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Dec 3, 2013 5:23 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town GOP Approves Airport Capital Improvement Plan In Party-Line Vote

Dec 5, 2013 4:37 PM

In a split vote along party lines on Tuesday, the East Hampton Town Board adopted a capital improvement plan outlining an estimated $5.26 million in projects intended to improve East Hampton Airport that the town could opt to pursue over the next five years.

The board’s Republican majority—Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who is the airport liaison, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley—voted in favor of the plan, while Democratic Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby were opposed.

The $5.26 million figure was slashed from an original estimate of $10.45 million after 15 proposed projects totaling about $5.19 million were pulled from the plan, following its unveiling at a lively public hearing on November 21. Town officials scratched those items after determining that they were not included in the previously adopted airport layout and master plans, meaning that they had not already passed state environmental assessments. The most expensive of the yanked items was a $923,332 proposal to repair taxiway lighting.

Proponents of the plan point to the need for maintenance at the airport for safety purposes and note that approving the plan does not rope a future Town Board into the full estimate of the work, as each proposed project will have to go out for bids and be voted on separately by the board.

“Not one single item has been approved to go forward. This is just a concept,” Ms. Quigley stressed. “It’s a long process, and this is step one. It’s the first step on the road toward realizing the improvements for the airport, as contemplated on the airport layout plan.”

Airport Manager Jim Brundige said a goal is to raise awareness among the board about what the airport needs to keep it safe and efficient.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said he did not take issue with the plan itself, noting that it is not a fixed document, but voted against it because he wanted a footnote stricken that referenced the Federal Aviation Administration. Submitting the plan to the FAA, he said, would be a first step toward securing FAA funding—a hotbed issue in the debate over local control of the facility. “It’s not a necessary step for us to send it to the FAA unless we’re pursuing funding from the FAA,” he said.

Ms. Overby echoed this concern, saying that she was unclear of the implications of the FAA footnote and required legal advice and more discussion. She added that board members only just received the revised plan less than 30 minutes before the start of that day’s work session, when the vote took place.

The footnote states, “Funding assumes FAA grants are accepted at 90 percent of project cost and state grants are accepted at a 5-percent matching share. Should the FAA funding not be available, or sponsor (Town of East Hampton) chooses to fund projects locally, the sponsor’s share will be 100 percent of project cost.”

Mr. Brundige interpreted the footnote as meaning that if the board picks a project and wishes to take a federal grant, rather than bond for it, then the federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost. He said it was not a commitment to extend grant assurances set to expire at the end of 2014.

Frank Dalene, a co-founder of the Quiet Skies Coalition, told the board he believes the plan is full of “pork fat” and that it would be impossible for members to cast responsible votes on it without knowing more details.

“The CIP looks more like the East Hampton Aviation Association’s wish list to Santa Claus,” he said, referring to the Capital Improvements Plan.

Gerard Boleis, president of that association, issued a statement that afternoon, thanking the board for adopting the plan, noting that the plan calls for the resurfacing and reopening of a runway that will be shortened, resurfacing another runway to be closed and turned into a taxiway and resurfacing a third runway built in 1936.

Next year, he wrote, the town can decide whether to pay for the repairs itself or apply for FAA funding.

“The airport opponents object to these repairs since if the airport continues to deteriorate, it will eventually have to be closed,” he wrote.

GOP Votes On Health Insurance Surplus

In another 3-2 vote along party lines on Tuesday, the Town Board passed a resolution to put any surplus between the approved 2014 budget and the rates issued by the New York State Health Insurance Program into the employee benefit reserve and to use it to offset future expenses related to employee benefits.

Again, the vote followed party lines: Mr. Wilkinson, Mr. Stanzione and Ms. Quigley voted in favor, while Ms. Overby and Mr. Van Scoyoc voted against it.

The board, following a heated discussion last month during budget adoption over health insurance premiums, had factored in a 5-percent increase into next year’s budget, based on NYSHIP recommendations. Since then, however, NYSHIP confirmed a 1.8-percent health benefit rate increase.

Mr. Wilkinson issued a statement on Sunday touting the town’s zero-based budgeting as saving taxpayers $500,000.

