrates are “the single worst problem” facing the Trustees, Mr. Funke said it would be unfair to ask residents to pay for expensive upgrades to their septic systems.

Mr. Finora disagreed sharply with his fellow Democrat.

“Little by little, we are losing the battle,” he said. “People will realize it’s better to have clean water than green grass.”

PUBLIC BEACH ACCESS

Where does waterfront beach property cross over to public land?

The Democratic challengers argued that the present town government hasn’t been doing enough to protect Southolders’ right to walk along local beaches.

The issue was brought to the forefront of the campaign two weeks ago, when the full slate of Democrats running for town offices — all currently all held by Republicans — purchased an advertisement in The Suffolk Times claiming that “some people” want to take away residents’ beach access.

During the debate, Mr. Finora said the ad was designed in response to an issue the public was bringing up “time and time again.”

The New York State Public Trust Doctrine says that anything seaward of the mean high water mark on the beach is public land and anything landward of the mean high water mark on the beach is private property. The wrack line, where debris washes up on the beach, is often considered an informal high tide mark, but it can change from day to day.

Mr. Finora and Mr. Wells said the town is responsible for drawing the line in the sand.

“We need to create a system where the community is involved in deciding were the mean high water mark is,” Mr. Wells said.

Republican hopefuls said the law is on the books and it is an enforcement issue outside the town Trustees’ purview.

“If you are doing something inappropriate, the bay constable should show up,” Mr. Bredemeyer said.

Mr. Funke said beach access “doesn’t seem like it is that much of a problem” and agreed with the Republicans’ stance on enforcement.

“I’m not sure what we can do with the wrack line, we certainly can’t monument it,” he said. “The people that are involved should just step down and stop fighting.”

TRUSTEE REPORT CARD

The current Board of Trustees is doing fairly well, according to hopefuls on both sides of the party line.

When asked to give current Trustees a letter grade, Mr. Wells gave a “B” rating.

“They uphold code and work hard,” he said. “However, they don’t reach out to the community.”

Mr. Wells feels the Trustees need to step up communication efforts with the public and make the process of applying for permits more transparent and easier for the average citizen to follow.

Incumbent Mr. Domino disagreed, saying members are accessible to the public and rewarding the board an “A+” grade.

“We hit all the bullet points in the mission statement,” he said.

Mr. Sanders echoed Mr. Domino’s response, while Mr. Finora and Mr. Bredemeyer said the voters would answer that question on Nov. 5.

Mr. Funke declined to respond.

“How am I supposed to know?” he said.

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10/10/13 8:00am
10/10/2013 8:00 AM

An advertisement in last week’s Suffolk Times has turned waterfront property lines into a campaign issue.

A walk on the beach sounds peaceful. But in Southold Town, where property lines have been a bone of contention between beachfront homeowners and people passing by on the shore, it’s now become a political issue as well.

“It started out as an issue that was somewhat minor about a decade ago but now, this seems to result in conflict on a much more regular basis,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell. “It’s a big issue, and it’s a growing issue.”

Last week, the full slate of Democrats running for town offices, currently all held by Republicans, purchased an advertisement in The Suffolk Times claiming that “some people” want to take away Southolders’ right to walk along local beaches and questioning if the present town government has been doing enough to protect those rights.

“Nobody likes one-party rule,” the ad states, alluding to Southold’s all-Republican Town Board and Board of Trustees. “Protect your basic rights from drifting away.”

“We’re just reacting to the number of complaints there have been from property owners who feel that the public walking in front of their property is a violation of their property rights, and I think the confusion stems from the interpretation of the mean high water mark, which is generally not understood,” said Geoffrey Wells, a Democratic candidate for one of three open seats on the town’s Board of Trustees.

The New York State Public Trust Doctrine says that anything seaward of the mean high water mark on the beach is public land, and anything landward of the mean high water mark on the beach is private property. The so-called wrack line, where debris washes up on the beach, is often looked at as an informal high tide mark, but it can change from day to day.

So how do you know where the mean high water mark is?

Both Mr. Russell, a Republican, and Mr. Wells agree there is no official document that defines where the mean high water mark is on Southold Town beaches. The mean high water mark is meant to be an average of the high tide mark over a 19-year period.

There have been several recent court cases on the subject involving beachfront properties on Long Island Sound in Mattituck. In one 2007 case, the court ruled in favor of a group of property owners after the state failed to defend the case. In another case in 2011, a court backed a Mattituck man who was accused of trespassing on private property along the beach near Mattituck Inlet.

The court cases reflect a general public confusion over the issue, as Mr. Wells has said.

“People don’t understand what the actual mean high water mark is, and they don’t know where it is,” Mr. Wells said. “The public and the homeowners are in a state of interpreting where the line might be. As part of our campaign, we’re saying let’s resolve this.”

He said the first thing that needs to be done is to revisit the mean high tide mark and either commission a survey to pinpoint exactly where it is or use existing surveys or aerial maps to do so.

Mr. Russell disagrees.

“On the issue of where the mean high water mark is, there’s a real technical problem with that,” he said. “You can ask five different surveyors and come up with five different answers.”

Other issues also complicate the matter, such as the fact that some waterfront property deeds reference the mean high water mark as being the end of the property, whereas other deeds give specific metes and bounds for a parcel but make no mention of the mean high water mark, Mr. Russell said.

“Ultimately, to find the mean high water mark, basically a surveyor or an engineer is out there trying to find the least erroneous answer to an unanswerable question,” Mr. Russell said. He said that even if the town undertook a plan to identify where the mean high water mark is, it would be subject to a challenge from beachfront property owners. The findings of such a venture would merely be an opinion and not a solid, technical answer to the question, he said, adding that it would also be a very costly undertaking.

Trustee president Jimmy King said he agrees with Mr. Russell that it would be impossible to formally locate the mean high water mark on all beaches within the town.

“I don’t see how it can be done,” he said. The public beachfront land along both the Sound and Peconic Bay in Southold Town is state land, Mr. King said, and it would be the state’s responsibility to mark the mean high water mark on those beaches, not the town’s.

Mr. Russell said he invited the secretary of state of New York to attempt to designate where the mean high water mark is, but that invitation has not yet been accepted.

Joseph Finora, another Democrat running for Trustee, says he believes there will be more conflicts in the future, especially in light of recent “superstorms” that will leave more of the beach under water and bring high tides closer to private property.

“In the future, the big picture answer is that we’re going to need greater cooperation among neighbors who live on the waterfront,” Mr. Finora said.

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