Letters: April 14, 2011


Here are the facts

I am writing on behalf of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education as its president to refute the statements made in a recent Letter to the Editor. (They’re Not Overpaid, Suffolk Times, April 7.) The author’s statements are factually incorrect and misleading, and must be corrected.

Correctly stated, the Mattituck-Cutchogue CSEA contract expires on June 30, 2011. However, the author is incorrect when she states that negotiations have stalled. We continue to have a healthy dialogue with the CSEA negotiating committee and trust that at some point in the not-too-distant future we will reach an agreement in terms of a new contract.

The author also incorrectly states that the CSEA members do not receive longevity raises, step increases or tenure. CSEA members currently enjoy longevity raises and step increases in addition to any annual raise negotiated in the current contract. Teacher assistants, as para-professionals assisting teachers with the education of our students, do receive tenure under New York State education regulations.

We would urge the author to verify facts before putting pen to paper or making public statements. The Board of Education remains available to answer any questions that the public may have.

Jerry Diffley


The real culprits

Who is fooling who?

Having read the articles in The Suffolk Times on the pollution in West Creek and other waterways in Southold Town, I can only be amused. Do some people honestly believe that the only reason West Creek is polluted is just from the geese, other wildlife and the dogs walked by errant owners?

When I walk my dogs, I’m not sure if I’m picking up their feces or is it from deer, raccoon, opossum or geese?

Signs cautioning fishermen as to no clamming are along West Creek. It’s because the town allowed houses to be built hanging on the water’s edge. Houses built on postage stamp-sized lots. Where does all their waste leach into? Where does their septic/cesspool flow?

Not only human waste but perhaps something more toxic, as their washing machine belches out much more toxins than animal waste and probably a much larger volume than our feathered friends, et al.

Didn’t the county impose a ban on certain soaps and soap powders not so long ago? I believe it did. My husband and I weren’t living here full time then, but I remember my mother buying and using only county-allowed soaps and detergents at the time.
To all those humans who have their feathers ruffled over the pollution of the creeks and waterways, maybe another ban should be enforced for all the waterfront homes that hug the coastline.

They should be banned from using any such toxic detergents, lawn fertilizers and unknown agents, etc., that can and probably do leach from their septic/cesspool systems into the waterways. This should also apply to any home within 50 to 75 yards from the water.

The wildlife will always be there, as it should. But something that can be controlled is the toxins.

Doesn’t everything run downhill?

Valerie Leoniak


We pollute the bay

Never has it entered my mind to attend a conference on wastewater management, aka sewage. Still less that I would be riveted by it. But there I was on April 6 at just such a conference in Riverhead.

Here’s what I learned:

Urine is the No. 1 killer of scallops and other marine life in Peconic Bay.

Our urine, flushing down our toilets, passing through our septic systems, seeping into our yards, and gradually making its way to the bay. The role played by fertilizers, pesticides and storm runoff pales in comparison.

(See article in The Southampton Press, March 31, for latest findings from marine biologists at Stony Brook University.)

Fish don’t stand a chance.

The toxic level of nitrates for shellfish, fish and other things living in the waters of our estuaries is so much lower than the safe level for human drinking water that the fish don’t stand a chance.

The county health department is taking care of human needs, but whether we consume public water from the Suffolk County Water Authority or private water from our own wells, what we send into our septic systems can create conditions in our bays that the scientists said can “kill a swimming fish in an hour.”

Technologies can fix the problem for individual homeowner septic systems, small community systems and on up. The county health department is deeply engaged in investigating them and preparing to make recommendations. We need to start acting now.

Essentially, the technologies work by installing a filtering system that provides a home for billions of the wonderful bacteria and bugs that convert the bad stuff into good stuff, or at least neutral stuff. There are many ways to do this and the most familiar one employs peat.

Public water makes it worse.

Why? Because it is human nature not to take action about toxins seeping out of our septic systems if our drinking water is coming in from a water main instead of our own backyards. Plus, of course, public water allows for denser housing, which means more houses, more people, more septic systems and so on.

Public awareness and support is the biggest challenge to restoring our bays and to getting these new systems installed in Southold. The technologies are there and are being used in other communities.

Costs are a challenge. We were told we should ask for a design that fits our budgets, not get a design and then find out how much it costs.

Local, county and state policies can and will evolve and will do so much more quickly if we, the people, get engaged.

