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Mar 3, 2010 2:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County delays closing of trailers again

Mar 3, 2010 2:04 PM

For the second time in four weeks, Suffolk County lawmakers on Tuesday tabled a money transfer needed to close two trailers in Southampton Town that have been serving as temporary shelters for the county’s homeless sex offenders.

The resolution, which was tabled by a vote of 15-3, would have increased the petty cash fund for Suffolk’s Department of Social Services from $8,500 to $25,000, allowing it to implement a voucher program that would replace the trailers, including one in Westhampton and a second near the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside. The additional money would have provided the homeless sex offenders with $90 a day to find their own shelter and food.

But now, county officials are not expected to close the trailers—including the one near the Suffolk County Police Department shooting range on Old Country Road in Westhampton—for months, angering some town residents attending Tuesday’s meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead.

On Tuesday, about a dozen community members, including the supervisors of Southampton and Riverhead towns, urged county lawmakers to approve the transfer and close the trailers. Riverhead and Southampton towns have filed lawsuits against the county over the placement of the Riverside trailer, which they charge is too close to a library and park.

“You’re dragging your feet [to protect] your image,” said Carl Iacone of Flanders, who accused the legislators of not listening to the demands of town residents.

Michael Brewer, a former president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said the voucher systems work in other places, before adding that county officials have to come up with a fair solution.

“You guys need to have your share,” Mr. Brewer said, addressing legislators representing western Suffolk County.

Tracy Ferguson of Westhampton Beach, a member of the Westhampton War Memorial Ambulance, told lawmakers that volunteers from her outfit are the ones who have to respond to emergency calls at the Westhampton trailer, and taxpayers from her community must pay the bill.

“I ask you nicely to reclaim what’s yours,” Ms. Ferguson said.

Ben Zwirn, the assistant deputy county executive, told the legislators that Suffolk is still committed to closing the trailers, but not allowing the Department of Social Services to increase its petty cash fund “will affect the speed” in which they are closed. The resolution is expected to be visited again during the next meeting of the County Legislature on Tuesday, March 23.

Suffolk officials announced in January that the trailers, which lack kitchens and showers, would be closed within weeks as the county transitions to a voucher program. The announcement came after officials were not able to agree on a spot in western Suffolk County, where most of the homeless sex offenders hail from, on which to build a permanent shelter.

Gregory Blass, the commissioner of the Department of Social Services told the 18 legislators Tuesday that some of the homeless sex offenders have been switched to the voucher program. Still, he said that closing the trailers would take months if the money transfer is not finalized.

The decision to table the motion was made Tuesday evening, after a heated discussion that morning involving county legislators. Initially, lawmakers were going to table the vote until Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer William Lindsay, a Democrat, suggested that they hold off and invite Mr. Blass to the meeting to answer questions.

Also complicating efforts to decommission the trailers was a decision by Legislators Steve Stern and Lou D’Amaro, Democrats from western Suffolk, to introduce another resolution calling on the county to keep the trailers open. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, meanwhile, tasked legislators to find a place in their home districts that could possibly house the homeless sexual offenders. Neither resolution was voted on Tuesday.

In the morning session, County Legislator John Kennedy, a Republican, made the motion to table the money transfer, saying he wanted additional facts and a more detailed financial analysis before approving it. The transfer would have come from within the Department of Social Services’s $520 million annual budget.

But Legislators Jay Schneiderman, an Independence Party member from Montauk, and Ed Romaine, a Republican from Center Moriches, argued that only a few of the homeless sex offenders are from the East End. Therefore, they said their counterparts from western Suffolk should not burden their districts. Both trailers are in Southampton Town.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Schneiderman said of closing the trailers.

When reached after Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Schneiderman again accused his colleagues of tabling the measure for the wrong reasons. “They think their opponents will use it against them,” he wrote in an e-mail. “They are probably right about that.”

