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Village notes: A board meeting recap

Village by: Chrissy Ruggeri, June 9, 2022

According to Town of Huntington officials, the Village of Northport can proceed with the revitalization of the basketball court. Bathrooms will be relocated to Cow Harbor Park, said one official.

The Northport Village Board meeting on June 7 included discussions of various topics and resolutions passed by the board. Below is a recap of some important issues that were brought up during the public participation portion of the meeting and on the agenda.

Basketball revitalization project
The Village is still in “back and forth” mode with the Town of Huntington over the plans for the basketball court revitalization project, according to Mayor Donna Koch. “They had a couple of questions for us in regards to construction equipment and depth of recycled concrete, so we’ve been back and forth answering those questions,” she said.

During her commissioner report, Trustee Meghan Dolan said that the TOH offered a preliminary “these plans are great” response with a couple of spec-related questions, and that the grant paperwork for the project has been processed.

Trustee Joe Sabia brought up that the Town of Huntington had condemned the public bathrooms at the Woodbine Marina, the property right next to Cow Harbor Park that is owned by the TOH. Trustee Dolan responded by saying “I’m aware that they condemned the bathrooms and I don’t think that has anything to do with the basketball project right now.”

Trustee Sabia asked Mayor Koch if the bathrooms did have anything to do with the project and she responded, “not at this time.”

Today, June 10, Lauren Lembo, public information officer for the TOH, informed the Journal that the town's engineering board approved the revitalization project and the Village is now able to proceed. She also stated that the bathrooms “will be relocated to Cow Harbor Park and rebuilt by the Village to be used at the park.”

When reached for comment this afternoon, Mayor Koch confirmed that Village officials met with the Town of Huntington on Thursday to discuss a number of ongoing projects, including the creation of public restrooms in Cow Harbor Park to support the existing playground and “future” basketball court renovations. “The Town of Huntington brought additional insight to the projects and provided approval for the combined creation of public restrooms and basketball court beautification project,” said Mayor Koch. “The Village continues its efforts to move the projects forward in a comprehensive manner to provide the best possible outcome for our residents.”

Police chief contract
Mayor Koch was authorized to execute an employment agreement between Chief of Police Chris Hughes and the Village, with three votes in favor of the contract (Mayor Koch, Trustee Dave Weber and Trustee Meghan Dolan), one opposed (Trustee Ernest Pucillo), and one abstained (Trustee Joe Sabia).

The contract, which has been in the negotiating phase for the last two months, was a topic of concern among residents during public participation. When Blair Beaudet asked why he wasn’t able to FOIL the contract before it was approved by the board, Mayor Koch said, “I felt it wasn’t warranted to give out a contract that was being negotiated at the time.” While the negotiation of contract terms were done in executive session over the last several weeks, the public was not able to view the final version before it was approved that evening.

There was some confusion when sharing the numbers off the spreadsheet during the meeting. Mayor Koch cited that the chief’s current base salary is $249,500. With worker’s compensation payout and longevity pay, his total salary for 2022 is $272,286 and will increase by 2.75% every year for four years.

Trustee Dave Weber explained that every Village employee received a 2.5% salary increase this year and the chief was receiving a 2.75% increase. He said, “It’s an astonishing number, but the reality is that we have to compensate him fairly and if we hold him at the same salary, then that’s not really fair to him because he’s not getting a raise.”

Trustee Pucillo said that Chief Hughes is a great asset to the Village and he thinks he exemplifies everything you want in a chief of police. He added, however, that one has to separate feelings about a person when making decisions regarding salary and benefits. “It is our responsibility to determine a fair wage…regardless of who occupies that position.”

Trustee Sabia abstained from the vote, stating that he did not have enough information on the final contract.

Former treasurer retained as consultant
A resolution was passed by the board to keep Len Marchese, the former Village treasurer whose retirement went into effect on May 31, as a CPA with an annual retainer amount of $35,000. Mayor Koch explained that Marchese can be called “at a moment’s notice” to advise the board; if he’s needed for additional tasks, he will be paid at the rate of $185 per hour. The board voted with three in favor of the resolution (Mayor Koch, Trustee Weber and Trustee Dolan) and two opposed (Trustee Sabia and Trustee Pucillo).

Resident Josephine Rizzoni questioned why, when Mayor Koch said that she wanted to “get rid of” Marchese while campaigning, she is retaining him as a consultant, especially after hiring a new full-time treasurer to take his place. “We all voted for you and we worked very hard to get you elected, thinking that you would do the right thing, and I don’t see that happening,” Rizzoni said.

Mayor Koch said that she has to do the right thing for the Village and explained that the Village Board needs a consultant, despite having a full-time treasurer, during this transitional period. “He’s coming back as a consultant,” she said of Marchese, “to help us with some of the bigger projects we have, such as the highway labor contract… and there’s a lot of ins and outs of the Village and Len is an extremely experienced municipal finance advisor.”

Trustee Dolan explained that it’s not unusual for a municipality to use a consultant during a period of transition. “There are a lot of huge projects going on with very large dollar amounts that Len and others have been involved with over the past number of years,” she said.

Trustee Pucillo and Trustee Sabia were not in favor of hiring Marchese as a consultant. While reading his public statement on the matter, Trustee Pucillo said, “We need to be concerned about adding levels of bureaucracy, increasing costs and not making progress. It is a mistake to expand the scope of government without reasoning.” He said in the interest of fiscal responsibility, he does not think the Village needs a consultant to move forward.
Trustee Sabia said he voted no on the resolution because it’s time to move on from Marchese, and forward with their new full-time treasurer.

The hawk
There was another hawk attack two weeks ago, this time involving a woman who had to have several stitches around her ear because of the punctures. Mayor Koch explained that there were plans to remove the nest and the DEC was working with the Village to make this happen. Right before the nest was scheduled for removal, it was discovered that there were chicks in it and the DEC said they couldn’t move forward, according to the mayor.

Chief Hughes reported that the last attack appears to be two weeks ago. “We did have a hawk, ironically, get hit by a car on Church Street while feeding on some prey in the road,” he said, but he’s not sure it’s the same red-tailed hawk that has been involved in human attacks. “We’re hoping it’s one in the same,” he added. The DEC is on board to remove the nest once the chicks are able to leave on their own, which is likely in August or September.