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Islip residents defend Access program

A plan to reorganize the Town of Islip's human services department to save $1.6 million next year drew concerns from residents Tuesday night.

Two hours of an almost three-hour town board meeting was spent on public comment -- and an overwhelming majority spoke on the streamlining plan.

Many came to defend Access, a substance-abuse program that officials want to stop funding, saving $540,000 in 2013.

Under the reorganization, several of the department's divisions would be dismantled to get rid of administrative and employee redundancies, according to Councilman Anthony Senft.

Officials, grappling with a projected $26 million shortfall, say an unspecified number of jobs will be eliminated. The department now employs 75 full-time and 38 part-time employees.

Senft said the town won't be able to say how many jobs will be cut until meetings are held with Suffolk County Civil Service.

Renee Ortiz, a former Democratic candidate for town board, said she's concerned about the impact the cuts would have on the most vulnerable community members.

Stephanie Terry, who works for Access, complained that she found out "my job was in jeopardy through reading a Newsday article."

"I feel very disrespected and disappointed that this was not handled differently," she said.

Brent Munoz, of Dix Hills, said the rehabilitation program helped him turn his life around and become a better father.

After the public testimony, Supervisor Tom Croci and the four-member town board voted unanimously to decline continued grant money for Access. Public hearings on the reorganization plan were scheduled for May 8.

"There was a lot of spirited testimony here tonight and I appreciate all of it," Croci told the audience.

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