Southold Highway Supe’s Vegas trip a bad bet

02/17/2011 1:51 PM |

Southold Highway Superintendent Pete Harris won’t get his chance to go to Las Vegas on the town’s dime next month.

Mr. Harris had planned to attend a construction industry trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center March 22 through 26 to look for a payloader and skid steer for the town, but at a work session Tuesday morning, four Town Board members frowned at the trip’s $1,374 cost.

Sending the highway superintendent alone to Sin City wasn’t what swayed the board to nix the trip. “Pete’s one of the few people I know who could go to Las Vegas and not have any fun. I have no qualms with that,” said Town Supervisor Scott Russell at the work session.

Mr. Russell said he’d received an overwhelming amount of correspondence from members of the public who did not want Mr. Harris to go on the trip after Mr. Harris, at a board meeting two weeks ago, launched into a public tirade over the board’s concerns about funding the trip.

The trip had initially been slated to cost taxpayers nearly $2,000, but Mr. Harris proposed Tuesday cutting the public funding to $1,374, after he made new travel arrangements.

Money was put aside for the trip in the 2011 town budget, according to Mr. Harris, but Mr. Russell said that was no reason it had to be spent.

“I know the travel line” in Mr. Harris’s departmental budget “was large, mostly because of the cost of getting things to Fisher’s Island. That’s still going to be a cost,” said the supervisor. But “nobody ever said, ‘Let’s put $2,000 in the budget to cover CONEXPO in Las Vegas,’” he added, referring to the trade show, called CONEXPO-CON/AGG.

Board members pointed out that other town employees had gone to conferences and had made much less costly travel arrangements. Councilman Vincent Orlando said that Planning Director Heather Lanza recently stayed with friends while attending a conference in Boston to save the town money.

“We’re billions of dollars in debt in this country,” said Councilman Al Krupski. “It’s all a good idea, but it’s got to stop somewhere. I don’t think we can afford all these things.”

Mr. Russell added that the proposed Las Vegas trip came on the heels of Mr. Harris’s request that the town pay for his overnight lodging when he went to a conference on nearby Shelter Island last year. The town declined to do so, and Mr. Harris instead had to take the $17 round trip ferry ride each day of the conference, which he said he was forced pay himself.

“We had no choice but to turn that down,” said the supervisor of the overnight lodging on Shelter Island.

Mr. Harris said that, with the town planning to spend nearly $300,000 on the equipment, the advantage of talking directly with every manufacturer in one place, without dealing with salesmen, would make the Las Vegas trip worthwhile.

“I have a difficult time discriminating between a manufacturer and a salesperson,” said Councilwoman Louisa Evans. “A manufacturer wants to sell you a machine too.”

Also at Tuesday’s work session, Joanna Lane and John Betsch, members of Southold Voice, a non-profit group run by waterfront property owners concerned about environmental issues, urged the town to incorporate social media into its FEMA-mandated emergency management plan. Their group is a finalist in a FEMA contest called “The Challenge,” which provides funding for innovative emergency management strategies.

Mr. Betsch and Ms. Lane pointed out the importance of Facebook and Twitter during the recent uprising in Egypt. The sites also helped communities in Australia manage when they were hit recently by a huge cyclone.

Some members of the Town Board seemed wary of the new technology.

Councilwoman Louisa Evans said that she didn’t understand how Twitter worked, prompting Councilman Al Krupski to quip, “They’re still resisting electricity on Fisher’s Island.”

Other members of the board said they didn’t know anything about how Twitter worked beyond its news feed exploited by attention-grabbing celebrities.

“You need to be able to convince people that Twitter is not just junk,” said Ms. Evans.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said that he thought Twitter should be incorporated in the town’s emergency plans. Councilman Vincent Orlando suggested that the town use it to notify people when Town Hall is closed due to bad weather. When that comment drew a laugh from Ms. Lane, Councilman Chris Talbot asked her what was so funny.

“I think it’s funny that Town Hall is closed when there’s a storm. That’s when you need information,” she said. Town Board members using Twitter, she added, could keep the public informed of hazards from their kitchen tables at home, but they should not be unavailable when the public needs them the most.

“I didn’t mean to insult you,” she said.

The board made no decision Tuesday on whether to support the plan.

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Comments

comments

30 Comment

  • Overnight lodging for a trip to Shelter Island, a trip to las Vegas to window shop for a piece of heavy machinery, wait I have to ask again, overnight lodging for a trip to Shelter Island…Really?

  • I think Superintendent Harris made it perfectly clear to the board that the travel costs would undoubtedly be better than offset by gleaning information necessary to get the best equipment for the expenditure by talking with the manufacturers directly. We are fortunate to have a Highway Super who gets the job done,within budget, and has an uncanny knack for saving the Town real money on equipment. So we tie his hands?
    I can’t help thinking that if it was in Dubucque or Fargo it would have been approved. But watching the man work as Highway Super and previously for the State Highway for years, I can say that the man wouldn’t go to relax. I feel the board made the wrong call.

  • We need new blood in Southold Town… from top to bottom. We need town leaders who embrace the future NOT shun it. That includes utilizing technologies like Twitter and Facebook… welcoming competition (ie Go Green)… amending an antiquated town code to, once and for all, create clear boundaries for wineries and businesses (while encouraging them to grow)… cutting fat… everyone says that government employees make too much? I disagree…. SOME employees make too much… look closely at the salary disparities… is the town’s senior planner really worth $100k + a year? Hey, why not CLOSE the dump altogether…? It IS possible… No one in power in Southold Town thinks outside the box… they think inside the box… a very very small box.

