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Town Hall Notes: Settlements approved; ambulance called for supervisor

The Southold Town Board approved a pair of monetary settlements to litigation at its Town Board meeting last Tuesday night. The first authorized the payment of $150,000 to Stony Brook University Hospital. Town officials said the payment was related to employee medical costs.

The second settlement stemmed from litigation between the town, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and a Valdosta, Ga. warehouse owner over improperly stored waste. The board authorized a $20,000 payment to the owner of the warehouse where a New Jersey-based carting company stored the waste. 

Georgia’s environmental protection agency told Newsday that more than 40 municipalities from across the East Coast were named as potential responsible parties in the litigation, including the Suffolk towns of Southold, Shelter Island, Southampton and Smithtown.

The carter, Care Environmental Corp., and the property owner N.L. Bassford Jr., are working with the State of Georgia to clean up the property, where Newsday reported the refuse was stored so poorly, it posed an “immediate threat to life and health.”

Town officials told Newsday they no longer do business with the carter and they are seeking to recoup settlement costs.

SUPERVISOR TENDED TO

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell was absent from last Tuesday’s Town Board meetings, one day after a staff member called for an ambulance to Town Hall. He declined to discuss the issue at any length, saying in an email it “isn’t worth anyone’s time.” The town police department declined to release a police report on the incident and a Freedom of Information Act request was denied by the town attorney’s office, citing an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

“There was no need for an ambulance,” Mr. Russell said. “That’s what happens when you have such a protective staff around you.” 

The supervisor added that he wished to thank the Southold EMTs for their “professionalism and caring.”

HIRING DELAYED

The Southold Town Board took action to delay the appointment for a full-time office assistant for the Zoning Board of Appeals at its meeting last Tuesday night, with members saying the town must first address staffing needs in the building department.

The appointment would have moved a part-time staffer to full-time effective July 1 at a salary of just under $40,000, town officials said.

“I feel our priorities are misplaced here,” said Councilwoman Jill Doherty, who led the meeting in the absence of Mr. Russell. “I don’t think it’s the time to add more staff to zoning, given the needs in the building department.”

Councilman Bob Ghosio also voted against the resolution, which was then tabled to a later date.

In a follow-up interview, Ms. Doherty said the building department has an open building inspector position, but the town is awaiting the results of a recent civil service exam before filling the position. The town is also looking at possibly adding more staff to the department, which has been hit hard by a building boom, she said.

Building department records show 631 building permits were filed in the first five months in 2021, up from 452 in 2019.

When the Town Hall annex reopens next month, Ms. Doherty said the building department will only be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to give the staff a chance to catch up each day.

POLICE OFFICERS EARN PROMOTIONS

A pair of Southold Town police officers were promoted last week. Steven Grattan earned the rank of lieutenant, while Christopher Salmon was promoted to sergeant.