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Dec 22, 2015 2:39 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees Will Computerize Permit Processes In Early 2016

The Southampton Town Trustees plan to computerize their licensesing and permittting process starting  next year. The change will allow the Trustees to create a searchable database of recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting licenses.  DANA SHAW
Dec 22, 2015 4:31 PM

The Southampton Town Trustees will move forward with plans to fully computerize their license- and permit-issuing process starting early next year.

The change will allow the Trustees to create a more easily searchable database of those given recreational and commercial shellfish harvesting licenses, and also will permit them to print out new 4x4 beach access and boat ramp stickers, the latter of which must be placed on the front bumpers of vehicles.

According to Southampton Town Comptroller Leonard Marchese, who was brought on to assist in the changeover, a computerized process will allow the Trustees to issue both permits and identification cards, track individuals who receive them, and, perhaps most important, provide the town’s bay constables with the tools needed to better enforce rules and regulations.

Currently, when someone applies for a shellfish license, or a permit to access the beach or boat ramp, their information is entered into QuickBooks, and the paperwork is placed in a filing cabinet, making the information unsearchable by constables in the field.

At the most recent Town Trustees meeting held on December 16, Mr. Marchese told board members that the new system, which has thus far cost around $10,000—the Trustees have set aside $16,000 for the conversion—can roll out in early 2016. He noted that the software has already been tested.

Town Trustees President Ed Warner Jr. said that electronic shellfish licenses will make it easier for constables to check their validity when they are out in the field. Currently, enforcement can prove to be difficult, he said, because constables do not always have access to such information under the current system.

Once the new system is up and running, both commercial and recreational shellfishermen will have to go to the Town Trustees office at Town Hall and provide proper documentation that proves residency in order to obtain a license in 2016. Once the required documentation has been shared, applicants will have their picture taken for a new identification card that will be similar to what is already issued by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, according to Mr. Warner.

Previous versions of the identification cards did not include photographs, making it difficult to know whether the person carrying it was the person issued it, according to Town Trustee Eric Shultz.

In addition to a photograph, the new town-issued cards will also feature the holder’s name and signature, and clearly state if the individual is a recreational or commercial fisherman. Currently, there is no fee for the cards, though the idea of possibly charging for them down the road came up during last week’s meeting.

Mr. Shultz said he was against charging, stating that such a measure would violate the terms of the Dongan Patent, a document that dates back to 1686 and grants all of the residents of the town unblocked access to its underwater land and waterways. Fellow Trustees Scott Horowitz and Mr. Warner agreed, stating that they should never charge for the cards.

With regards to the 4x4 and ramp stickers, the new system will keep a database of who has been issued them. The stickers will be linked with an applicant’s license plate, allowing constables to easily cross-check stickers with plates to ensure that they are not being illegally transferred.

At the same meeting, Mr. Shultz explained that constables tasked with physically checking permits while out on the beach have a hard time doing so with binoculars. Therefore, they are usually forced to approach a driver and, while conducting such a check, other potential offenders have the opportunity to flee the scene.

The new stickers, which must be placed on the front bumpers of vehicles, will feature some kind of symbol stating that they are either for boat ramp or 4x4 access. They will also be large enough for constables to observe them from a distance. In the past, the 4x4 stickers were placed only on the front bumper, while the ramp stickers were stuck on the inside of a vehicle’s rear window, making them difficult to read in some cases.

The plan, according to Mr. Marchese, is to eventually allow residents to apply for the stickers and permits online, instead of forcing them to go to Town Hall. That changeover, however, could take about two years to complete, he added.

“Just because we are rooted to 1686 doesn’t mean we have to be stuck with that technology,” Mr. Horowitz said.

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