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Town seeks input on how to spend community grant money

Southold Town officials are expecting to receive $230,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to support local projects in 2019.

At a Town Board meeting Tuesday, officials asked the public to weigh in on what kinds of needs should be met with these funds.

Councilman Bob Ghosio said the money could be used for a variety of projects, from economic and housing development to public service.

“Eligible activities include acquisition and demolition of blighted property, housing rehabilitation, elimination of physical barriers for the handicapped, public facilities and improvements, street reconstruction, code enforcement, public water projects, economic development, and public services,” he said at the meeting.

There were three speakers during the public hearing.

Mattituck resident LeRoy Heyliger asked for Town Board help for traffic woes.

“We’ve been having a lot of problems on Factory Avenue,” he said, asking the board to use grant funds to study traffic and come up with a solution.

Mr. Heyliger said the problems stem from large tractor trailers arriving at the Mattituck Plaza In recent years, he said the trucks have caused damage to landscaping and utilities on the Unity Baptist Church property, where he is a deacon.

The church property is frequently used as a turning point, he said.

“Trying to maneuver these behemoths causes a backup of traffic on both the north and south ends of Factory Avenue,” Mr. Heyliger said. “Needless to say this presents a safety hazard for residents living on the north side of the railroad tracks.”

Two local community organizations also expressed interest in grant funds for the upcoming year.

Cathy Demeroto, executive director of Community Action Southold Town, said needs have increased locally over the past several years. The group has been providing services for Southold Town residents in need since 1965.

So far this year, Ms. Demeroto said the organization’s food pantry has served 281 households, including 27 seniors, 478 adults and 302 children.

Through the Feed-A-Kid program, 153 children have received meals, up from 138 last year. “That’s what we provide when school is out for vacation to kids who receive free and reduced price meals,” she said.

Recent data from the New York State Department of Education shows that there are 1,113 students in Southold Town considered to be economically disadvantaged. “So you can see the great need, and that’s only considering school-aged children,” Ms. Demeroto noted.

Grant funds would help the group expand their operations, which include educational programs, workshops and a recently-launched “Farm to Friend,” program that connects fresh produce to those in need.

“It’s our hope to launch a mobile food pantry in 2019 to help reach more people who don’t have access to transportation or are homebound,” she said.

Maureen’s Haven is also seeking funds to continue their outreach. According to Dan O’Shea, executive director, the group assisted over 350 homeless individuals on the East End last year.

Five churches in Southold will open their doors this winter to help approximately 120 homeless people in the area, Mr. O’Shea said. The winter shelter program begins Nov. 1.

“This year we’re continuing it through April. We typically ended it in March, but we do recognize that the last couple years April has been incredibly cold,” he said.

According to Mr. O’Shea, the homeless population tends to be transient among the five East End towns. “As of 2018, we’ve directly assisted at least 11 individuals in the Town of Southold that we at least know of,” he said.

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Photo caption: Cathy Demeroto, executive director of Community Action Southold Town, spoke at Tuesday’s hearing. (Tara Smith photo)