Written by Kate Piacentini Friday, 04 February 2011 00:00
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman delivered the State of the Town Address at Harbor Links on Jan. 26, noting the improvements that the town made in 2010. In particular, the focus was on recent initiatives to improve infrastructure and organization in order to make all of the town departments more efficient. Additionally, Kaiman noted the increase in use of 311 and Project Independence, which he referred to as “flagship programs” of the town.
Kaiman began his address by providing a few figures on the Town of North Hempstead. He said that the town has about 225,000 residents, making it the fifth most populated town in the State of New York. In addition, he said that there are 31 villages, 12 school districts, and over 60 special districts, authorities and municipal associations.
Moving on to how the town has managed during this difficult economy, Kaiman said, “We did not wait out the storm, but rather busied ourselves during these last few years building the infrastructure of community, of government, of our town.” Stating that the town’s bond rating is the highest in town history, Kaiman said that fiscally, the town remains cautious, but optimistic. He said that despite these hard times, the town has moved forward on projects such as the new community center in New Cassel and the pool rehabilitation projects at Tully and Manorhaven Parks. “We have taken advantage of low interest rates, lower construction costs, and we reap the benefits of putting people back to work. We have done more with less in terms of personnel, programming dollars, and even operational dollars, but we always continued to do,” Kaiman said, adding that the town obtains grants for many projects.
Jon Kaiman has been town supervisor since 2004, and he said that over the past seven years he has tried to give residents confidence that government actually works. This means that the town needs to determine what is not working and fix the problem. Kaiman then related his first experiences in North Hempstead in 1998, when he was hired as the town’s first Public Safety Commissioner, explaining that there was not an appropriate system in place to track the number of code inspections, code violations, and the detailed outcome of each case. “Without that level of detail, there was no way to determine if we found a problem, achieved a solution, punished the violator or even had any contact with anyone,” he said, and added, “It was this experience that started me down the road to 311 and TownStat and the system we now have in place today.”
The 311 Call Center was created in 2005 to answer constituents’ questions, and the 311 service representatives are the first point of contact for anyone trying to reach various departments within the town. This means that the service representatives are often able to answer questions without transferring the call to the respective departments, resulting in reduced call volume for the departments and allowing them to focus on other responsibilities, Kaiman said. He added that requests for service are sent to the appropriate department for review and immediate processing, and each one is tracked to make sure that requests are completed and the constituent is satisfied. Kaiman explained that this work has saved the town thousands of dollars and has helped every department work smarter and more efficiently.
In 2010, the 311 Call Center received a record-breaking 167,472 calls, and Kaiman noted that every one of these calls was “logged in, responded to and fully documented in perpetuity.” He said that the Call Center’s busiest day to date occurred following the post Christmas blizzard where they received 1,210 calls. “To ensure staff was in place for that post-storm volume, the Call Center director Vinny Malizia picked up staff from their homes in a North Hempstead hybrid SUV to make sure the call center was ready for action,” he said. Also, the 311 Call Center received its half-millionth call in 2010, which was from Corina Mintz of Port Washington, who wanted to know more about the opening of the new Aquatic Activities Center.
Kaiman said that the Highway Department responded to 10,987 service requests in 2010, which were initiated through 311. “The department filled 893 potholes, resurfaced 14 lane miles of road, planted 505 trees, trimmed 1,334 trees, removed 692 dead or dying trees, issued 754 road opening permits, removed 10 abandoned vehicles, and installed 1,688 signs – including work for schools, special districts and villages through our Office of Intermunicipal Coordination,” he stated.
The Parks Department, which manages 51 facilities, received more than 12,000 calls through 311 in 2010, Kaiman said. The Parks Department will have a new facility next year, with the addition of a community center in New Cassel, which Kaiman described as “a 60,000 square foot platinum LEED‐certified green structure featuring two NBA-sized basketball courts, dance and television studios, a lounge for seniors, Internet café, multipurpose room and much, much more.”
Kaiman also went into detail on the Public Safety Department, which includes Code Enforcement, Parking Enforcement, Animal Control, Harbor Patrol, and Emergency Management. He said that the Code Enforcement division received over 6,000 service requests in 2010, and the inspectors conducted 4,818 code inspections and issued 1,506 code violations and 520 summonses, up from only 176 summonses in 2009. Kaiman said that the Parking Enforcement Division issued 15,545 parking tickets, which was another increase from 2009.
