Islip officials buy new chairs funded by grant money

The Islip Town Board recently purchased $5,986 worth The Islip Town Board recently purchased $5,986 worth of chairs for town officials to rest in when presiding over board meetings and other public forums. (March 19, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Nicole Fuller

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The Islip town board room just got a lot more comfy.

The town board recently purchased nine new chairs at a total of $5,986 for town officials who preside over board meetings and other forums.

The purchase of the wingback chairs, priced at $665 each, was funded through public access grant monies the town receives as part of its cable franchise agreements.

Town Supervisor Tom Croci, a Republican, said the old chairs were "falling apart" and the board had long looked to buy new ones. "We used the grant money as economically as possible," said Croci, who added that the entire board weighed in on the purchase. "I didn't select them."

The town ordered the black vinyl chairs with tufting on Feb. 27 from office furniture company W.B. Mason, according to an invoice provided to Newsday. The swivel chairs with a mahogany finished wood base are an upgrade from the old, cloth-covered chairs that were bought in 1992, town officials said.

"They were a little funky," said Republican Councilman Steven J. Flotteron, who said the old chairs were often the subject of good-natured squabbling among board members. "We used to have fights quietly up there, 'Oh, I got the bad chair.' "

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Former Supervisor Phil Nolan, a Democrat, said the old chairs were "comfortable." In 2008, his administration used $3,700 in grant funds to carpet the board meeting room and spent $6,273 for 104 audience chairs. "When something broke on the old chairs, we fixed it," Nolan said. "We didn't spend money. It's been a year and a couple months since I sat in them, but they seemed fine to me when I left."

Islip has franchise agreements with both Verizon and Cablevision -- Newsday's parent company -- and has accumulated about $400,000 in cable grants, town officials said. Spokespersons for Cablevision and Verizon declined to comment about the purchase.

A 2009 memo from the Islip town comptroller's office to the town attorney indicates the grants can be used for "any purpose relating to meeting the cable-related needs and interests of public meetings of the town of Islip and its residents."

A similar 2007 memo noted the town can use the funds to purchase "durable goods and items that would enhance the public town board room," adding, "For example, new chairs and tables would be acceptable."

Mike Deery, a Hempstead Town spokesman, said the town has used its annual $10,000 in grant money from Verizon for production equipment. "The town thinks that's the responsible use of the monies -- video and audio equipment related to the production of public service announcements," Deery said.

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