Brookhaven town holds organizational meeting
Earlier this week, the first Brookhaven Town board meeting of the year was met with some calls to action from community members. Walking into town hall on Tuesday ahead of the swearing-in ceremony at 4 p.m., over a dozen South Country residents gathered for a rally addressing environmental concerns related to the town landfill. They carried signs bearing messages like “Enough is Enough” and “Romaine, get your ash out of our town.”
Inside, several local residents spoke about both the landfill and the board’s recent measure to increase spending for the new South Country Ambulance headquarters. “It’s unfortunate that taxpayers living in ambulance districts do not have voting power,” said Sherry Binnington, noting that other special districts like schools, libraries and fire districts all have referendums.
South Country School District residents, including teachers, reiterated their concerns over VOCs and health concerns they believe stems from the town landfill. Tricia Gallina, a 10-year teacher at Frank P. Long and resident of the district, pleaded with the board. “I’ve been vocal — and we’re not going away,” she said. “[The odors] are getting worse and they are seeping into our community, they are seeping into our schools and now they are seeping into our homes,” she said, referencing an odor-log that she says now has over 600 complaints from the community. In recent weeks, the smell of rotten eggs has been unbearable, she said, noting that other neighbors have complained of the same smells. “I knew that my family and I were breathing in hydrogen sulfide that night and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. That’s not acceptable.”
Parents of children in the district expressed concern for their health. Jonathan Hill said he pulled his child out of the district due to fear of illness. “Almost the moment we were told ‘Everything is fine, you’re being hysterical,’ the smells got worse and worse,” he said. “People are going to look back and say, ‘Why didn’t you do something?” Caroline Wilkinson, whose son has been dealing with environmental-related illness, said that this shouldn’t be a blame game but the lack of transparency leaves many with no other choice. “Everybody keeps pointing the finger at someone else.”
Keith Ferguson, who has a daughter at Frank P. Long, reported to the board that she has newly developed health issues. “It didn’t start until after she started there. Thankfully, this is her last year and hopefully once we’re gone everything that’s happening will stop. But I have a 10-year-old who asks daily if this is going to give her cancer and she’s going to die. How do you address that?” he asked, urging the board to take action before it’s too late.
Board members did not respond to those community members at the meeting.
Also at the meeting:
Supervisor Ed Romaine reappointed Annette Eaderesto as town attorney and Tamara Wright as commissioner of finance.
A resolution was put forth to amend the town board rules and procedures for 2018, which includes a revision to push up public hearings to 5:30 p.m. In the past, public hearings at town board meetings have begun at 6 p.m. It was approved 6-1, with councilwoman Valerie Cartright opposed. “I’m not in favor of moving up the public hearing time,” she said to the board, explaining her opposition ahead of the vote. “I think we’re moving in the wrong direction. Public hearings are hearings when there are changes of zone, code changes and they are very important matters. People still have to work. The more and more we move it up, the more we create an impediment for some of our constituents to get here,” she said.
Eaderesto explained that it was moved up, but public hearings wouldn’t begin until all resolutions and other business was complete. “This would just be for those days where nobody’s here and we have to sit here for a half an hour,” she said.
Romaine noted that the Town of Brookhaven is in the minority of towns that hold evening meetings. “Every other town board has either alternating meetings and most of them have daytime meetings. We are the only town board that has all evening meetings,” he said.
Like what you have read? Click here to subscribe to the Long Island Advance so you can read more stories like this, and find out everything that’s going on in your town!