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Apr 27, 2011 12:54 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Burned-Out Streetlights In Flanders May Outline Understaffing In The Highway Department

Apr 27, 2011 1:14 PM

Dark streets have become a familiar sight throughout the communities of Riverside and Flanders due to an unusually high number of streetlights with burned-out bulbs on Flanders Road, along its side streets and continuing as far as to the Riverside traffic circle.

For Superintendent of Highways Alex Gregor, repairing the lights has inadvertently become a one-man job—after the Highway Department lost one of its employees due to an injury, leaving a single employee to address the lights as they flicker out.

Residents of the two communities have watched the number of extinguished streetlights jump to more than 20 over the course of the last five months, according to Flanders resident Richard Naso. Mr. Naso—who lives in Bayview Pines—has counted 12 streetlights around his home that have burned out over the last few months. After attempting to contact Mr. Gregor to fix the lights, and never receiving a response, Mr. Naso is just looking for someone to change the lightbulbs.

“This is a public safety issue,” Mr. Naso said, while walking toward an extinguished light on Flanders Road on Tuesday morning. “This is a dark area, there have been numerous accidents at that intersection.”

Help may be on the way.

After working with a single employee—Samuel Oliver—for five months, the department finally has another hand in fixing the lights. Mr. Gregor said that he hired a new employee, whom he declined to name, just last week.

“We’ve been bogged down,” Mr. Gregor said on Monday morning, after requesting a list of the street names where the lights were out from a reporter. “Residents can be of great assistance if they let me know where it is they are out.”

Early Tuesday morning, Highway Department workers were spotted along Vail Avenue in Riverside—ultimately replacing five lights on various roads in the two hamlets.

For Mr. Naso, the slow progression into darkness exemplifies what many residents of Flanders and Riverside believe: that the two hamlets are continually slighted by Southampton Town and left without basic services, such as those provided by the Highway Department.

“They’ve just kind of brushed it off,” Mr. Naso said. “Every time I look up, I see more lights out. It’s to the point where my wife says, ‘Stop looking up.’”

During a recent tour of the area, burned out streetlights could be spotted dotting Flanders Road, around the Phillips Avenue School in Riverside, by Ludlum Avenue, throughout various streets in the Bayview Pines area and on Riverleigh Avenue. For a community where residents often walk or bike to work—often before sunrise—Mr. Naso believes the cover of darkness is a real safety issue.

Mr. Gregor said that although he had driven through the Riverside area himself earlier this week and not spotted as many extinguished lights on the street, he was aware that lights have slowly been flickering out.

“They fixed five today,” Mr. Gregor said on Tuesday. “We’ve had a really tough winter and the maintenance mechanic was all by himself.”

Mr. Naso wasn’t buying Mr. Gregor’s explanation, however.

“They’ll always tell you, ‘We only have one guy that does the lighting,’” Mr. Naso said. “He’s tied up a lot, he gets switched. He’s doing the lighting, but very slowly.”

The Highway Department lost employee Peter Collins—the president of the Civil Service Employee Association, the union that represents most municipal workers in the town—after he was put on disability leave for the last 50 weeks. Mr. Collins has returned to work under transitional conditional leave and is now working in the safety department until he is fully recovered, Mr. Gregor said. According to Mr. Gregor, although Mr. Collins is on the highway department payroll, he is currently not available to work for the department—or to fix the streetlights—by order of Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

That frustrates the highway superintendent.

“I have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that he’s doing streetlighting work.” Mr. Gregor said. “Today is his second day back, and they haven’t offered him to me at all. It’s like tying one hand behind your back.”

In addition to the loss of an employee for almost a year, Mr. Gregor said that his employees have been hard at work to remedy numerous Health Department violations. He declined to disclose what the violations actually were or where they were within the town.

“When I came in the door January 3 of last year, the health department came in and gave me a list,” Mr. Gregor said. “I’m fixing 22 years of neglect.”

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Hey Alex, maybe one of your highway workers that I see at Dunkin Donuts in Hampton Bays, or the deli in flanders at 8:30 in the morning might be able to help you out here. Just a thought.
By lol@hb (20), hampton bays on Apr 28, 11 12:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
why fix them? it takes away from the whole 3rd world ambiance! If you fixed the street lights then we have to look at the 10 cars parked on the front lawn day and night!
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Apr 29, 11 9:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wow I wonder if one of those lights out on Flanders Road had contributed to the motor vehicle accident that killed the oedestrian crossing the road sunday night. I certainly hope not, could someone investigate and find out? If so, then SHAME ON YOU ALEX GREGOR!!!!!!!!
By The Crow's Nest (65), Red Creek on May 1, 11 8:50 AM
Seems to me maybe Richard Naso should run for something instead of just stirring things up all the time.
By Shout ot loud (20), Southampton on May 5, 11 12:26 AM