12/20/13 7:00am
12/20/2013 7:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY FILE PHOTO |

The phones at Greenport Village Hall have been ringing off the hook this holiday season with angry residents wondering why the purchased power adjustment line on their electric bills has more than doubled since summer and has far exceeded the increase village officials warned of in August. And so far, some villagers are saying, answers have been hard to come by.

A letter to residents dated Aug. 14 stated village electric customers would begin paying between $7.75 and $10.69 more in PPA charges per month moving forward. The additional fee was needed to cover a hike in the village’s new long-term transmission agreement with the New York Power Authority, which transmits hydropower generated in Niagara Falls to Greenport, according to Mayor David Nyce.

The mayor said the new 28-month agreement with NYPA would stabilize rates for the foreseeable future. While base rates for electric service would remain the same, the increase would be listed under the Purchased Power Adjustment line, Mr. Nyce said.

EDITORIAL: Greenport residents deserve an answer

Residents who have continued to pay attention to the PPA line say the dollar amount this month escalated beyond the amount village officials had specified in August.

After receiving emails and calls about the issue, The Suffolk Times asked several Greenport residents to produce copies of their recent electric bills. Two sources, one who wrote to the newspaper and another who was approached by a reporter, sent in their three most recent bills. An examination of those monthly statements shows the PPA rate per unit of electricity consumed, which is not specified on the bill, has risen from 1.68 cents on bills due in October to 7.89 cents per unit in the most recent statements.

PPA charges increased even when usage declined from the previous month. Although one customer’s usage dropped significantly from November to December, for example, the dollar amount she was charged in PPA fees nearly doubled from $38.96 in the previous billing cycle to $77.92 in the most recent statement.

In a telephone interview last week, Mr. Nyce said the large increase under the PPA line in December was due to a one-time service fee and that rates would return to normal in the next billing cycle.

“There was an additional Independent Service Operator charge that happened this month … it’s an additional charge that we’re passing on,” he said. “We are working with the power authority, we’re still doing our own research.

“This has nothing to do with any other [transmission congestion contract] arrangements that we have,” the mayor said.

That explanation is the first many customers have heard since the bills were mailed out, said village resident William Swiskey, an outspoken critic of the administration. A retired village utilities director and former trustee, Mr. Swiskey said he saw that portion of his bill rise about 80 percent from November to December.

Since receiving his bill, Mr. Swiskey said he reached out to the mayor and NYPA for clarification about the rate hikes, but was unable to get an answer.

“It seems to me the Village of Greenport is unable to explain them,” he said in a telephone interview Friday. “It doesn’t make much sense to pay a bill and not know what you’re paying for. The public is entitled to know.”

When asked if there was a reason residents weren’t informed about the additional charge Mr. Nyce said, “Nope.” There was no discussion of the PPA increase at this week’s Village Board work session.

The electric department was formerly under the direction of utilities director Jack Naylor, who was placed on administrative leave this summer before resigning in September. Currently, the responsibilities of the utilities director are being shared by the mayor, village administrator, clerk and treasurer.

When contacted for an explanation last week, village administrator David Abatelli said he did not have an answer.

“I hate to say this, but I really don’t know a lot about the key information about the electric rates,” he said, before suggesting a reporter call village treasurer Charlene Kagel and clerk Sylvia Pirillo for an explanation.

Ms. Pirillo said that when contacted by residents about the hike, she tells them “it’s part of the PPA.”

“It was a bill that we received from NYPA with an inordinately high PPA charge,” she said. “I don’t know why. That’s what it is.”

When told by a reporter that she was said to be the appropriate person to speak about the issue, Ms. Kagel said, “Actually, that would not be me.”

[email protected]

08/06/13 4:00pm
08/06/2013 4:00 PM

A new vintage goods shop is in the works for downtown Greenport.

The Village Planning board voted unanimously to approve a site plan for the store during last Thursday’s regular session.

Applicant Michael Sweigart, the current owner of the property, located at 429 Main Street, plans to convert the 3,000-square-foot space into a first-floor retail shop and second-floor apartment.

Village administrator Dave Abatelli said Mr. Sweigart’s daughter will live in the apartment and operate the store, which will reportedly sell vintage clothing and other antique items. The building, often referred to as the old Suffolk Times building, was home to the newspaper until the spring of 1988. It has mostly served as an art gallery since then.

[email protected]

04/22/13 10:00am
04/22/2013 10:00 AM

Visitors to Greenport Village could soon be prohibited from parking on a portion of Sterling Street’s eastern side if a proposed amendment to a local law is approved.

A public hearing on the amendment is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Third Street firehouse.

Mayor David Nyce said the proposal came from a recommendation by village administrator Dave Abatelli, who said cars parked along the waterfront where the road curves have caused unsafe conditions for southbound travelers.

“I ride my bicycle down there all the time,” the mayor said. “It is a dangerous spot.”

