Village “Powerless” In Face of Fall Storms

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“Three years to get an outlet in a wall,” lamented Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris during a Tuesday night Sag Harbor Board of Trustees meeting.

The outlet he was referring to is for a generator purchased by the Village of Sag Harbor over a year ago for the village’s designated emergency shelter at Pierson High School, which has yet to be installed. For close to three years now, and through almost two hurricane seasons, the hookup for the generator remains elusive, a new bump in the road seemingly presenting itself each step of the way.

On Thursday, September 4, with tropical storm Hannah swirling towards the East End of Long Island, Ferraris convened the village’s emergency management team, which decided to move forward with the purchase of a trailer with a refrigeration unit, lighting and bedding. The trailer and lighting, said Ferraris, were bought to ensure, should a shelter be needed in Sag Harbor, lights and refrigeration for medication would be available despite the fact that the school has been unable to install the hookup for the generator.

“At this point we are talking about minimal costs, but this is by no means an ideal situation,” he said on Monday.

As a part of the village’s federally mandated emergency management plan, and at the suggestion of the American Red Cross, Pierson High School was designated the village shelter in case of an emergency. According to Ferraris, the village agreed to purchase the generator with the school agreeing to pay for the hookup – a glorified outlet for the generator to plug into.

In August 2007, then-school superintendent Kathryn Holden said schematics were being created for the hookup and the cost of the project was being discussed. According to Sag Harbor School District Business Administrator Len Bernard, the school is now mere steps away from having those plans approved by the New York State Department of Education, which by law must issue a permit on most large projects before the school can move forward. Bernard said the school has been working with the state for over six months trying to get this approval and believed the project would have been completed by the end of July.

Like Ferraris, Bernard admitted feeling frustrated by the situation, likening working with the state to running in a hamster wheel.

“Quite frankly, some of the questions have become quite technical and it borders on minutia,” said Bernard on Tuesday. “We are trying the best we can. At this point our school architect has spent over 40 hours just on the application.”

According to Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano – who was enlisted this week in an effort to help move the process with the state forward – there has been an enormous amount of back and forth trying to get the hook-up approved by the state.

“They are apparently going through this with a fine tooth comb,” he said. “It’s at the point where they are asking questions I am unsure are even relevant.”

Bernard and Fabiano both related that at one point the specs and emissions of the generator were being questioned by the state, which confused them both as the approval is for the hookup, not the generator. Bernard noted, in the event of an emergency, no one from the school would be handling the generator hookup – the village’s management team will be in charge of that.

“At one point I said to them, we have hurricanes lined up like planes going into Kennedy and we are sitting here quibbling over a generator,” said Fabiano, who, like Bernard, hopes the hook-up will be in place sometime in the next month.

But in the meantime, the village cannot wait, added Fabiano.

“If we have an emergency in the interim, we have to be prepared,” he said. Fabiano added he is comfortable the village is ready and able to provide for its citizens in the wake of a storm with these new emergency management supplies.

HarborFest Fury

Both the board of trustees and Fabiano expressed frustration with the new organizers of HarborFest – the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce – after Fabiano and village officials reported receiving schedules and insurance information just days before the annual event, despite the fact that village officials and police need to schedule personnel for the festival.

“I would like to ask that the board, in the future, if there is a permit for something, ask that all information is supplied to the village at least a month or two in advance,” said Fabiano, later adding, “I think we have to look into this for next year, if this is a feasible thing to do.”

 “I couldn’t agree with you more,” said Ferraris, calling the situation an “embarrassment” for the chamber.

The board did add a planned 5K race and Saturday night Marine Park concert featuring the Lone Sharks to the chamber’s approved application for HarborFest, pending the events are covered by insurance.

On Wednesday, Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen said he took full responsibility for the situation, adding the chamber would discuss how next year’s festival should be handled.

Moratorium Extended

In other news, the board adopted another three-month extension to the commercial moratorium in the village on applications for site plan review and for change of use. The moratorium has been in place for over a year now while the village attempts to revamp its zoning code.

The historic Schooner Mary E is looking for a home, and hoping Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf may be the right fit. Matthew Culen approached the board on Tuesday, and explained that the educational vessel could provide an opportunity for the village to highlight its maritime history.

The board forwarded the application to the village harbor committee for their input.

Lastly, former planning board chairman Jerome Toy, who headed up the village planning board during its review of the condo application at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory, resigned from the board effective September 24, the day after his final planning board session.

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