“Absent of insisting on maintaining the financial disciplines which saved us in the first place, history could very easily repeat itself,” he wrote.

Each percentage point is about $110,000, Ms. Quigley said.

The Democrats objected, calling for the surplus instead to go toward other areas, such as staffing.

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I believe the GOP suffered in the last EH election largely due to their position regarding the airport. The voters spoke, and now the lame duck town board goes against the voters wishes and adopts this plan. This simply proves they represent their own interests rather than those of their constituents. I'm sure they're very proud of themselves. Sort of reminds me of the Republican House's attitude regarding the ACA.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Dec 3, 13 8:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
It seems to me the repubs were correct about the ACA all along. It's a train wreck!
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 3, 13 9:10 PM
2 members liked this comment
Agreed that the ACA is off to a bad start due to incompetent website design. It looks like this is/will be fixed. My point is the voters reelected Obama partly due to the ACA, it became law and the house ignored the will of its constituents, trying fruitlessly to stop its implementation. This situation is different in that the outgoing board is rushing to adopt a plan that would not pass if the newly elected board were in place.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Dec 4, 13 8:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
Im glad that you agree that its off to a bad start but to say that Obama was relelected due to the ACA is just ridiculous. Key parts of the program hadnt been convienently implemented yet and most Americans have opposed it from the onset. The website design is just the tip of the iceberg. Its going to get worse.
In regards to the airport I agree that they should restrict the hours of flight and type of aircraft BUT those in favor of closing it should be committed. The wealthy people flying in ...more
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 4, 13 9:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
Let's just wait and see about the ACA. I disagree with you about most Americans being opposed. If that was the case I don't think O could have won...

I don't want the airport closed...I just think the air traffic should be routed over the south coast and the Georgica area where the people who utilize private aircraft generally reside.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Dec 4, 13 11:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lets not kid ourselves the people who supported the ACA weren't going to vote for Romney anyway. There are many reasons why Romney lost but the ACA was not one of them.
BTW flight patterns do fly over south of the highway. I sit on Main beach in the summer and in the village and see it all summer long.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Dec 5, 13 12:27 AM
Dom, Bill and Quiggy can now fly off into the sunset. The EHAA can buy a new set of pawns. The Airport is not going to close because of lack of maintenance Another ridiculous argument.
By Amelia Airport (48), East Hampton on Dec 4, 13 6:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
People in Sag Harbor, Noyac and North Sea, need to watch this carefully. Stanzione changed the flight path and screwed us out of our quiet use and enjoyment of our properties by placing the flight path over our homes. We need to be more proactive with the helicopters and pressure a mandotory flight route that the helo's will have to follow. Airport upgrades will only sustain traffic levels.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Dec 4, 13 6:37 AM
They should make the airport BIGGER and relieve some of the congestion at other airports...like JFK. Oh man I would love to see 777s dropping in over David Gruber's house. Heck, I would love to see a pair A-10's dropping in over Gruber's house.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Dec 4, 13 6:42 AM
Another Peace on Earth contribution of positive energy?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 4, 13 6:47 AM
So much hate. So little time. And over at the Airport they wonder why nobody trusts them.
By Amelia Airport (48), East Hampton on Dec 4, 13 8:54 AM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Dec 6, 13 9:26 AM
And Peace on Earth as well . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 6, 13 9:32 AM
Another knife in Democracy's back.

Malus bonum ubi se simulat, tunc est pessimus.

Fiddle Fiddle Fiddle
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Dec 4, 13 6:43 AM
So, the three little pigs squeeled YES yesterday ...no surprise there.

These lame ducks have done all they can do to disgrace the town board on which they sit ---for just a few days more. The sooner they go the better for everyone. Good riddance to bad manners and bad government. Send out the clowns
By Trish (91), Sag Harbor on Dec 4, 13 8:46 AM
Fix the dam Airport
By They call me (2826), southampton on Dec 4, 13 5:35 PM
"fix" as in neuter? Good idea.
By we could run this town! (129), the oceanfront trailer park on Dec 5, 13 8:14 PM