  • Oh and btw? How many times HAS Harris gone to Vegas on the town’s dime? Someone should have stopped that bs a long long long time ago….

  • “You need to be able to convince people that Twitter is not just junk,” said Ms. Evans.

    Hm… anyone ever heard of the revolution in Egypt?

  • I think Pete can afford to pay for his own trip since he makes a Salary of $160,000 per year. Proudly paid for by the Town of Southold hard working citizens.

  • I truly believe that all Southold Town Hall positions should be seriously scrutinized based upon job responsiblity and salary.

    http://WWW.SEETHROUGHNY.COM
    This website will disclose Southold Town Hall Salaries: Prepare to be SHOCKED!

  • you are over by at least 64,000 dollars – check your facts before making statements like this

  • you are over by at least 64,000 dollars – check your facts before making statements like this

  • Incredible how you lie. Pete makes less than $100k per year… you idiot.

  • Your website is wrong. It shows pay increases between 2009 and 2010 – but there was a pay freeze – everyone made the same amount in 2010 as they did in 2009…. also, some of those figures are wrong… compare it to the Suffolk Times story recently published that shows town salaries.

  • Sorry Pete, I mispoke concerning your Annual Salary. You do not make $160,000, but just merely $95,000. I confused your Salary with James Bunchuck’s $110,000 Salary as the Solid Waste Supervisor.

    Unfortunately, you can still afford a $2500 Las Vegas Trip.

  • The website is correct. I downloaded the spreadsheet and I confronted a Town of Southold Employee. They verified that the Salaries were correct for 2010.

    http://WWW.SEETHOUGHNY.NET
    The Revolution Has Begun!

  • You’d better check again…

  • The website is not wrong. You don’t want to believe it.

  • I CONTACTED THE WEBSITE AND THE DATA HAS BEEN VERIFIED!

    This Salary issue with South Town is only going to escalate once ALL the residents discover this information.

  • You are correct……The Revolution has begun! The average resident household income i Southold is $48,000 – $50,000 per year and a COP make $100,000? Where is the logic?

  • Oh, yeah, right. Because if a website says its correct, it HAS to be correct.

    Welcome to the InterWebz.

  • those cops protect you – you freakin loser.

  • The COP’s protect a lot of people around the USA, and for a much less annual salary. I guess our Police Blotter warrants $100,000 per year. When was the last murder in Southold? I guess DWI and Vehicle Inspection stops are just as dangerous?

  • OK, if you are wrong, then you send me the accurate list of salaries for the Town of Southold. How would you know anyway unless you are the $60,000 payroll clerk?

  • Most manufacturer’s of equipment will bring the machine to your yard for a free trial. We are talking about a payloader and a skid loader! He is not going to buy a rocket ship!
    Pete you also need to lighten up in public settings. Your hot headed temperment doesn’t help with brownie points from we the taxpayers.

  • Leave pete alone he does a ood job

  • Here retard: http://southoldtown.iqm2.com/citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1208

    just proving your site is wrong… get your GED and maybe you wont be so jealous… you couldn’t handle a town job.

  • Sadly, the Town Board’s attitudes (disinterest, suspicion, and resistance) towards an emergency plan and progressive communication technologies is indicative of a fundamental weakness in our Town’s governance…other than the Supervisor, they’re all PART TIMERS. They really don’t care what happens when they walk away from their “gigs.” That’s why nothing ever gets done, why our Town’s web site looks like it was designed by a twelve year old, and why some take “pride” in how backwards we are. (Note: Also, we are the only Town of our type in New York State with a six member Board, which therefore requires a SUPER MAJORITY of FOUR to obtain an affirmative resolution. That makes any change virtually impossible. THINK about the Fishers Island Justice/Board member, representing 300 people, while the other Board members represent 4,000 each.)

  • If they are Part-Time workers, thery sure make a nice Salary. The clerical postions are making between $40,000 to $60,000 per year.

    You pointed out a good observation: The Southold Town Website design really sucks!
    I don’t think it is reflection of Pride, but a reflection of Greed!

  • I meant the Town Board members, other than the supervisor, as being part-timers. Salaries (2006) as follows:

    Supervisor $85,905, Councilmen $28,980, “Justice/Councilwoman” Evans $40,012. One wonders how many cases she hears from Fishers Island, population 300.

    A cynical person might look at our Town’s web-site and figure they prefer ignorance rather than transparency. Obfuscation by design.

  • I meant the Town Board members, other than the supervisor, as being part-timers. Salaries (2006) as follows:

    Supervisor $85,905, Councilmen $28,980, “Justice/Councilwoman” Evans $40,012. One wonders how many cases she hears from Fishers Island, population 300.

    A cynical person might look at our Town’s web-site and figure they prefer ignorance rather than transparency. Obfuscation by design.

  • I meant the Town Board members, other than the supervisor, as being part-timers. Salaries (2006) as follows:

    Supervisor $85,905, Councilmen $28,980, “Justice/Councilwoman” Evans $40,012. One wonders how many cases she hears from Fishers Island, population 300.

    A cynical person might look at our Town’s web-site and figure they prefer ignorance rather than transparency. Obfuscation by design.

  • I’m sure the money he spent on the new equipment would have more then compensated the town for the 2500.00 spent on the work Vacation.
    Other then the purchasing of the equipment there are many other informative thing at the expo one could use on the job in the future.
    Haven’t one of the people agents this work Vacation ever been on vacation and brought something back either to work or used it at work Ever.