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Mar 24, 2010 1:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Bridget Fleming sworn in, helps push through gridlocked resolutions

Mar 24, 2010 1:44 PM

Newly sworn-in Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming had an immediate impact this week, helping to push through two hirings that had been stuck in gridlock by a panel sharply, and evenly, divided on the proposals.

Ms. Fleming, a Democrat, cast the deciding vote at the board’s meeting Tuesday night to create an energy coordinator position and fill it by hiring Matthew de la Houssaye at a salary of $60,000, not including benefits, which will be paid for through grants. Later in the meeting, she likewise tipped the scales in favor of promoting part-time court officer Richard Spera to full time. Mr. Spera, who was making $20 per hour working part time, will be paid a full-time salary of $46,145, and will be eligible for health insurance.

Both measures passed by 3-2 margins, with town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who is not affiliated with a political party, and Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, a Republican, voting yes on the proposals, and Councilmen Chris Nuzzi, a Republican, and Jim Malone, a Conservative, voting no.

Mr. Nuzzi and Mr. Malone previously vowed to oppose the creation of an energy coordinator position on the grounds that they thought it would be a civil service job that would eventually be funded by taxpayer money. The official resolution to create the post says that Mr. de la Houssaye’s salary will come from a grant from a $206,600 energy efficiency and conservation block grant from the federal Department of Energy.

When the coordinator position was first proposed and discussed in late February, Ms. Throne-Holst tabled the vote on it until late March, hoping that by that time she would have the support of Ms. Fleming, who was in the midst of campaigning for the vacant Town Board seat.

Mr. Nuzzi and Mr. Malone—who offered no further comment on their decisions during the meeting—voted against the proposal on Tuesday night despite Ms. Throne-Holst’s insistence that the position would only be a provisional one until the civil service system develops a test for it. That process could take as long as a year and a half, she said, responding to an inquiry from Mr. Malone.

Ms. Graboski reiterated that the position would pay for itself through “energy savings for town facilities,” as part of Mr. de la Houssaye’s job duties will be to find ways for the town to save on utilities. “This is an opportunity for us to be on the cutting edge,” she said, noting that Babylon Town is the only other municipality on Long Island with a similar position.

Mr. Nuzzi and Mr. Malone also opposed the court officer position, but with the support of Ms. Fleming, the measure passed.

Mr. Malone previously recommended keeping Mr. Spera in his current part-time capacity and hiring three additional part-time workers to fill in any gaps in the court officers’ schedule. But some of the town justices, and other court staff, as well as Police Chief James 
Overton, said that the new justice court on Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays needs skilled staff members and lobbied for Mr. Spera to be promoted to full time.

Shortly before Tuesday’s resolutions were voted on, Ms. Fleming participated in a ceremonial swearing-in with Town Justice Andrea Schiavoni administering the oath of office. She was officially sworn in by Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer on March 16 and she participated in the Town Board work session last Thursday, March 18. Because she is filling the seat vacated by Mr. Throne-Holst, Ms. Fleming’s term ends December 31, 2011.

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Energy Coordinator?? Wow lets be like Babylon! When the grant runs out so should the position. Waste Waste Waste!!!!
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Mar 25, 10 5:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
It is GRANT money, given to Southampton from the Federal government for the exact purpose for which it was used. It would be a waste NOT to use it.
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 10 1:13 PM
Congrats to the Southampton Town Board for seeing the potential the Energy Coordinator has and utilizing grant monies that have been made available. While only Bablyon Town currently has someone in this position, all Long Island Towns have the chance to hire someone for this position and have grant monies available.

The savings created by Mr. de la Houssaye will far exceed any "costs" he will have on the Town. It's unfortunate that it takes hiring someone to get the town to turn off ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 25, 10 11:27 PM
think they do understand the facts. this hack is grant funded for about 2 years and in the mean time the csea will develop a test and create a energy coordinator position within the civil service system. at which time the green committee will argue for to hire him as a town employee. the grant the town received was for any sustainable purpose. i can think of numerous ways to use that amount of money for real savings rather than hire someone who will probably only make suggestions to change the ...more
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Mar 26, 10 7:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's unfair to call Mr. de la Houssaye a hack unless you know him personally and can verify this. From a little googling it appears that Mr. De la Houssaye is extremely qualified - far more qualified than what the civil service requirements are likely to be.

Matt de la Houssaye is a waste-recovery and energy consultant with a Master of Science in Environmental Management and Policy from the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) at Lund University, Sweden. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 26, 10 10:03 PM
Is your crystal ball always reliable? Why refer to someone you don't even know as a "hack"? The grant money cannot be used in any other way than which it was. Why do you teapartiers insist upon embracing ignorance?
By fcmcmann (417), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 10 1:15 PM
Nature has it right. All the savings and benefits that Nature describes were explained, at length and in detail, to Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone by numerous commenters at the Feb. 23 Town Board meeting at which they first voted against this proposal. It was also carefully explained to them that the position would terminate if the grant money did not continue to sustain it They ignored all that testimony, all of which was favorable to the hiring, and rejected it, both on very flimsy-seeming grounds. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 26, 10 10:47 AM
It occurs to me that this isn't the only time that Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone have been deaf to what the people have to say at Town Board meetings. In regard to the other resolution that this piece reports on, the designation of a full-time court officer for Justice Court, the testimony was again wholly in favor of the proposal. All the professionals who work in Justice Court wanted this, but that meant nothing to the Obstruction Twins, who blocked it the first time around and voted No the second ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 26, 10 12:56 PM
unanimous public opposition? i hardly believe the whole town was against that. i heard plenty of commentary in support
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Mar 26, 10 7:47 PM
The "abundant testimony" you refer to was actually a handful of members of the Democrat committee, so I am with Ridiculous, nothing even closely resembling "unanimous public oppostion".
By sunnyside (4), Southampton on Mar 26, 10 9:15 PM
Oh boy, are you both wrong, ridiculous and sunnyside. Ridiculous, I was of course referring to the testimony at the Town Board meeting, not the "whole town" as you suggest. Per the minutes of that meeting, on Jan. 12, 2010, ten speakers addressed the Planning Board appointment, and all ten opposed naming Bill Berkoski to the post, hence "unanimous public opposition". That's what Chris Nuzzi & Jim Malone heard at the meeting, and they blew it off.

