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Impasse on Suffolk plan to house sex offenders

Mike Evans, chief of security for the sex

Mike Evans, chief of security for the sex offender trailers, stands inside a trailer that used to house sex offenders near a Riverhead jail. (Feb. 2, 2010) Credit: James Carbone

Despite a deadline Friday, Suffolk's Social Services will keep open controversial trailers for homeless sex offenders unless the county Legislature votes to endorse a contractor's proposal for a network of mini-shelters.

While lawmakers have scheduled a special meeting Friday on pension issues, Presiding Officer William Lindsay said there is no need for a new vote on the mini-shelter policy lawmakers adopted in May. He said the department can implement the legislature's directive on its own.

"I guess we're at an impasse," said Lindsay. "But I'm sure it's not going to make the people of Southampton very happy."

Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst lambasted the department's decision as "delaying tactics" and threatened to go to court to get them to move ahead and shut two trailers with 26 offenders located in her town.

The gridlock is just the latest episode of the three-year controversy over the housing of homeless sex offenders, which has included multiple lawsuits and protests that drew 1,000 angry homeowners.

The county legislature in May directed the department to come up with a plan to house homeless sex offenders in mini-shelters spread throughout the county with no more than six residents in each. It also called for no more than one residence per town or legislative district, with 24-hour supervision and support services.

The policy, sponsored by Lindsay, also ended the voucher plan that gave homeless offenders cash to find places on their own. County Executive Steve Levy had moved to the voucher plan after he proposed moving all the offenders from the East End trailers to an industrial park in Babylon - a plan that drew a huge outcry.

Commissioner Gregory Blass said a new vote is needed to reassure the contractor, Community Housing Innovations, that lawmakers back their proposal and to encourage other vendors to take part in the plan.

He said a vote is also needed because CHI's plan adds a community advisory board for each of the mini-shelters, which could shut down a facility if problems arise.

"If the legislature declines to vote, there is not only no authorized plan, but very likely no contractor to comply with the resolution," Blass said. "We will have no choice but to continue with the trailers."

Even if an agreement is reached, department officials say it could be months before the new shelters could open.

Lindsay maintains the department has not complied with the Legislature's resolution, because it has submitted the vendor's proposal, not a departmental plan.

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