Chamber members convene to discuss key issues facing Mattituck  

The Mattituck Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual dinner last Monday at Meadowlark Vineyard where several community members and local officials discussed the hamlet’s most pressing issues. 

Terry McShane, chamber president, led the “State of Mattituck” event and invited speakers to inform guests on what is happening in the community, as well as how certain matters are being addressed. 

Shawn Petretti, superintendent of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District, spoke about the challenges facing the school system right now — the most urgent being the district’s declining enrollment and the impact of changing demographics. 

Mr. Petretti said the class of 2012 represented the district’s most recent peak the number of graduates, roughly 160 students. Since then, there has been a steady decline — for example, the superintendent said, the current fourth grade enrollemt at Cutchogue East Elementary is roughly 50 children. 

“We’ve seen a decrease of about 30% of our student body,” Mr. Petretti said.

Regarding shifting demographics, Mr. Petretti said the district went from having little to no students who qualified for free or reduced cost lunch service to more than 30% of families now classified as “economically disadvantaged,” a level that automatically qualifies all students for the free lunch program. 

Southold Police Department chief Martin Flatley gave an update on public safety in the Mattituck area. The department is in the middle of upgrading its computer dispatch and records management systems, as well as implementing new technology in police vehicles, the chief said. 

He also noted the recent uptick in the theft of items left in unattended cars. Mr. Flatley warned residents to be mindful what they leave in their vehicles and be sure to lock them

“They’re stealing laptops, cash, pocketbooks, anything that you decided to leave in your car that probably shouldn’t be in your car,” Mr. Flatley said. “For years and years, we never had to lock up our cars at night on the North Fork, but we’re a little bit vulnerable right now.” 

 Mr. Flatley also touched on the department’s officer recruitment efforts, which are becoming more difficult. He said the number of applicants who take the Suffolk County Police officer exam has declined from approximately 35,000 to 11,000 annually countywide.

Southold Town Supervisor Al Krupski discussed the town’s environmental sustainability efforts, such as addressing coastal resiliency and erosion. One effort includes cultivating data to map specific areas of town that experience persistent flooding, not solely as the result of big storms. 

 So far, Mr. Krupski said there have been meetings with the local fire and police departments as well as local civic groups and the Emergency Management Committee to establish evacuation routes to get a better idea of how first responders are dealing with major flooding events. 

Mr. Krupski also discussed the challenges of retaining workers and noted that the town board had recently discussed using some of the Community Preservation Fund to help businesses deal with the high cost of area housing. 

“That money is there and we’re trying to figure out how to best use it to support local businesses because you need to have the housing that you need for your business,” Mr. Krupski said. 

At the end of the dinner, Mr. McShane presented a plaque to former Southold Town supervisor Scott Russell in thanks for his dedication and support of the Mattituck Chamber.