Election season in Southold Town has now passed, and the Town Board has no time to waste getting back to work.
A pair of public hearings on next year’s budget were held Wednesday, just a day after Supervisor Scott Russell, Councilwoman Jill Doherty and Councilman William Ruland all handily won re-election.
During their acceptance speeches, all three thanked voters for their support and said they were looking forward to earning the trust the town placed in them. With that in mind, here are four issues that should be at the top of the Town Board’s priority list.
Code enforcement: Southold Town needs to make sure its rules are being applied consistently. Hiring more code enforcement staff — one full-time officer and one part-time — will help alleviate the stress placed on the town’s tiny code enforcement office. Code enforcement affects residents’ quality of life and safety. Online reporting forms and more staff are a good start. The Town Board now needs to follow through — and with ample reserves, they have the flexibility to come up with more solutions.
Affordable housing: The lack of affordable homes and rentals will continue to hamper the town’s growth. With the demise of a Mattituck developer’s plan to build a dozen purportedly affordable apartments on Main Road, the town lost an opportunity to increase its housing stock. While the board isn’t in the development business, members need to take an active role in brainstorming solutions.
Justice Court: The Justice Court situation has been an embarrassment for far too long. Inadequate security, resignations, cramped conditions, lack of storage space and a bail money theft scandal have all rocked the court in recent years. The town justice race is still too close to call at presstime, but both William Goggins and Brian Hughes have vowed to clean up the court’s reputation. While they and the court’s new director work to improve procedures on the inside, the board needs to take quick action to repair court infrastructure. Metal detectors and increased security have helped, but the town needs its own court building.
Creeks and water quality: Thousands of dead fish and turtles should serve as a wake-up call for the North Fork. We can’t be caught napping on the issue of water quality. It’s important that the Town Board maintain the pressure on county and state authorities to help keep our waters clean. A strong advocate for Southold’s waterways is exactly what the Town Board should be.