I reported watching the fire departments meetings on this bond issue and in those two meetings one voice stood in opposition to the fire department plans.
I sat down with Point Lookout Chamber of Commerce President, and owner of Skipperdee’s Ice Cream Shop, Richard Zampella to find out why. I give him his say, and he answers some tough questions as well.
He says “What people appreciate about Point Lookout is the fact that we’re kind of in a time warp we’ve remained pretty much untouched by the outside world.
A lot of that has to do with the geography and it is something that is worth preserving and that’s what attracts people here to begin with”
I left a freeform, open ended question to start…
“so whats the problem with the plan?”
“It’s a polarizing issue. I think in Point Lookout you have a greater portion that don’t agree with the plan.”
“There’s only 398 registered voters in Point Lookout and 2800 registered voters in Lido. If this election were tomorrow I do believe it would be voted down by Point Lookout. I’m more concerned about what the general feeling is in Lido. I went down to the meeting in Lido. I got the distinct impression from the group that was down there that they don’t feel that $7.5 million is an issue”.
“There are a lot of inconsistencies i believe in this plan. When you bring up anything that’s the slightest bit critical they get angry. In political discourse there’s going to be a difference of opinion -that’s just the political process.”
“I’m disappointed in the civic association. The civic association said ‘we’re not taking a position’ which I find odd. If You approach the Civic Association Zoning Board saying I want to put an addition on my house, They have the ability to either approve the application or deny it. So how could you say it’s not your policy to make a decision…Especially, when it comes to something, in my opinion, of the fabric of the community. How could you deny and say we don’t want to take a position? ”
“The issue with Ye Olde Firehouse is not the same issue. That was never intended to be a functioning fire house. That was a community center. That was built by the Point Lookout Fire Co in 1939 … by community bond issue, as a monument to civic cooperation. The town got together and said This is what we want.”
“I think people on fixed incomes and younger generation are having difficulty finding it possible to live here. ”
“Why would you want to vote for something you know is going to increase your taxes.”
on speaking at the meeting:
“The idea of not being allowed to speak or to put a restriction on freedom of speech is against the political process in my opinion.”
Do you think that was maybe a issue of a lack of experience in the political arena, a faux pas, rather than something deliberate?
He spoke about the person who brought up the issue of absentee ballots and that he has followed up with Nassau County Board of Elections to find out if absentee ballots are permissible. They said “generally yes but there might be circumstances when they are not”. He went on to say “But when they (fire commissioners) looked at each other and said “no”, I think a more appropriate response would’ve been ‘we will look into that and see if it’s possible.’ …. And I think people would’ve been satisfied with that.”
“People that night said why didn’t you have this two weeks ago or two months ago we could’ve solicited opinions, you could listen to the community and then you can submit a plan that might not be exactly what you wanted. It would’ve gotten you past the vote. They’ve admitted there’s no contingency plan.”
Legally isn’t that the way it has to work? They must present a plan, the input is pass or fail.
“I feel they could’ve reached out to the community and.. Rather than 7.5 million dollars we could probably do this for $4.5 million I believe both communities could accept (that).
“I don’t think that anybody is debating that they’re entitled to an upgrade. I believe that they do need an upgrade of their systems.”
“Couldn’t it be said that they should have presented the $15 million plan and then the scaled back 7.5 million plan everybody “forced them” to do would seem cheap by that standard?”
“I think they should’ve presented to 7.5 million plan and then the 5 million dollar plan would’ve been more realistic. Andy Richter said we need to offer big screen TV and have amenities. The question becomes how much is too much?
“So how much is acceptable? We’re talking for the average house in this town $150-175 per year.”
“My concern would be with a possible reassessment, that number then turns into something else which turns into something else”
“So youre saying we should wait another year to see if we’re going to be reassessed, and what happens then?
This plan dates back to 2001..
“that’s not what I’m asking-should they wait to do anything to see if there’s going to be a reassessment. We won’t ever know what’s going to happen with that and then it’s next year, and then the next. So when is the right time for them to do this?”
“I dont believe operationally, their level of service has been compromised at these facilities. These are lean economic times so the question is how much is too much? Until those figures can be verified, because basically they’re putting out the figures not really open to examination. The contractors that I’ve spoken to look at those figures and say they’re highly inflated. We had an engineer come in and say the amount they gave for the demolition carting is exorbitant”
What is the figure for that do you know how much that is?
