At the Town of North Hempstead's meeting last week, the town board passed an amendment to remove commercial restrictions from an ordinance affecting Beacon Hill Rd., established via local law a Records Access Officer, and approved monies in the amount of $14 million via bonding resolutions for future TNH capital projects.
The meeting commenced with a public hearing to consider the adoption of an ordinance affecting Beacon Hill Road. The proposed ordinance would establish one hour "no parking" restrictions on both sides of the road, put into effect a reduction in the speed limit from 30 MPH to 25 MPH, and establish a ban on trucks weighing over four tons. Councilman Pollack proceeded to make a motion for the adoption of an amendment that would remove the trucking ban ordinance. Town Supervisor Newburger concurred with her colleague and deemed that the trucking ban could impose an economic hardship upon the business community. " People need to understand that we received a petition with 1,000 signatures against the band and even had the Port Washington Police Department inform us that the weight requirement would be difficult to enforce, " added Newburger. Upon much discussion, the board approved the amendment to eliminate commercial trucking via a unanimous vote.
Thereafter, County Legislator Barbara Johnson approached the podium and requested the board to hear the views of the Beacon Hill residents. Supervisor Newburger informed Johnson that the amendment had already been voted upon and that it was not feasible for her to talk about the issue. Johnson responded to Newburger's comments by demanding that her views be heard as a duly elected official of the Nassau County Legislature. With this, Supervisor Newburger announced that discussion of the amendment was closed and proceeded to clear the room. Upon leaving the board room, several Beacon Hill residents expressed their disbelief at the events that had taken place and accused Supervisor Newburger of being a "traitor" to the community. Newburger informed the public that the board cannot discuss an issue after it has been voted upon and that there were a myriad of other items that needed to be addressed on the agenda.
Newburger said in phone interview last week that the board really did not realize the economic hardship that this was going to have upon members of the business community. In addition, the police department had informed her office that it really was not feasible for them to enforce a weight limit restriction.
Wayne Wink, spokesman for Legislator Johnson, informed the Port News that Beacon Hill residents and members of the business community would try to come up with a compromise that could end the impasse. Wink also stated that Legislator Johnson is not planning on bringing up any amendments within the County Legislature and is not currently involved in any mediation efforts between the said parties.
In phone interview, Beacon Hill Residents Association Spokesperson Michael Selbach said, "We believe that the partial resolution that was passed will help the residents of Beacon Hill and Port Washington. We're currently working with the landscape contractors on an amendment that would be amenable to both parties in this issue."
The next item on the agenda was a public hearing on a proposed local law that would via amendment establish a Records Access Officer for the Town of North Hempstead. Many board members deemed that town attorney Howard Miller should be designated as the records access officer.Councilwoman Banks stated that the town attorney handles a majority of the incoming information requests and should now be given sole responsibility over these duties. Upon hearing this, Republican Town Clerk-elect Linda Green complained that this responsibility should belong to her when she is sworn in next month.
Green, a first-time candidate who defeated Democratic incumbent Deena Lesser, proceeded to accuse the board of "diluting the powers" of the town clerk's office for political reasons. Citing a letter from Robert Freeman, executive director of the Department of State's Committee on Open Government, Green said that in most town's, the town clerk serves as the records access officer. That official is given the responsibility for handling requests from the public under the Freedom of Information Act. "I was wondering why it would have to different in North Hempstead, " said Green. But Town Supervisor Newburger, a Democrat, said because decisions on granting requests for information often ended up in the town attorney' hands, it made sense for that person to be in charge.
Although state law has required the town to have a records access office since 1974, town attorney Howard Miller said North Hempstead had not had one and wanted to designate one. Green felt that this had become an issue of politics and proceeded to cite a series of examples in which townships had designated the said powers to be the responsibility of the town clerk. Upon completion of Mrs. Green's statement, the board voted unanimously to designate a Records Access Officer and transfer these responsibilities to the town attorney.
Finally, the board approved monies in the amount of $14 million via bonding resolutions for future TNH capital projects. The approved monies are part of a five year plan to create further flexibility for long term projects. Supervisor Newburger informed the public that these funds will create a framework for future spending. Seven million dollars was designated for infrastructural and road improvements. The board also advises audience that this was a normal administrative procedure and that there was nothing unusual about funds being approved at the last board meeting of the year.
Supervisor Newburger advised members of the public that there would be a swearing in ceremony for new board members at the beginning of the new year.