Trustee Nick Krupski appointed provisional solid waste coordinator

In a split decision last Tuesday, the Southold Town Board appointed Trustee Nick Krupski to the role of provisional solid waste coordinator.

“It’s an important job, and it’s sort of an under-appreciated job that I take seriously,” Mr. Krupski said in a telephone interview following the board’s vote. 

Mr. Krupski has been interested in the position — currently held by Jim Bunchuck, who plans to retire — and applied for it last year. Since then, the Cutchogue native, his fellow Trustees, the town legal department, the former town supervisor and current and former Town Board members have pondered whether or not an elected official could also hold a full-time, paid position within the town.

During last week’s meeting, Town Board members shared their opinions on the matter before taking a roll call vote, and Mr. Krupski was appointed to the job by a vote of 4-1. Councilwoman Jill Doherty dissented and Mr. Krupski’s father, town Supervisor Al Krupski, abstained. 

“After two rounds of interviews by two separate boards, there is no question that Nick [Krupski] is the right person for the job here,” Councilman Greg Doroski said, while acknowledging that he’d had some initial reservations. 

“I think it’s important to note that [Mr. Krupski] is a public elected official in town,” Mr. Doroski continued, “and my requiring him to resign an elected position because of a personal preference, in my opinion, is not really appropriate, especially when you consider that after consulting with our legal department … there’s absolutely nothing in the town code, there’s nothing in state law, there’s nothing in the town’s policies and procedures to prevent this or even advise against it.”

Councilman Brian Mealy concurred that asking Mr. Krupski to step down as Trustee would be “inappropriate.” Councilwoman Anne Smith voted “without reservation” to appoint the man she remembers as a student from her time as a principal in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District. Councilwoman Louisa Evans said that, while she also had reservations, she “trust[s] that [Mr. Krupski] will let us know if [holding both positions] becomes overwhelming, and I think he is the best person for the solid waste job.”

Ms. Doherty described Mr. Krupski as “qualified” and praised him for having “done a great service and a great job as a Trustee,” but said she voted no to prevent what she characterized as an unprecedented appointment.

“I feel very strongly that an elected official should not also hold a position in the same town that they’re an elected official,” she explained. “It’s never happened and I think that’s a slippery slope that we’re starting to open up here for the future of elected positions that the people entrust us for. Although it’s legal — he legally can hold both positions — I think that we just should not open this up and go down [this path].”

As the town’s solid waste coordinator, a civil service position, Mr. Krupski will earn $125,000 annually. His appointment will remain “provisional” until he takes and passes a civil service exam, for which no date has been set. The jurisdiction of his new position is limited to the special tax district that contains the town transfer station in Cutchogue — and does not overlap with the purview of the Town Trustees. The town’s five elected Trustees serve four-year terms and conduct site inspections to approve or deny permit applications involving land within 100 feet of fresh and saltwater wetlands. As a Trustee, Mr. Krupski earns an additional $25,216 annually under Southold’s adopted 2024 budget. 

Even without any conflict between the two positions’ responsibilities, former supervisor Scott Russell expressed concern about appointing Mr. Krupski to the additional role, saying he “could never support someone drawing two salaries from the same town, the same taxpayers.”

“He was great, he was an excellent candidate for a lot of qualities,” Mr. Russell said of interviewing Mr. Krupski while still in office as supervisor. “The lack of [solid waste] experience was something he could gain. But working as a Trustee as well was a concern I conveyed to him … I’m very shocked that he decided not to [step down]. There’s no need for him to stay on there. There are plenty of people that could replace him and do a great job. It’s time for him to pass the torch and focus on a good paying job that’s one of the most important in town government. He owes that to the taxpayers. If he’s going to take a six-figure salary, he owes it to them to make it his singular focus and work really hard to learn it.”

Regarding his discussions with the former supervisor, Mr. Krupski said, “[Mr. Russell] was certainly discussing that, but I certainly never agreed to anything along those lines. I said I would consider it.”

Mr. Krupski said that if he were to resign from his Trustee position, he would “feel like I’d be letting those people down,” referring to voters. Running unopposed, both he and Glenn Goldsmith each won third terms as Trustees last November. 

“If there was any legal concern or time-stealing concern, I wouldn’t have even considered doing both,” said Mr. Krupski, who also works full-time at Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Over 6,000 people who voted for me [last November] knew that the Trustee was a part-time position, and knew that I worked full time … I would hope that people understand that there’s certainly no conflict here and there’s no ill intention. If anything, it’s the opposite, and that I feel like I shouldn’t be letting people down. If, in four years, they feel that I shouldn’t run again, or I shouldn’t be elected again, that’s for them to decide.”

Mr. Krupski explained that he has been able to fulfill his Trustee responsibilities outside of working hours. Before the vote, Mr. Doroski also noted that Mr. Krupski has been successful in balancing his Trustee responsibilities with those of his job at BNL, from which he will be resigning prior to starting the waste management role. Now, with a much shorter commute, Mr. Doroski noted, “I have faith that [Mr. Krupski will] actually be able to do more on the board of Trustees.”

For the past few years, Mr. Krupski has been a member of a six-person team at BNL responsible for all of the potable and nonpotable water throughout lab facilities. His group oversees drinking water pump stations, filtration systems and more than 40 miles of pipes.

“Everyone takes their water for granted when it shows up at their house, clean and drinkable,” Mr. Krupski said. “In my mind it’s no different with solid waste … The garbage just goes away, and if it didn’t, it would be a huge problem, both environmentally and [for] public safety. That’s something that I really thought [about] when considering [career] options.”

Among the top priorities Mr. Krupski will inherit as solid waste coordinator is helping the town adapt to the closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill, which will stop accepting construction and demolition debris from Southold Town at the end of this year. Mr. Krupski said this was an issue he was asked about during interviews and said he has been exploring recycling programs for the materials Brookhaven will no longer accept.

Effective, March 28, Mr. Krupski will become only the second solid waste coordinator in Southold Town history. His predecessor, Mr. Bunchuck, has served the town in that capacity since 1990 and has postponed his retirement to allow time for him to work with Mr. Krupski and acquaint him with his new position. 

“I’m going to be taking a vacation day [from BNL] next week to go down to the dump and start getting into it with Jim [Bunchuck],” Mr. Krupski said. “I’m going to a solid waste conference the following week to try and hit the ground running … There’s going to be a small amount of overlap. He has 30 years of experience, so I’ve been trying to learn from him already because it’s an important job.”