“I can get the figure for you. And I can get the engineer to say that, but the question becomes “is there some sort of misuse of funds, this is the taxpayers money. The people in Lido said 7.5 million isn’t alot of money. Well if you think so, then you write the check.”
This is a 23 year bond, there’s no coming back to us in 10-15 years so what are your thoughts on them having to be out in front of the curve for what might be said is needed longer term?
“They’ll say there is no contingency or options for overruns”
I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about them building things into the project by a certain amount to make the expenditure still useful for its full lifespan, knowing they’re not going to get money again for 20 plus years.
That’s the economy and climate in Nassau county. It hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten worse. You have to do more with less, you are not given carte blanche or an open check to do whatever you want. There needs to be some austerity, some sort of checks and balances.”
Do you think that we’re in the position that we’re in because we have run on austerity and not had a bond issue for 40 years in Point Lookout?
“There is a history Nassau County shows an upward trend in terms of taxes. I don’t have a crystal ball to know..”
Because we delayed, are we maybe 10 years too late to save Ye Olde Firehouse because this wasn’t done back when, to save on taxes at the time?
“This is not the first time the board of fire commissioners have approached tearing it down, the last time, John MacDonald Senior went in and did the work himself. Andy Richter will tell you we’ve been putting a Band-Aid on it for years.
“It’s a social contract that the fire commissioners have decided to end. The idea it is no longer available to the community runs contrary to the very reasons it was built to begin with.
“I’d like to see it going to the hands of a not-for-profit. They would then make it available for the usage it was originally intended for.
“No matter what happened during Sandy -and no one, not me or anyone, will take away what they did. It was exemplary. But the question becomes “are you utilizing that as a chip?” They’re trying to cash in on the goodwill they earned. Although it might not have been comfortable , and not the best of circumstances they were still able to perform the job with what they have right now.”
Obviously we have a much smaller tax base here, but it can easily be said that there is no comparison to what’s been spent and being spent at other fire departments compared to this plan. This plan is half price compared to the going rate in Merrick, Long Beach, Wantagh..(all passed)
“And thats why there is a public outcry. You wouldn’t have reports in the media that point out these issues. Do I know for fact that these plans are well developed enough to ascertain what the comparison really is? Maybe in terms of total budget size -a budget recently passed for $15 million. (West Hampton) is it less than many other districts? They have to look at what the call radius is, the requirements, every district is going to have unique set of needs. Ultimately taxpayers reaching into their pocket for the money (are the ones ) to be able say “okay”, but if I need to do more with less, maybe you need to do more with less as well.”
Do you really think that it is responsible for them to not do anything with Ye Olde Firehouse at the moment and just leave it out of the plan?
“It depends on who you speak to, Certain people say more damage was done by the remediation done post Sandy than actually existed in the building before. You talk to other people that will say it’s in imminent danger of collapsing. To bring up to code as a social hall, which was the original contract, was, I’m not sure 3.5 million dollars is the figure if a local contractor says $150,000 will abate the problems.”
“The fire department says no one wants to insure a “Social Hall” where there will be alcohol served.”
“They put themselves in a difficult position… There are bars located in firehouses. If you’re saying in Point Lookout from the standpoint that functions can’t serve alcohol and that applies only to the residents, or does that apply to the membership as well? They put themselves in difficult position when they say the community can’t have alcohol but they can.”
I do think that’s easily settled because one is a matter of being served, and one is a matter of what members do.
“So the question becomes from an insurance standpoint, I believe For a social function to get an insurance rider…if the firehouse is going to say it is a prerequisite for using the hall, You probably get the rider for $175.”
“I’ve gotta ask: “Point Lookout Property Owners Inc” – Is this a new Civic Association?”
“There are a lot of people in Point Lookout that are disappointed with the civic association, for a number of reasons,… from what I have been told. I think if somebody wanted to find an alternative to provide a voice… the civic association dates back to the beginning of Point Lookout. Will it ever be replaced? No.
“Is it possible that other organizations might come along that perhaps have a different view? It’s part of the democratic process, and I encourage it. I’ve seen stuff go out from Point Lookout Property Owners, i’ve also seen stuff go out from Point Lookout Political Action Committee. Whatever it is, if it effects change in a positive way, I think everybody benefits.”
Tonight, July 2,2013 civic association meeting topics: hurricane preparedness and firehouse Bond
Tuesday July 9, 2013: vote on firehouse plan.