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Oct 15, 2008 9:45 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board reluctantly approves spending hikes

Oct 15, 2008 9:45 AM

Reluctantly, the Southampton Town Board authorized a series of spending increases Tuesday at a time when its members are looking to cut costs.

The board carved out a special block of time during Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the appropriations with Sandra Cirincione and Peter Gaudiello of General Services, the department responsible for the spending hikes.

The first expenditure went through the roof, literally, as the Town Board approved $55,000 in slate shingles for the renovation of the roof at Town Hall. In August, the Town Board budgeted $895,755 for the new roof, roughly $780,000 of which has already been spent. In a 3-2 vote, with Town Board members Anna Throne-Holst and Dan Russo in the minority, the Town Board voted this week to allocate the $55,000 for the new shingles that are supposed to replicate the look of the original roof, bringing the total cost of the renovation to nearly $1 million.

The dilemma faced by Town Board members at Tuesday’s meeting was that the new shingles had already been installed on one section of the roof—work that General Services proceeded to do without Town Board knowledge or approval.

Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said she voted in favor of the appropriation because “it was too late” to reverse course. “And I don’t want to have a two-toned roof,” she said. However, Ms. Kabot said she was upset that the Town Board wasn’t consulted before the purchase was made.

Ms. Cirincione said the town’s procurement policy allows department heads to make monetary adjustments on projects so long as that adjustment does not exceed more than 10 percent of the project’s total cost. “We made a decision we shouldn’t have made,” Ms. Cirincione said. “But we are under the gun to get the new roof completed while the weather permits.”

Deputy Supervisor Richard Blowes, who heads up the General Services Department, approved the purchase of the slate shingles. Mr. Blowes did not attend Tuesday’s meeting. Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who voted for the $55,000 for the same reason as the supervisor, said the Town Board should not be in a position to approve change orders “after the fact.”

Because Town Hall falls within Southampton Village’s historic district and is under village jurisdiction, the slate shingles were purchased in order to adhere to that historic character. The slate shingles match the ones atop the nearby Bridgehampton National Bank and Southampton Elementary School.

But when pressed by Mr. Russo as to whether the village had “required” the new slate shingles, Ms. Cirincione responded no, but added that the decision to go with the more aesthetically pleasing slate shingles was made prior to the recent implosion of Wall Street. “For a roof that’s going to last at least 20 years, we thought it was a worthwhile expense,” she said.

Mr. Nuzzi said the shingles approved in the original contract were acceptable for the new roof and that the selection of the slate shingles was a purely aesthetic one.

“I’d like to see Town Hall get the most beautiful of everything,” Mr. Russo added. “But at a time when we have to deny department heads much needed staff, and at a time when we’re raising the tax rate 5 percent, I don’t see how we can spend this kind of money on shingles.”

Ms. Throne-Holst pointed out that the new shingles were not necessary as the last three roof replacements did not include slate. “If we don’t use slate shingles then we’re just replacing what was on the roof before,” she said.

Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, who voted with Ms. Kabot and Mr. Nuzzi, agreed with her colleagues that the procurement policy had to be reviewed to prevent such large monetary adjustments slipping under the radar.

“The department heads have to have some discretion,” Ms. Kabot added. “Some decisions have to be made out in the field. But we should have known about this before it went through.”

Justice Court Relocation

The Town Board adopted a $2.9 million budget to fund the relocation of the Town Justice Court to its facility on Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays.

In addition, the board tapped another $258,855 to fund modifications to the relocation plans. The extra money will go to Cassone Leasing LLC, who is providing the modular buildings that will be used to house the new court facilities. Specifically, the $285,855 will pay for enhanced space, such as justices’ chambers, attorney conference rooms and a reception area for court clients.

Initially, the town purchased eight modular buildings to accommodate plans to move the offices of the tax assessor and tax receiver to the Jackson Avenue property. Instead, the town decided to keep those offices at Town Hall and relocate the court, which is currently operating out of cramped quarters in the basement of Town Hall.

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The Town Justices get paid well, have a great health plan and retirement and only work one (1) week a month. Why do they need thier own private office? Couldn't they just lock thier desk & file cabinet. I'm sure they trust thier fellow justices.Let's save some money.
By southamptonnative (11), southampton on Oct 16, 08 8:00 AM