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New Mastic Beach mayor cracks down on disorderly meetings, sets timer for comments

Maura Spery presided over her first board meeting

Maura Spery presided over her first board meeting as mayor on Tuesday night, April 14th, 2015. Credit: Veronique Louis

Mastic Beach Mayor Maura Spery took charge of Tuesday's trustees meeting by cracking down on interruptions and not allowing residents to enter the room once it reached capacity.

Spery, presiding over her first meeting after being elected last month, took control quickly.

"Please, no talking," the mayor said after taking the microphone when village clerk Susan Alevas was interrupted by an audience member during roll call.

Two code enforcement officers stood near the Village Hall meeting room doors to ensure residents couldn't enter once the crowd reached the maximum of 95 people -- a number achieved at the start of the 7 p.m. meeting.

Ten people were forced to wait outside with village fire officials.

The first person to leave the meeting went out the doors at 7:25 p.m. At that point, resident Donna Maurice was allowed in.

Maurice said she was initially upset about having to wait, but later cooled down.

"It's the very first meeting with a new mayor and three trustees. I was glad to see a huge turnout," Maurice said, but she worried the room was too small for the well-attended meetings. She recommended having village meetings at a larger facility or installing speakers outside the room so residents kept away can listen to the proceedings.

Overcrowding hasn't been an issue at other Brookhaven village meetings, including those in Patchogue, Port Jefferson and Bellport, where turnout is significantly smaller.

Spery also instituted an orderly process for residents who want to speak at the board meetings.

Two tables with four chairs were set up near the front of the room and speakers were called up four at a time -- a process similar to that used by the Brookhaven Town board.

Spery had a timer attached high on a wall for the audience to see. Speakers were allowed three minutes to make their point instead of taking as much time as they wanted in previous meetings.

"We are going to conduct these meetings differently than in the past," Spery said.

Not everyone at the meeting appreciated the changes and some who were late said they were offended by being kept out.

"Seriously, that was wrong," Theresa Pavanello told the board. "We need a meeting where everyone can come. We need a bigger building. It wasn't fair."

Spery responded, "We've got the building that we have and the restrictions that it has." The current Village Hall opened in 2013.

Mastic Beach officials said the meeting, which lasted 2 1/2 hours, was productive. Meetings in the past year had lasted as long as four hours.

"I thought it ran very orderly and smooth," trustee Bruce Summa said after the meeting. "It was beneficial for the board and public."

The board adopted a resolution naming Summa deputy mayor and discussed changing the name of Neighborhood Road to Main Street.

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