East Hampton fails to sign on to Peconic Estuary cleanup

East Hampton Town Hall at 159 Pantigo Rd. East Hampton Town Hall at 159 Pantigo Rd. (July 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

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A routine resolution calling for East Hampton to cooperate with other East End municipalities in reducing pollution in the Peconic Estuary led to a bitter debate between town board members and failed to get the votes needed to pass.

Most other towns and villages have agreed to sign an intermunicipal agreement to fund the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee, which will work to improve drainage, limit pollution, enhance tidal wetlands and take other measures to meet state water quality standards for Peconic Bay. Actual cost to individual towns has not been determined.

But when the measure came up for a vote Thursday night, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley -- who works on environmental issues for the board and who had deleted the measure from the agenda because she had not reviewed it -- wondered how it had returned to the town board agenda with a different sponsor.

The new sponsor, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, has repeatedly argued with Quigley on different issues in the past.

Van Scoyoc had ordered the town clerk's office to reschedule the discussion. He explained that it was an important environmental issue that the entire town board had discussed, but Quigley had missed the most recent work session during which it came up.

Quigley said she still wanted to look at the new version. "I might be its biggest cheerleader . . . but I want some discussion on it. That's my right. That's the public's right," Quigley said.

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Van Scoyoc said he recalled an extensive discussion, although he later said it took place several months ago.

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who often sides with Van Scoyoc on issues, said the vote needed to be held because the town might lose the opportunity to apply for a grant.

The resolution does not mention a grant application, and Overby later said she knew of no specific grant that would be involved.

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As the two continued sniping at each other, Van Scoyoc accused Quigley of trying to be a "gatekeeper" who would not allow the town board to vote on an important issue.

With Supervisor Bill Wilkinson siding with Quigley and Overby siding with Van Scoyoc, Councilman Dominick Stanzione, the critical deciding vote, abstained. There is nothing to prevent a new resolution from coming up again.

After the tiff, the town board approved three dozen mass gathering resolutions for summer parties and fundraisers.

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