By Shoshanna McCollum
“Mindful Day” read a colorful banner decorated by children that hung in Fire Island School’s gymnasium. It served as an interesting backdrop at the Ocean Beach Village Board of Trustees meeting, held on Saturday, March 7.
“It’s been a hard winter,” said Mayor James Mallot, as he discussed hardships the Village faced this winter. They included pipes freezing at Village Hall and requiring emergency repairs. Also brought up in the Mayor’s Report was hindered freight and passenger ferry service due to the prolonged frozen state of the Great South Bay, as well as Fire Island Ferries application to Suffolk County Legislature for a rate increase. Requested increase is one-dollar per one-way ticket.
“I’m not inclined to scream about this because we would get part of it,” said Mallot.
He explained that the present contract Ocean Beach has with Fire Island Ferries Inc. stipulates that discounted bulk homeowner tickets would only receive an increase of about 55 cents per ticket.
In addition the contract contains a rider in which there would be a higher rent for landing rights at Ocean Beach terminal should a proposed fare increase be approved explained Village Administrator Steven Brautigam in a follow-up telephone conversation after the meeting.
Kevin Schelling’s Superintendent’s Report noted Water Department response to three private houses in which the pipes had burst over the past month. The former Village Administrator’s residence on Surfview Walk has been razed and a new maintenance building will be constructed in its place. In addition concrete projects are scheduled to soon commence on upper Cottage and Bungalow Walks.
Budget modifications unanimously passed by Board members in attendance totaled $87,425. They included pensions, building maintenance, and equipment among bigger ticket items. The Board also passed resolution to reject all bids submitted to renovate the Village website.
“I was not pleased with what came in,” said Village Trustee Greg Pace. “We will revamp the RFP.”
Another resolution was passed to modify hours of operation for the upcoming Village election on June 5, from 6 a.m. – 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
“This is so Election Inspectors won’t have to work a 16-hour day,” said Mallot.
Audience member Brett Wolfe asked if the Board would consider rescheduling Village elections to November. He expressed opinions that June elections encourage transient individuals to vote in an election in which they have no stake and the timing is not consistent with other municipalities.
“Actually Brett, most village municipalities hold their elections in June or March, answered Village Attorney Kenneth Gray. “We also will still exceed State compliance with the hours of operation even with this reduction.”
Public Hearings opened at 11:30 a.m., Special Permit Application #261, submitted by Ian Levine of Community Gardens Inc., seeks to operate an open-air gift store. The business model would be similar to The Laughing Gull, which conducted business for several years in the undeveloped property lot on Bay Walk, west of Ocean Beach Trading. Planning Board Chairman Joseph Speranza read the Advisory Board’s recommendation that said application be approved under conditions that included that existing kiosks and trellis presently on that lot be repaired and repainted the same colors, as well as that the permit be subject to annual renewal at no fee. Levine requested that the annual renewal term be set aside. After some discussion it was determined that The Laughing Gull did not have such a restriction, and the term in question was struck by the Board when granting the application’s approval.
Application #262, submitted by Patricia Stretch and William Wirostek, was for interior renovations of 153-155 Bay Walk to reconfigure the three existing storefronts to be more equal in size. The construction was approved, but permits for the businesses themselves were tabled due to the absence of proprietors of The Gallery, Deborah Benet and Paul Robinson. After some heated discussion from the audience, various board members stressed that any existing permit of business operation within the Village must be renewed after construction of significant scope.
“I need a level playing field,” said Mayor Mallot. “I can’t make special dispensation for someone who can’t be here.”
Upon close of the public hearing, the final matters on the agenda approval to participate in a Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery. This grant cites Saltaire Village as lead agency, and Ocean Beach among others would be a sub-recipient in order to bring generators to several fire departments on Fire Island. The Board also appointed special legal council to represent the Village in a wrongful termination lawsuit that several former OBPD officers originally filed in federal court in 2007. The original lawsuit was dismissed by federal court in 2010, but the plaintiffs filed it again on the State level the following year.
The draft budget for 2015-2016 fiscal year is scheduled for presentation at the next OB Trustees meeting, on Saturday, March 21.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This past summer, 153-155 Bay Walk was considered for purchase by Palms Hotel, Inc., the parent company of Fire Island News. A sale closing never commenced.
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