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Feb 24, 2010 11:00 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board tables hiring of sustainability coordinator

Feb 24, 2010 11:00 AM

A number of environmentalists’ hopes were dashed Tuesday night when the Southampton Town Board tabled a resolution to create the position of a sustainability coordinator—a town employee who would oversee conservation programs and serve as the go-to person for environmental issues.

The sustainability coordinator position, which would pay $60,000 in salary and some $30,000 in benefits, would be funded through a $206,600 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, according to Edson “Tip” Brolin, a member of the Sustainable Southampton Green Committee, which helped write the grant application. But the proposal to appoint Matthew de la Houssaye to the position on Tuesday did not garner the support of Town Board councilmen Jim Malone and Chris Nuzzi.

“I’m not sure we need to hire a new individual ... because ultimately this will become the responsibility of the taxpayers,” Mr. Nuzzi said, suggesting that the town instead within its approximately 500 employees and appoint one of them as the coordinator. The money from the grant would be better used as rebates to homeowners who make their homes more energy efficient, he said.

Ms. Throne-Holst strongly disagreed with Mr. Nuzzi and insisted that “it would be a crime to not go forward” with the appointment. Her retort to Mr. Nuzzi was met with applause from the audience, which included Southampton Town Democratic Committee Chairman Gordon Herr and Secretary Hank Beck, Town Board candidates Bridget Malone and William Hughes, and a number of members of the Sustainable Southampton Green Committee, of which Ms. Throne-Holst is an ex-officio member.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, many of the audience members spoke in favor of a sustainability coordinator.

“Set a positive example,” said Mr. Beck, who is also the co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee-West. “I urge you to vote in a sustainability coordinator.”

Dorothy Reilly, who made a poster to accompany her talk, also advocated for the position, emphasizing the point about it being no costs to taxpayers.

Rather than vote on the proposal to hire Mr. de la Houssaye, the board voted to table the matter until its March 23 meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m.

The sustainability coordinator, if appointed, would oversee initiatives for improving energy efficiency in Town Hall, manage a pilot program encouraging weatherization for homes, and other initiatives, Mr. Brolin explained. If the town does not appoint a coordinator, it risks losing the $206,6000 grant, he said.

Mr. Nuzzi argued that it would be better to make an existing town employee the sustainability coordinator, which would ensure that the town gets the grant. Mr. Malone agreed and said he thought the sustainability coordinator position would eventually be protected by Civil Service laws and become taxpayer funded.

But the supervisor said it would be nearly impossible to give a town employee the sustainability coordinator’s responsibilities because the employees are already overworked. The previous sustainability coordinator was Janice Scherer, a town planner doing both jobs, and she was unable to complete all of the duties for both assignments, Ms. Throne-Holst said. The town has been without a sustainability coordinator for some time.

Despite the heated debate over the sustainability coordinator position, the Town Board did agree to enact legislation mandating that all new commercial buildings in the municipality comply with Energy Star standards. The new law, which was drafted by the Sustainable Southampton Green Committee, complements legislation passed about 18 months ago that requires that all new homes in the town meet the requirements of Energy Star, a program backed by the federal government that encourages energy efficiency.

Part-time Court Officer

Also on Tuesday, Mr. Malone and Mr. Nuzzi blocked a resolution to appoint part-time court officer Richard Spera as a full-time officer. Both men voted against the promotion, while Ms. Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Nancy Graboski voted in favor of it.

Mr. Malone previously suggested keeping Mr. Spera on a part-time basis and hiring an additional three part-time officers to satisfy the court’s staffing needs. That arrangement would give the town justices more people to fill holes in the schedule for the same cost as making Mr. Spera a full-time officer, he argued.

At a work session earlier this month, Town Justices Andrea Schiavoni and Deborah Kooperstein urged the board to promote Mr. Spera, saying that was the option they were most comfortable with.

Funding for Mr. Spera’s position was included in the 2010 budget, Town Comptroller Tamara Wright noted. If made a full-time officer, Mr. Spera—who currently earns $20 per hour and does not have health benefits—would earn $46,145, Ms. Wright said. He would also receive health benefits, which range from $7,500 and $16,000, depending on whether or not Mr. Spera has a family that chooses to also receive the benefits.

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Some how I have the feeling that Mr. Nuzzi and Mr. Malone's notorious negative stance on this issue (the sustainability coordinator) will come back to bite them big time. Can you imagine how idiotic that position, refusing totally FREE money for a town worker, would seem to be for a (potential - admittedly low but still remotely possible) congressman to take in screwing his own home community? Turn down money with no strings attached? Doing what's right? Trying to score some really cheap political ...more
By foodie (74), Remsenburg on Mar 1, 10 5:47 PM
Yes, it will bite them for using fiscal common sense. Nothing is FREE.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 1, 10 11:39 PM
If Bridget Fleming had been on the Town Board, this wouldn't have happened. Ms. Fleming has stated that she would have joined Anna Throne-Holst and Nancy Graboski in voting for the no-brainer good deal represented by this proposal. That's a small part of why I'm backing Bridget Fleming over Bill Hughes in the March 9 special election for a Town Board seat.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 4, 10 10:55 AM
for clarification. this grant the town received is for any sustainable purpose. the towns green committee is holding a strong line stating they want this crony of theirs given a job at town hall which will become a civil service position, by the way they have already designed the duties in the position in accordance with civil service guidelines for a similar position. this is just a ploy to get another crony in town hall under the guise of a grant funded position which will become a permanent position. ...more
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Mar 4, 10 8:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Listen to public portion of this meeting when the good folks were pontificating about the urgent need to add this postion to town hall, the advocate pictured above actually suggested that by making this hire, we would "have freedom from the fear of global warming". To be sure, it is even point three on her poster about "what we all want" pictured above. Eerily similar to President Obama's claim that his coronation as democrat chosen one marked the day the ocean's would stop rising.
By DJII13 (155), Hampton Bays on Mar 5, 10 12:45 PM
Will the members of Town Board and the green committee please supply us the energy savings that they individually have received by installing solar panels, geo-thermal, wind, or insulation upgrades to their homes. Wait, they probably didn't do it because it costs too much money. But let's make laws forcing other people to do what they are unwilling to do themselves..
By The Real World (368), southampton on Mar 5, 10 3:00 PM