Orient asks for 1st shot at buying town boat

The fate of a surplus town police boat sparked a somewhat testy exchange between Orient Fire Department commissioners and Town Board members Tuesday.

After acquiring a new vessel for the bay constables this spring, the town declared as surplus its 1989 24-foot Boston Whaler, powered by twin 150 hp outboards. It then advertised for bids, which are due by July 21.

The Orient fire commissioners don’t want it sold to anyone but them. They argue that their community has an acute need for the boat and asked the Town Board to cancel the bidding and sell the boat directly to their department.

With the nearest Coast Guard station over on Fishers Island, “we live in a black hole out there,” said commissioner Bud Griffiths. “We don’t have any coverage out here other than our little Zodiac and putting it out in Plum Gut is a risk. We’re in desperate need of that boat.”

The Town Board wants to wait for the bids to come in before making a choice, said Councilman Bill Ruland. Since the boat was purchased with taxpayers’ funds, “John Q. Public does have a share in this,” said the councilman.

Several board members noted that the town can reject any and all bids and sell the boat directly to anyone, including the fire department, provided the price reflects fair market value.

The board was not swayed by comments that public safety concerns should give the OFD a leg up.

“Nothing has precluded you from going out and getting a boat of your own,” Councilman Ruland said to commissioner Scott Harris, a former town supervisor.

When Mr. Harris cited the present economy, Mr. Ruland replied, “That’s not out concern.”

“It should be!” Mr. Griffiths shot back.

During the board’s evening meeting, Supervisor Scott Russell sought to calm the troubled waters.

“We would very much like to see the Orient Fire Department get the boat,” he said. “But we have to go through a process that is fair and equitable.”

Part of condo suit dismissed

The Town Board has won a round in its legal fight with the developers of The Heritage, a 139-unit condominium project planned for a 49.5-acre former farm field on Griffing Street north of the Cutchogue post office.

The developers, NOCRO Ltd. and the Heritage at Cutchogue LLC, are pursuing a state Supreme Court challenge to the Town Board’s adoption in early 2009 of new planning rules that would reduce the project’s yield while that application was still pending before the Planning Board.

The developers, in addition to suing the town, also sued the Town Board members individually, a move seeking to strip away the legal shield they enjoy as public officials and open the door for potential punitive damages.

While the main case remains open, Justice Peter Fox Cohalan dismissed the individual complaints in a June 15 decision.

Community meeting tonight

The next in a series of town community meetings will take place tonight, Thursday, July 15, at 7 p.m. in the community room of Southold Free Library. Agenda items will include the Southold 2020 comprehensive plan and recently enacted accessory apartment legislation. Town Board members will be on hand to take questions from the public.

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