Jun 26, 2013 10:39 AMBy Michael Wright In her annual “State of the Town” address earlier this month, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst thanked town employees for their long hours of work, sometimes without additional compensation, during the Superstorm Sandy onslaught and recovery. As a reward, she promised that Town Hall would be closed on Friday, July 5, giving employees a four-day weekend.
On Tuesday night, though, she had her promise revoked by her colleagues on the Town Board.
A resolution to officially close Town Hall and several other town-operated offices for the additional day following the regularly scheduled July 4 holiday failed to win a majority of support from board members when Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Councilwoman Christine Scalera voted against the measure, citing concerns about contractual issues and the justification for giving employees an additional day off.
With Councilman Jim Malone absent from Tuesday night’s meeting, Ms. Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming’s votes in favor of the day off were not enough to make it official.
Ms. Throne-Holst said she will consider calling a special meeting of the Town Board after this week’s work session on Thursday, June 27, to ask the board to cast another vote on the proposal, in hopes that Mr. Malone would provide the deciding vote for the extra day off.
“I apologize to the people who were looking forward to that day,” Ms. Throne-Holst said after the resolution failed. “For those who were the boots on the ground and did not put in for extra time ... we don’t have the ability to give raises or bonuses. What we can give is extra time.”
Ms. Throne-Holst said that on the holiday weekends, especially with a single workday left after a major holiday, very few people come to Town Hall for regular business.
But Mr. Nuzzi objected, saying that on one of the busiest weekends of the East End’s year, the town should not be closing its offices for an additional day. He also said that town employees are generously compensated with time off and have ample opportunity to take the day off using one of their alloted personal days.
Mr. Nuzzi said that his own review of the contracts with town employees revealed that with alloted holidays, personal days, vacation days and sick days, most employees are given five to six weeks of time off from their jobs during the year and some are afforded as many as 12 weeks off. He noted in a separate conversation, that the vast majority of town employees do not even use all their alloted time off in a year and that, if they did, the town would have a hard time functioning.
“I appreciate the work that our town employees do,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “But I think there’s ways to show appreciation outside of working apart from the collective bargaining agreement, which already states that there are 13 paid holidays. I’m not sure it is doing a service to the residents of the town to allow for an additional day off. The claim that there is no cost to the public ... I think is untrue.”
“We all appreciate our workforce and they go above and beyond,” Ms. Scalera said. “If this were my own personal company and I wasn’t in trust of the residents’ money, I feel it is a luxury I could do. But as I sit ... I feel uncomfortable working outside a bargained contract.”
Not all town services would have been closed on July 5, as Town Police officers, bay constables, animal control officers, parks maintenance workers and various other staff are typically required to work on holidays. Ms. Throne-Holst’s resolution provided that those workers would be granted an additional day off to be used at their discretion before the end of 2013. The additional day off could not, the supervisor said, be carried over or banked for future additional monetary compensation as some vacation and sick days can.
Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato told board members that she had referred the resolution to the town’s labor attorneys and that they had deemed that granting the day off would not affect collective bargaining agreements.
CPI AnalysisThe Town Board accepted the generic environmental impact study for plans to build condos alongside the Shinnecock Canal and a hotel and convention center at the former Canoe Plan Inn nightclub property.
The board deemed the Draft GEIS complete this week, six months after rejecting the initial version submitted by consultants for the would-be developers, Rechler Equity LLC.
The board scheduled a public hearing on the EIS for its August 13 meeting.
The GEIS examines the potential impacts of the condo development and the restoration and expansion of the former CPI building.
Flanders Farmers MarketThe Flanders Farm Fresh Food Market will open for its third season this Saturday, June 29, at the David W. Crohan Community Center located at 655 Flanders Road.
The re-opening of the market, which provides fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables, will be celebrated with a performance by local singer Caroline Doctorow.
Seven local farms participate in the market, including Country Garden, Halsey Farm & Nursery, Halsey’s Green Thumb, Lisa & Bill’s Fresh Vegetables, the Milk Pail, Pike Farms and Sagaponack Potato Company. The market will be partnering this year with the Blue Duck Bakery to provide fresh baked goods as well and for the first time will accept credit cards.
Local teens will be working at the market again this year, receiving training from food management experts on food handling, agriculture, business management and customer service.
FEMA ReimbursementsFederal officials announced this month that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be upping its share of reimbursement for costs incurred by local governments in the recovery from Superstorm Sandy to 90 percent, up from 75 percent.
With more than $2.6 billion in damage to public property already claimed, federal rules allowed FEMA to increase the federal funding rate to help local municipalities repair their infrastructure.
Southampton Town has submitted more than $2.5 million in bills from the storm for consideration for reimbursement. Much of the money went to salaries for town employees working overtime during the storm and subsequent clean-up effort and for the costs of removing tons of debris from town roads and properties.