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Oct 24, 2012 9:31 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Cuts To SEA-TV, Traffic Control In Southampton Town Budget Are Questioned

Oct 24, 2012 11:34 AM

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and members of the Town Board this week heard a smattering of criticism and pleas to restore funding in various nooks and crannies of the supervisor’s $82.7 million proposed budget for 2013.

But with a spending plan that would keep taxes flat for town residents and which has no major opposition from the supervisor’s political foils on the board, the critiques were at a minimum, and the Town Board agreed to trim its schedule of public discussions of the budget from four to three before it must be formally adopted on November 20. The next public hearing on the budget will be at a special evening meeting on November 6.

The bulk of the concerns heard at Tuesday evening’s public hearing on the budget regarded steep cuts in funding to SEA-TV, the public government and education television channel that broadcasts live and recorded video of various town government meetings and educational events from local schools. The cuts, some $81,000 worth from the 2012 allotment, come primarily through the shift of the executive director’s position from full-time to part-time, a $45,000 savings.

But members of the SEA-TV advisory committee, a volunteer panel of residents from the community, said the cuts will be crippling to the public broadcasting channel.

“We were aghast to learn that the supervisor had submitted a tentative budget that strips SEA-TV of its very essence,” said committee chairwoman Dr. Josephine DeVincenzi. “If there were concerns within the board concerning the channel or the director, they should have been brought to the committee’s attention. There has been no opportunity for conversation to clarify concerns the board may have.”

Dr. DeVincenzi, a former assistant superintendent of the Southampton School District and principal of Southampton High School, said that SEA-TV Executive Director Bruce Nalepinski is a critical cog in the complicated operations of the sprawling coverage provided by the channel.

Fellow committee member Robert Florio noted that it was Mr. Nalepinski who suggested to the board in recent years that it should audit the fees it was receiving from Cablevision to provide local cable service, which provide the bulk of the funding for SEA-TV, leading to a $150,000 increase in the town’s revenues. The tentative budget cuts the executive director’s salary from a little more than $75,000 a year to $30,000.

While other board members were silent on the issue of keeping the SEA-TV executive director a full-time position, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said that “there are some of us who are very concerned about the suggested cuts. I agree that there is a tremendous value to SEA-TV.”

The supervisor’s proposed budget can be amended in the coming weeks before it must be adopted in final form on November 20.

Other salary savings in the tentative budget were also criticized as detrimental to public service. Town Civil Service Employees Association President Peter Collins said that the elimination of the town’s only two full-time traffic control officers, whose primary duty is to issue parking summonses, would not save the town the money it appears it would when looking only at the cut to the salary line. The 2013 proposed budget eliminates both full-time positions, allowing for only 20 part-time traffic control officer positions.

“These fellows are revenue producers who practically make their entire salary back for the town,” Mr. Collins said. “They earn about $42,000 a year and take a lot of pressure off the average street cop. They stand on wires all night waiting for LIPA to come. That frees up a sworn officer who makes $92,000 a year. It makes better sense to have these guys out there.”

One of the two officers whose position would be eliminated, Tom Mattei, pleaded for his job in person. “I love my job,” he said. “You’re saving a lot of money having me sitting on [a downed utility pole] for 15 hours instead of a police officer. And I definitely need this job. I have school loans and rent to pay.”

Mr. Collins said that the full-time traffic control officer positions were eliminated in the supervisor’s proposed budget last year as well, but were restored in the final version.

An approximately $27,000 cut to the town’s budget for seeding baby shellfish in local bays was also faulted, by Southampton resident Donna Olson.

“I’m very concerned with the cuts that you have in the Trustees’ seeding budget,” she said. “It was a modest request. It doesn’t hurt the Trustees, it hurts our bays and the nonprofits that are working to help our bays. Those funds go directly to [Cornell Cooperative Extension], which provides 1 million baby clams. On what basis does that make sense?”

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Too bad for the 2 traffic control guys. I personally think Mr. Collins is right it's much cheaper to use them instead of a policeman making $$$ double that. Aren;t we down to 88 cops from 104??? this doesn't make sense. If a cut is surley needed try the Building Dept. Its dead with very high salaries, howz about the $100K it costs for an electrical inspector, other towns don't use or want them. The other Townships use independent inspectors/Underwritters, etc. doing the same at "NO COST" to their ...more
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Oct 24, 12 2:23 PM
The sea-tv channel is a disgrace repeat after repeat. The programing is awful, Goverment, education channel, oh please. Get rid of him, big waste of money. I agree with this cut.
Oct 24, 12 8:15 PM appended by reg rep
ALSO THE DIRECTOR OF SEA-TV HAS A TOWN CAR THAT HE TAKES HOME AND WE PAY HIS GAS. I WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHY? HE SHOULD DRIVE HIS OWN CAR TO AND FROM WORK. DOES HE GO OUT ON EMERGENCIES TO VIDEO TAPE THE GOV/ED PROGRAMS? I THINK NOT, MORE WASTE OUR TAX MONEY
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Oct 24, 12 8:15 PM
SEA TV is a joke and a total waste of $$. I can't believe taxpayers are funding this. get rid of it
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Oct 25, 12 8:08 AM
The fees for sea TV cost the taxpayers zero it comes from Cablevision franchise fees. The town needs the money transferred too their legel defense funds too defend against lawsuits against the police dept. The town has allocated 50k too lawyers defending arrests made by Officer Kiernan. This could potentially cost the town millions and the best part is he Kiernan keeps his job. There isn't a person on the board that could run a lemonade stand.
By chief1 (2788), southampton on Oct 25, 12 8:05 AM
Why am I not surprised at who's unhappy with SEA-TV? Sure enough, the same crowd that doesn't care much for public broadcasting in general. I think the problem for the local nay-sayers is that SEA-TV opens the window and lets the sunlight in on government that used to be conducted in private by the GOP good old boys.

This hurts, and understandably so. When you look at some of the outrages this long-entrenched crowd has perpetrated on camera, you can only guess at what they used to ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1966), Quiogue on Oct 25, 12 11:01 AM
Someone's got to pay for it -- and not a great deal of people use it.
By Frank Wheeler (1823), Northampton on Oct 25, 12 6:56 PM
The town board meeting's are important for the community to see.
Although you can see the meeting on the town web site.
I'm sure the channel director is not the one filming them. He should be reduced to part time or retired. The channel is really showing crap most of the time.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Oct 25, 12 9:58 PM
hey Turkey Bone- this has nothing to do with politics I just think its useless. All meetings on sea tv are also available to watch on the town web site. sorry you really cant blame this on Bush
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Oct 26, 12 7:21 AM
Yes, meetings are available on the town web site, from the footage that was shot via SEA-TV. This also includes the Town meetings system where you can get clips of particular parts of meetings. All from SEA-TV. It all comes from the same place. The channel director is also part of the camera crew, and additionally fills in when the other part time and full time crew are unavailable or working on other meetings.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Oct 26, 12 9:35 AM
Give it a break Turkey Bridge, SeaTV was here way back when the evil doing Republicans had every elected office in town.



By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Oct 25, 12 11:19 AM
SEA-TV was created in 2005. It is entirely funded with about 20-25% of the Cablevision franchise fee. It has no funding from property taxes.
By Rickenbacker (257), Southampton on Oct 25, 12 11:58 AM
that funding would be better spent elsewhere. in this economy the town should not be in the TV business
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Oct 27, 12 7:34 AM