At the September meeting of the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Margot Garant gave an exhaustive state of the village report to members gathered at Pace’s Steak House on Tuesday morning.
While giving her report, Garant said that she wanted to make sure the village was filled with “shiny happy people,” referencing the song by the rock group R.E.M.
Outlined below are comments the mayor made about the different areas she touched on in her speech.
Garant kicked off her speech by assuring the audience that the fiscal state of the village was “very sound,” as she put it. In the last budget, the village had to raise taxes “a wee bit” but said they were adding to the capital reserve account.
One of the biggest issues Port Jefferson faces (shared by many municipalities) is the drop in mortgage tax revenue when the housing crisis hit. Garant said she was hoping to see the recovery of the housing market and the revenue that comes along with it.
The village also saw an increase in revenue from its courts. They village budged $350,000 in court fines but received $470,000 in revenue due to better enforcement and stepping up fines for repeat offenders.
A burden that the village also had to bear financially were state mandates, including pension cost increases. This past year, the mayor went with others to Albany to complain about the expended return on pensions to state workers and how the government was managing those accounts, forcing the village to make up the difference when returns did not meet expectations that Garant said was upwards of 17 percent.
“People keep saying ‘you have to do more,’” she said referring to the increasing responsibilities other municipalities are hoisting upon local villages.
Union Contracts and Village Workers
Garant said that while the village is still negotiating union contracts with workers, she claimed that morale among workers for the village is the highest it’s ever been.
Payroll software is also in the process of being upgraded in the Treasury Department in Village Hall. Garant said the new software will get the village “into the 21st century.”
The new time clocks are scheduled to go online by Oct. 1. The mayor said that uploading all of the information for every employee individually was time consuming but said the system would be much more efficient at tracking working hours and time off.
Beach and Waterfront Restoration
At East Beach, the village had received a grant from Federal Emergency Management Agency in the amount of $1.2 million to renovate the seawall that was damaged in past storms. Garant reported that bids to repair the damage has come in about $600,000 higher and FEMA “cut us short.” She said is going back to the agency for the rest of the money.
(Read our story on the FEMA grants and damage to Port Jefferson beaches here.)
At the same time, Garant said residents may have noticed that a new line item for “Waterfront Restoration” appeared on the village tax bill this year. That money will go toward maintaining the miles of lineal waterfront within the village. While work is being done to shore up the beaches there’s always potential for more damage.
“Mother Nature isn’t going anywhere,” Garant said.
She also talked about money the village received from the New York State Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Mill Creek and manage stormwater runoff.
(Click here to read our article on the EPA grant.)
Village Repairs and Improvements
The second stage of the road repair bond work is set to begin on Thompson Street, Old Post Road and Winston Drive, according to Garant.
“We’re trying to stretch the money as far as we can,” she said and thanked the residents who approved the bond.
Village Hall also got some sprucing up recently with new paint, carpet and some offices redone. Garant said that the renovations were needed and it was important for workers to “take pride in where we work.”
She also mentioned the fact that several nonprofits recently took up space on the second floor of the Chandlery Building in Harborfront Park, where the Maritime Explorium occupies on the ground floor. The nonprofits help to pay the utility bills on the structure and Garant said the work they do contributes to the betterment of the community. A reception for the nonprofits will be held soon.
In exchange for the use of Caroline Avenue Park for the Environmental Protection Agency’s remediation plant to clean up the affects of Lawrence Aviation’s toxic spills, the village received about three acres of parkland near Mt. Sinai Harbor.
(Click here to read about the EPA's remediation plant.)
Garant said she’d like to see the village improve the roads that lead to the section of property and put in kayak racks and benches making a lasting park for residents to enjoy. She said any planned improvements would have minimal impact on the environment.
Golfing and Ice Skating
With golfing season ending and the ice skating rink opening in November, Garant spoke about both facilities and improvement made. She commented the new greens superintendent at the Port Jefferson Country Club for the state of the course. She also said that improvements to the skating rink means more ice skating with lower overhead in utility costs to freeze the ice and maintain the rink.
“More ice skating, more revenue and more fun,” she said.
(Read our story on the improvements done to The Rinx at Harborfront Park here.)
An issue that is sure to divide residents and business owners is metered parking in the village. Garant said that metered parking is not about making money. She pointed out that in the past, without metered parking people would sit in spots all day long taking up vital spaces for visitors to the village.
“It’s about managing space,” she said. “It’s about making sure people have parking.”
(Read about the new parking meter phone app here.)
Branding Port Jefferson
New logos and new campaigns by the village will try to brand Port Jefferson not just as a place to drive to and walk around in the summer months but a place that is easy to get to by boat and offers something to everyone year-round. She offered few details but mentioned a campaign on News 12 where reports would show what’s coming up in the village. She also mentioned the plans for the Long Island Music Hall of Fame to move into its new home on East Main Street and the annual Dickens Festival.
(Read about the plans for the Long Island Music Hall of Fame museum by clicking here.)
Upper Port Jefferson
As many have complained over the years, the area known as Upper Port Jefferson between the Long Island Rail Road and North Country Road along Main Street needs help. The master plan is supposed to help revitalize that region of the village. Plans include the new rental apartment complex on Texaco Avenue, reconfiguring the parking lot for the LIRR, improved pedestrian safety measures and Moving the bus stop on Main Street to alleviate traffic among others.
Correction: It was previously reported that the mayor said she wanted to eliminate the bus stop on Main Street. That was misreported. The mayor said that the plan called for moving the bus stop to help with traffic flow. We apologize for this error.
(You can read about the plan for a new rental apartment complex in Upper Port Jefferson by clicking here.)
Garant called the National Grid issue the 800-pound gorilla in the room. She was very encouraged by a recent trip to Albany to discuss the issue with the governor’s office. She is committed to repowering the plant and said a welcoming host community should be considered first before a utility buys power from a brand new site.
She ended her report by saying that Port Jefferson was a proud community and depended on all its residents, both old and young to help continue to keep it a great place to live.
“This is one of the best communities you can live in,” Garant said. “A community that cares about the people who live here.”
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