The town’s Animal Shelter adopted out 197 dogs and reunited 104 dogs with their owners, Kaiman said. He explained that the shelter’s success is due to the hard work of Assistant Director Susan Hassett, the staff, and the Shelter Connection, which is a group of volunteers who help train the dogs. “The Shelter Connection helps make our dogs more likely to get adopted and to stay adopted once someone selects one of them to be part of their family. They have raised money and donated resources to our shelter, recently funding a dog trail and an adoption room,” he said.
Noting the numerous waterfront events offered throughout the town, such as beachfront fireworks, kayak races, and the Farmer’s Market at the Town Dock, Kaiman said that the Harbor Patrol has been a key facilitator in these functions. The Harbor Patrol also keeps everyone safe, he said, stating that they performed over 1,000 boat pump-outs and 87 waterborne assists, responded to three Fire Calls (two vessels and one upland house fire), served 15 written violation warnings and 18 appearance tickets, and made one Boating While Intoxicated arrest.
Kaiman said that the town’s Emergency Management division has been instrumental in dealing with crises this past year. “Most notably, this past June we experienced a ‘microburst’ wind storm in Great Neck where thousands of trees were knocked down in minutes and the town played a major role in restoring the Great Neck peninsula immediately after the storm and through the damage assessment period as well,” he said.
Project Independence is run by the Department of Services for the Aging, which was in its first full year of operation in 2010. “Project Independence connects seniors who live in the town with numerous services that assist them in staying rooted in their homes and in their communities across North Hempstead,” Kaiman said, adding that it offers partially‐subsidized taxi rides to seniors, which helps them stay active in the community. He also stated the key to these services is 311, and there were 17,183 service requests in 2010, which is just over 10 percent of all the town’s service requests.
Kaiman said that the town’s current project list includes the New Cassel Community Center, North Sheets Creek Restoration, Bar Beach Wetlands Restoration, the Blue Way Trail, Manhasset Bay Walk, Land Acquisition for Open Space Preservation, and a Green Fuel Depot. Kaiman also spoke about community visionings in North Hempstead, and stated that New Cassel is one of the most successful of such efforts.
“After many years of planning and hard work, we are now seeing hopes for revitalization come to fruition. New homeowners are moving into the community, and new businesses taking root,” he said, and described two new business owners in New Cassel who have been making contributions to the community. “Robert Weinberg, a lifelong Westbury resident, has brought a new dental practice to Prospect Avenue,” Kaiman said, adding that this practice will treat residents who have no insurance and provide free consultation, cleanings and screenings to children. “Leslie Davis, another Westbury native, has brought more than 30 years of hair care and cosmetology experience to Prospect Avenue,” Kaiman said. “She says she was prompted, even amidst raised eyebrows, to establish her new salon in New Cassel because she felt strongly about being part of the movement to turn the previously blighted community around,” Kaiman added, and thanked both Robert Weinberg and Leslie Davis for their commitment to the revitalization of New Cassel.
Kaiman also spoke about recycling efforts throughout the town. He said that participation in the In-School Paper Recycling Program this past year has increased from eight schools in eight districts to 15 schools across nine districts. In the current academic year to-date, he stated that students have recycled 20,803 pounds of paper, equal to 10.4 tons or 177 trees. Additionally, Kaiman said that Solid Waste Management took in 121 tons of e-Waste in 2010, which is 25 tons more than in 2009. He noted that of the 121 tons, approximately 20 tons came from schools.
In addressing TownStat, Kaiman said that this management strategy has been utilized in the Housing Authority meetings to provide oversight, transparency, and accountability in order to benefit the residents at these facilities. He explained that all service requests are reviewed at these meetings, and each issue’s outcome and resolution is reported. In addition, he said that the volume of Housing Authority service requests increased from 228 in 2009 to 323 in 2010.
In closing, Kaiman said, “We are running the town in a smarter and more thoughtful way than ever before, and a piece of the foundation for this is 311 and TownStat.” He added, “We have enabled ourselves to quantify our work, allowing us to responsibly allocate resources and become more efficient as an organization.” Kaiman explained that this increased efficiency and improved organization allows the town departments to focus on programs such as Project Independence and recycling initiatives, which improve the quality of life for constituents.
For more information on town programs, or to receive a copy of the full 2011 State of the Town Address, visit the town’s website at www.northhempsteadny.gov.