The parking ban would stretch only about 50 feet on the waterfront side of Sterling Street. A parking ban is already in effect on the residential side of the street. The proposed amendment would eliminate just three more parking spaces, village officials said at a public work session Monday evening.

At least three residents have already reached out to the village with letters regarding the amendment, officials said. The letter-writers argued that a parking restriction would make it more difficult for them to access their boats docked in local marinas.

Several residents showed up at the Village Board’s previous meeting to discuss the issue, only to learn the hearing had been pushed back due to a typo in a previously published legal announcement. The hearing was then re-advertised and scheduled for Monday.

Mr. Nyce said it’s important for residents and boaters to understand the law has not yet been approved, and the public hearing will give them a chance to share their opinions.

“[The ban] is not necessarily going to happen,” he said. “We’re just going through the process.”

CHECK BACK LATER FOR MORE ON TONIGHT’S MEETING

[email protected]

08/03/12 5:00pm
08/03/2012 5:00 PM

Greenport Village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program is slowly morphing into the municipality’s comprehensive plan, a move that has angered some residents.

During a roundtable discussion July 25 at the Third Street firehouse, about 20 people — including village administrator David Abatelli and Village Board members David Murray and Chris Kempner — heard planning consultants speak on how the proposed changes aim to improve the area’s quality of life.

While many towns and villages limit their LWRPs to how their waterfronts can be used, Greenport’s plan, first completed in 1988 in an effort to deter waterfront condominium development, may now cover the entire village.

The LWRP was last updated in 1998 and a Harbor Management Plan was added for the construction of Mitchell Park.

David Smith of VHB Engineering, Surveying & Landscape Architecture, based in Watertown, Mass., said the updated report has been nearly two years in the making.

Enhancing drainage throughout the village is one of the newest proposals in the draft.

Water running off impervious surfaces, such as rooftops, roads and parking lots, picks up pollutants on its way to nearby waterways. Through stormwater mitigation, pollutants are typically redirected and filtered through permeable surfaces.

The village is currently finalizing its strategy to comply with new federal and state mandates aimed at improving water quality in the bays and the Sound.

Under orders from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Conservation, the village must act not only to improve the quality of water that fails to meet federal clean-water standards, but also must record and report each plan developed and each step taken.

Southold Town faces the same requirement.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has designated Greenport Village as a municipal “separate storm sewer system” operator, commonly known as MS4.

The MS4 designation means the village must develop, implement and enforce a stormwater management program requiring developers to submit more stringent pollution prevention plans to ensure building projects don’t contaminate wetlands. Mr. Smith said the village’s MS4 plan will be integrated into its LWRP.

Many who attended last week’s meeting expressed their displeasure with Mr. Smith’s presentation after he failed to provide concrete details about proposed zoning changes. When residents asked for the locations of properties slated for rezoning, Mr. Smith pointed to a few areas on a map projected on a screen and said he couldn’t provide exact locations because he didn’t know which streets those properties were on.

“We have nothing to review, so how can we comment?” village resident Robert Hamilton asked.

Although the over-200-page report was posted on the village website earlier this month, residents described downloading the large document and reading through it as “laborious.” The bulk of it contains decades-old information about the original plan and the most updated information is located at the back of the document.

Michael Osinski, former Village Trustee and owner of Widow’s Hole Oyster Company, said the village should focus on presenting details about the proposed zoning changes so that resident don’t have to “pull teeth” to find information.

“Why hasn’t anyone stood up there and given us a listing of what the pending changes are?” Mr. Osinski asked. “Isn’t that the purpose of this meeting?”

Village residents Bill Swiskey and John Saladino said the last 10 to 15 pages of the report should have been created as a separate digital document so that residents could find the proposed updates. In addition, they suggested the village hold another, more formal, meeting. The village advertised the July 25 meeting as a “community conversation” and it wasn’t recorded.

Mr. Abatelli said the roundtable discussion format was decided on so that residents could express their comments freely. He said he will schedule another public meeting and will arrange for it to be recorded.

Following a 30-day written comment period, environmental studies must be completed before the Village Board can take any action on the proposed plan.

“A lot has to happen before there’s a zone change,” Mr. Abatelli said. “It’s long. It’s slow. It’s painful. And after the dust settles, not much is changed.”

In addition to proposing zoning changes, the $67,000 draft report recommends building a support facility for aquaculture, expanding McCann Campground on Moore’s Lane, enhancing Moore’s Woods and creating a trail from Long Island Sound to Peconic Bay.

Mr. Swiskey questioned why the draft proposes new development instead of focusing on enhancing the waterfront.

“What’s Moore’s Woods got to do with the waterfront?” Mr. Swiskey asked. “This sounds like somebody’s dream and everyone else’s nightmare.”

Hard copies of the report are located at Village Hall and Floyd Memorial Library. Residents can email their comments to Mr. Abatelli at [email protected].