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East End loses bid for Suffolk legislative panel meetings to be held in Riverhead

East End lawmakers lost a regional fight Tuesday night as a proposal to hold a week of legislative committee meetings in Riverhead failed at the Suffolk County Legislature.

The procedural motion brought by Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) died on a tie vote of 9 to 9.

Despite Riverhead being the official county seat for Suffolk, most of the county government action takes place in Hauppauge. Of the 17 general meetings, 12 will be held in Hauppauge this year. All the committee meetings are held in Hauppauge, where the main offices for the Legislature and county executive are located.

Krupski said holding committee meetings in Riverhead in December would bring access for Eastern Suffolk residents who otherwise have to drive to committee meetings at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge.

“It is making government more accessible to everyone,” Krupski said.

Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) noted that there are two “horseshoes” around which county lawmakers sit, one in Hauppauge and another in Riverhead. “It’s a matter of fairness,” she said.

But western Suffolk lawmakers said it wasn’t worth it.

“Demographically, the population is on the west end of the county,” said Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst).

Holding the meetings for the 12 legislative committees in Riverhead would carry an estimated expense of $2,159 in extra mileage costs for legislative and executive staff, according to the nonpartisan Budget Review Office.

All six Republicans voted against the motion and were joined by three Western Democratic legislators, Steve Stern of Dix Hills, Lou D’Amaro of North Babylon and William Spencer of Centerport.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said that despite the five eastern towns having 10 percent of the population, they contribute a third of the county’s property taxes and a third of the sales tax.

Krupski said he’d try the proposal again next year.

East End civic group leaders, including those from Wading River and Southampton, testified in favor of the Riverhead committee meetings, as did Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst.

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