Sunnyside, you need to do some fact-checking ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 27, 10 4:35 PM
This is not about Mr. de la Houssaye, who seems to be a well-qualified individual. This is about yet another position that a lot of us believe will be turned into a taxpayer funded position. Look at the track record, specifically Steve Brautigham.

I believe LIPA will perform an energy audit at no cost to the Town. I think an easier solutiuon would be to buy $200k of photovoltaic panels, put them on the roofs of some Town buildings and start generating electricity.

Spend spend ...more
By diy_guy (101), Southampton on Mar 27, 10 8:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
This position will be funded with the limited grant money that could have been used in various different ways including offering rebates to Town residents who installed green fixtures at their homes. Do you really think this job is going to go away when grant money ceases to exist? The same handful of democratic and green committee members will be again marching on Town Hall demanding that it be kept as a full time CSEA position, funded by taxpayers. Nuzzi and Malone have this one right. Many ...more
By hb guy (17), Hampton Bays on Mar 27, 10 11:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
Diy_guy and hb guy, you both sound just like Chris Nuzzi posing his objections at the Feb. 23 Town Board meeting at which he and Jim Malone stalled the hiring of an energy coordinator. He kept suggesting other ways to use the grant money, and each time Anna Throne-Holst patiently explained to him that the federal grant was written in a very specific way, so that the only course permitted by the grant is to hire a person with the qualifications described in the grant. Mr. Nuzzi, either failing ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 27, 10 4:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yes Turkey Bridge, and what Nuzzi keeps patiently explaining is that he requesed that the rebates and incentives be included in the grant proposal several months ago and along the way, but was ignored. A coordinator was not a mandate of receiving the grant money, but it was what the green committee asked that it be used for in the proposal.
By hb guy (17), Hampton Bays on Mar 29, 10 10:02 AM
I believe you're right about the history, but that's what it is -- history. Chris Nuzzi lost that argument, and the grant got written the way it did, requiring the appointment of a coordinator. I still say, he seems prepared to throw the grant money away with his No vote, rather than accept the fact that it went differently from what he wanted. This gives Chris Nuzzi the appearance of a sore loser, which I didn't think he was. As for the other Obstruction Twin, Jim Malone, I don't know what ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 29, 10 11:05 AM
If this is a provisional position why is the town looking into civil service creating a test for this position? This position can be kept provisional and when the money from the grant runs out that person is let go. If they have civil service protection they get stay on as permanent employee using tax payer money.

By reg rep (408), Southampton on Mar 29, 10 8:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Then there is the chance that this person in this position could do great things for the town, perhaps greatly lower the operating costs. Careful.....this position could actually save the town money.
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Mar 30, 10 7:13 AM
SH Native keep dreaming. No postion will ever save the town any money. Our taxes keep going up and they will continue to do so. Take your head out to the sand.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Mar 30, 10 8:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Town of Southampton needs innovative solutions which will benefit us in the long-term. This position is funded by a grant and does not cost the taxpayer anything, and part of the position is to continue to obtain grant money to sustain the position. Like I said, this person could help reduce the operating costs of the town in general.
(reg rep-Registered Republican) Try to not react so partisan and get the big picture. We need to keep the welfare of the town in mind rather than the Republican ...more
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Mar 31, 10 8:19 AM
Actually, there's one Republican who has stated, more than once at Town Board meetings, that this position will save money for the Town, and that's Councilwoman Nancy Graboski. Of course, Ms. Graboski, being a thoughtful, practical, independent person, is probably not reg rep's type of Republican.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Mar 31, 10 10:07 AM
Know one knows for sure if this position will be funded down the road with grant money. That being said, why is the town looking into civil service creating a test for this position? This position can be kept provisional and when the money from the grant runs out that person is let go. If they have civil service protection they get to stay on as a permanent employee using tax payer money for salary + benefits.
I don't believe for one minute that this will reduce operating costs to the town or ...more
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Mar 31, 10 6:08 PM
For those who are under the belief that because a position is Civil Service it is funded by the Town and has complete union protection, I encourage you to educate yourselves. A position can have a civil service test and requirements, but can be funded by alternate means (i.e. grant monies) and can be eliminated if these monies dry up. Additionally, a civil service position can be excluded from the union (i.e. Chief Environmental Analyst/Chief Planner/Chief Building Inspector) if the title is listed ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 31, 10 9:42 PM