Venetia Hands


It’s about equality

I thank Jack McGreevy for being so honest in his letter last week (“It’s not small-town,” April 7) stating that even if Southold’s present at-large system and Fishers Island’s Town Board one-member representation are unconstitutional and undemocratic, “like a lot of other people in our small-town, apple pie township, we like the present set-up.”

It’s a great country when one’s opinions, even when they effectively adjudicate or confiscate other people’s rights, are protected and cherished.

That “the present set-up” works for him and others should be tempered with a deeper perspective on how the set-up squares with our principles. We owe it to ourselves and our fellow citizens, even in our private opinions, to consider each other, especially in such serious matters.

Perhaps there are those in our midst who are not so pleased with the status quo or have been thwarted in their plans, ambitions or talents by “the present set-up.”

I’m very glad that Mr. McGreevy has joined the issues of councilmatic districts and, as he put it, the “weird situation” of Fishers Island. He’s right, as both issues share fundamental, albeit mirror, images of the democratic principle of “equal protection of the law.” That principal is stated in the constitutions of the United States, New York and Connecticut.

The Connecticut Constitution states, “All men when they form a social compact, are equal in rights; and no man or set of men are entitled to exclusive public emoluments or privileges from the community.”

I include the latter in case Fishers Island thinks it can get a better deal across the Sound.

Equal protection can be achieved by “one person, one vote” through fairly created representational districts, i.e., councilmatic districts. Southolders can meet these added challenges and appreciate the opportunities.

Certainly they are ready to talk about them. Think “apple pie” a la mode.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was appointed to the executive on March 28, 1948, committee of the Southold Democratic Committee last week.

My wife and I have been second-home owners for 22 years, and the committee felt that I could give a voice to people like us, longtime contributors to the town’s economy and life who do not vote here, yet.

Tom Rozakis


About the noise

Can anyone explain to me how the town code pertaining to the restrictions on some motor vehicles can be enforced?

Specifically ATVs “operated on privately owned property … in such a manner as to create loud, unnecessary or unusual noises or so as to disturb or interfere with the peace and quiet of other persons.”

According to the town police, they cannot address this because Southold Town has no noise ordinance. Something needs to be done in order to preserve the quality of life in Southold Town, whether it be in the form of a noise ordinance, curfews or time restrictions on noise at a certain level.

I understand the complexity of this and the need for special consideration for agricultural properties, which should be exempt when being used for agricultural purposes only.

If this code is not enforceable, then what is to prevent anybody from doing the type of motorsports that they enjoy? There are many auto racing fans out here that would be more than happy to have a place to test and tune their equipment.
Why should some have the privilege to enjoy their form of motorsports and not others?

Walter Shaffer


It’s still a dump

Maybe we can all learn a lesson from James Dinizio Jr., who insists on calling the Southold Town waste transfer station “the dump.”

The real difference between the old dump and the modern facility is that there are more piles. Hopefully the more piles there are, the smaller the size of the whole mess. The higher the number of piles, the more waste is separated out from the general mixed pile, the garbage which gets trucked out of town to be buried or burned.

The amount of garbage we have to dispose of is minimized by practicing the waste management principles of reduce, reuse and recycle. But we still make unsustainable amounts of garbage.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is that our North Fork community still meets at the dump.

The old town landfill is closed and capped. Southold Town Solid Waste Management District calls itself “SWMD” or “district.”

Only terrorists could love names like that. The Cox Lane sign reads “Town of Southold Transfer Station.” The sign on the main building reads “Town of Southold Municipal Solid Waste Facility.” These official names on the signs fail to accurately describe the place and it is highly unlikely that they will ever become popular names.

Even though we are not still burying everything in a single big hole, we are still dumping. I enjoy dumping reusable stuff at the reuse-it station. I enjoy dumping well-sorted recyclables into the appropriate bins. I also enjoy taking home a pile of leaf compost to dump on my garden.

There is something comforting about calling the dump the dump.

Benja Schwartz


What do you want to pay for?

Ben Franklin also said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch.”

Taxation is not the problem; spending is the problem. Corporations don’t pay income taxes (Economics 101), they pass them on to the consumers.  I recently purchased a stove and refrigerator from “GE” for $2,100. If they paid income tax it would have been $2,200, which would have bought more government, not more appliance.

Ben Franklin further stated, “We will cease to exist as a free country when the voters figure out they can vote themselves money.” He was asked after the constitutional convention what they had created, his reply “A republic, if we can keep it.”

