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01/05/16 4:34pm
01/05/2016 4:34 PM

krupski-1

After his fellow legislators rebuffed an effort last year to hold more meetings on the East End, Legislator Al Krupski, with the assistance of recently sworn-in Legislator Bridget Fleming, successfully negotiated to hold two committee meetings in Riverhead Town, his office announced Tuesday.  READ

03/26/15 2:47pm
03/26/2015 2:47 PM
The Millstone Power Station in Waterford, Conn. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

The Millstone Power Station in Waterford, Conn. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

In a split vote Tuesday, county lawmakers approved an $80,000 study on the impacts that Connecticut’s Millstone Nuclear Power Plant has on water temperature of the Long Island Sound. (more…)

06/13/14 7:00am
06/13/2014 7:00 AM
Dave Colone, Chairman of Suffolk County Planning Commissioner; Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Bob Delucca, President and CEO of the Group for the East End, County Executive Steve Bellone, Dick Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Deputy Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. (Courtesy photo)

Dave Colone, Chairman of Suffolk County Planning Commissioner; Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Bob Delucca, President and CEO of the Group for the East End, County Executive Steve Bellone, Dick Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Deputy Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. (Courtesy photo)

Not once, but twice, this newspaper has wagged its finger at Suffolk County government for dipping into its Drinking Water Protection Program without just cause, using the voter-approved preservation dollars to balance its general fund books.

Environmental groups responded to the county’s actions with litigation.

Now, a proposed settlement to those lawsuits has emerged that would give the cash-strapped county the much-needed flexibility to borrow from the fund for the next few years and require it to repay the money from 2018 through 2029.

The county Legislature must approve the deal and, if that happens, it will go to a countywide vote via referendum.

The deal should be approved by both the Legislature and the general public.

Is it perfect? No. The county should not have taken the money in the first place. Should some punishment, in the form of some interest repayment to the fund, arguably be in store? And could environmentalists squeeze some more from the county through the agreement? Perhaps.

But as with any compromise, this one leaves both sides relatively satisfied, yet unsatisfied.

Most important, however, it allows the government to move forward and focus on the myriad other problems it faces.

Debt-laden Suffolk County has been up a financial creek for years. It’s used quite a lot of paddles and is starting to run out of them. It’s sold buildings to only start renting them back, dropped the prices of buildings currently for sale by millions of dollars and laid off hundreds of employees to try to balance its budget. So when one line within that budget is found to have a surplus of nearly $140 million — even though it’s a fund reserved for county residents’ most valuable resource — borrowing from it with the explicit agreement that it will be paid back beats plugging a hole with debt payments, plus interest.

The county’s projected deficit in 2015 is already expected to be lower than it was coming into this year, so this agreement could indeed be pivotal to getting back into the black.

On the other hand, it’s hard not to see where environmentalists came from when they filed the lawsuits. This deal simply returns all of the funds the county took from the Drinking Water Protection Program, while red-lighting any future changes to the fund without voter approval.

Both are actions environmentalists have called for from the start.

It might not seem that environmentalists are getting very much in the deal, but securing the county’s promise in writing to pay back every cent it borrowed is an achievement on its own. Keep in mind that last fall, the legislation county leaders passed to authorize more borrowing from the fund merely stated it was “the intent of the Legislature to replenish the [fund] beginning in the fiscal year 2017.”

If the county executive would start by proposing a modest increase in county property taxes — a small portion of the average homeowners’ tax bill — it might obviate the need for further borrowing and show real dedication to closing that budget gap and replenishing the Drinking Water Protection Program.

02/05/13 9:58am
02/05/2013 9:58 AM
BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Police Chief James Burke (right) and Parents for Megan's Law director Laura Ahearn (left) before the public safety committee this morning.

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Police Chief James Burke (right) and Parents for Megan’s Law director Laura Ahearn (left) before the public safety committee this morning.

The 38 homeless sex offenders in Suffolk County who are currently living in construction trailers in Riverside and Westhampton would be spread out, one per shelter, at county-run shelters throughout the county and would be monitored more closely by county police.

That’s if the plan, crafted by the Suffolk County Police Department and the Parents for Megan’s Law advocacy group, is approved by the county Legislature today.

Police Chief James Burke and Parents for Megan’s Law director Laura Ahearn pitched the plan to the Legislature’s public safety Committee in Hauppauge last Thursday morning.

Chief Burke assured the committee that the sex offenders would not be housed in shelters that serve families.

“That is true and that is for the record,” said Chief Burke, when asked by committee members for assurance the offenders would not have contact with families.

The “terrible” policy of clustering sex offenders together must end, the chief insisted.

“Let’s face it. If I took 20 bank robbers and put them under the same roof, at the end of the week, what would I come up with?” he said. “Twenty better bank robbers.”

Chief Burke told the committee that the department’s intelligence database will be updated to include information on the activities of the more than 1,000 sex offenders throughout the county, which can be cross-referenced and easily searched by officers in the field.

Officers will check in with the homeless sex offenders each night to ensure that they are staying where they are assigned, he said.

“They’re gonna know that we know where they are,” he said.

Chief Burke said the department expects costs of the new program to be significantly less than the $4 million the county is currently spending to house the sex offenders on the East End, since the department will be utilizing police personnel who are already in the field.

Ms. Ahearn unveiled her group’s new eight-point plan, which includes hiring two teams of retired police officers to verify addresses of [non-homeless] sex offenders and verify the work addresses of Level 3 sex offenders. Offenders at lower levels are not required to report their work addresses to police.

She said 60 percent of Level 3 offenders don’t currently report their work addresses, even though they are required to by law.

Enforceability in the five East End towns, which all have their own police departments, would depend on local police chiefs signing on to the county’s plan, said Chief Burke.

He said the county’s resources and intelligence would be made available to any other police department that signs on to the plan.

“I think right now, this is the better way to go at this time,” said Public Safety Committee chairwoman Kate Browning of the plan. “We need to make sure that we’re doing right by our communities. I definitely think this is going to be a much stronger effort than the CHI shelters.”

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