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By it never ends... (25), SMITHTOWN on Mar 4, 10 4:20 PM
1 member liked this comment
$90 per day for a place to live and for food. If my math is right that comes to $32,850 per year! Count me in! You can live pretty well on that (without doing a whole lot).
By Xlocal (2), Remsenburg on Mar 4, 10 4:28 PM
1 member liked this comment
Give them a one way bus ticket to florida or put them on an island like plum island where they cannot leave. Both options are cheaper.
By jim (48), hampton bays on Mar 4, 10 11:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
$32,850 a year for food and shelter? You gotta be kidding me. Our county is PAYING people to become pedophiles. This is absolutely disgusting. These scumbags are entitled to a salary of someone who works hard for a living because they rape children!?! This is BS!!
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Mar 5, 10 2:57 AM
2 members liked this comment
After taxes, I don't make that much money. We are now rewarding people for raping our children. I can't believe this is actually being considered, I am disgusted with my country. These people should be shunned, not rewarded.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Mar 5, 10 3:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
If that is not the ultimate NIMBY attitude, Why Florida, I love my Florida home. How ignorant was that statement??? Why not Plum Island I think you had something there until you tried to pass the buck.
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Mar 5, 10 9:51 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By rippedoffedtaxpayer (13), speonk on Mar 5, 10 1:19 PM
Why not put these trailers on the grounds of the Riverhead jail. I will vote out of office any politician who backs paying these sc______s anything. What the hell is the matter with these people are you so afraid to make a decision. Your all weak and worthless. I say put the politicians offices right next to the trailers.
By rippedoffedtaxpayer (13), speonk on Mar 5, 10 1:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
Folks, our govt is useless. On every level from the Fed to local they are all inept.
Every decision that is made defies common sense. This is just another example.
By double standard (1506), quogue on Mar 6, 10 10:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
This is sad 32k for these worthless piecs of garbage. It's a crime.
By EEG (19), Southampton on Mar 6, 10 3:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Hey Town Board...Hey new Ms. Supervisor ATH...Hey Fred Thiele, Lavalle and Bishop...stand up and represent us by putting the pressure on Suffolk to get these trailers out of our Town. Lawsuits are not enough...act now!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 6, 10 8:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just don"t move them to another town. Plum Island or on the property of Riverhead Jail
By electfry (1), Nesconset on Jun 10, 10 7:45 PM
I am a self employed contractor. One of many on the east end. Everyday I struggle to find work, earn a living and build a life on the east end. Everyday I work until at least lunch time to pay government imposed expenses such as taxes, insurance and licesensure fees so that I can legally conduct my business.
I am angry that our elected officials would even entertain an idea that takes the tax dollars that I struggle to pay and hand them over to criminals at a rate of $90+ per day.
I ...more
By eastender32 (4), Brookhaven on Mar 7, 10 11:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
Again... we should just put GPS ankle bracelets on them.. and let them fend for themselves... housing is not the issue to assure safety... knowing where they are at all times is... these monitoring devices would cost significantly less than 90 dollars a day.... we owe these criminals nothing.. we owe are children safety.....
By grimag (38), southampton on Mar 8, 10 2:38 PM
3 members liked this comment
Nobody, and, especially, no politician, wants to give sex offenders a per diem of $90 just for being sex offenders. The problem is, without giving them the money, they would be homeless registered sex offenders. I can't imagine a landlord renting to someone on the list. The odds are that most of that $90 per diem will go to places in residential hotels who won't know their background. East End legislators favor this solution just to get the offenders out of their community. I suspect that there ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 9, 10 2:48 PM
I was wondering what I have to do to get my $90/ day. I certainly do not want to rape anyone or molest a child. If I can just watch a little porn while I pee on a tree and get $90/ day it might make a lot of sense. If the existing laws mandate this foolishness (excluding my joking around) then get the laws changed. It is just absurd to think that if you commit a hellish crime you are actually rewarded at a rate of $32,000 plus a year. Gotta be better answers.
By Xlocal (2), Remsenburg on Mar 9, 10 4:42 PM