Warren Kappenberg


All for the homeless

I am writing in response to last week’s letter by Dwayne Wagner, chairman of Peconic Community Council, regarding Maureen’s Haven.

I can assure the public that every dime raised at Rockin’ for the Homeless, an event graciously sponsored by the Lions Club, went to support homeless relief efforts, primarily at Mattituck Presbyterian Church.

While we did not contribute any money to PCC this year, we did in 2009 and 2010. This year, after lengthy discussion, our committee decided not to support PCC after several curious and questionable actions by the PCC board.

Our committee and homeless caretaker staff are volunteers. The tireless work of these numerous volunteers, in-kind donations and fundraising allows our program to function. Furthermore, we operate with the utmost in frugality to ensure that we can work within our budget. The committee could not justify supporting PCC’s hefty $400,000 budget for their administrative costs and felt the money would be much better spent going directly to the needs of the poor and homeless.

Caren Heacock, coordinator of the homeless program at Mattituck Presbyterian Church, met in October 2010 with Tracy Lutz, PCC’s executive director, Elaine Villano, who was a PCC board member at the time, and Kelly Holmes, who was serving as a PCC caseworker. During that meeting, Ms. Heacock explained the mechanics of our fundraiser, that PCC would not be a recipient.

She also produced our advertising materials illustrating the absence of the Maureen’s Haven name.

While I can appreciate PCC’s concern over the use of their Maureen’s Haven trademark name, which the public sees as being synonymous with all East End homeless programs, PCC should realize that they play a limited role in housing the homeless. The participating houses of worship that house and feed the homeless also need to raise money to offset their considerable expenses.

I hope this letter erases any doubt in donors’ minds as to how their money is being used.

Tom Gahan

Editor’s note: Mr. Gahan is the organizer of the Rockin’ for the Homeless fundraisers.


They’ll regret it

There have been several recent incidents of vandalism by use of a BB gun in the Southold area.

The shootings have obviously been done by young people who feel this is a harmless prank. Unfortunately, one day these children will have to contend with the guilt as they mature and realize the consequences of their actions. The guilt is worse than any punishment they may receive.

The last incident was the shooting of the property of a handicapped, elderly man who now has a $500 repair to his personal property. This gentleman is a World War II veteran and, despite his handicap and difficulty in walking, volunteers every day at the local hospital.

He has probably had a visit with the family or close friends of the perpetrators in order to bring them some happiness during their hospital stay. This gentleman wakes up every Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. to help at a homeless shelter. He has never turned down anyone who has asked him for a charitable donation.

It’s important that we talk with our children and let them know how they will one day look back at their actions in shame and have to live with the associated guilt for the rest of their lives. These children must be encouraged to work for the good of our town and community.

Let them look back at their childhood and be proud of their accomplishments rather than remorseful.

Lawrence Rubin


Save the runways

Are we on eastern Long Island being dangerously short-sighted?

The powers that be should give some serious consideration to saving and maintaining the once important and highly functional Navy/Grumman facility at Calverton in Riverhead and get this valuable, available asset up and running once again.

We need to learn from the Japanese experience what can happen in a disaster and how we might survive in a similar emergency and its following crisis.

As we know, there is no credible evacuation plan for us East Enders. With that stark reality in mind, a nearby functional airport may turn out to be our only saving grace in a man-made or natural disaster.

Yes, let’s learn from Japan.

Jack McGreevy


One last sweep

I’d like to thank the highway department for the stellar job of keeping our roadways safe and navigable this past very snowy winter. The crews that were deployed at all hours of day or night are to be commended.

However, is it too much to ask for a final follow-up to sweep up the significant amount of sand that has been left behind? Many of our roadways and arterials are clogged with the stuff and a small breeze sends up a sand storm that gets tracked into our homes, dirties our windows, pits the paint and windshields on our cars.

It also most certainly works its way into the bay and creeks, silting them up. I am not sure if there is also chemical residue that might pollute our waters.

While there may be a labor cost to sweep the streets, I have to think the sand could be stored for use next year and is bound to reduce the amount of dredging of our waterways. Most of the remaining sand has lodged to either side of the roads, so one pass with a sweeper in each direction should do it.

Is a final cleanup in the cards?

Let’s hope that we have seen the last of the snow for this season.

Kent Goodwin