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Officials seek more cash to house sex offenders

One of the sex-offender trailers owned by Suffolk

One of the sex-offender trailers owned by Suffolk County Credit: Handout, 2007

Suffolk Social Services officials Thursday asked county lawmakers to nearly triple the department's emergency cash fund to $25,000, saying the money is crucial to plans to shut trailers used by homeless sex offenders by Feb. 11.

However, department officials came under fire at a legislative committee when they initially testified that only a part of the increase would go for sex offenders.

David Mohr, the agency's chief accountant, said the bulk of the fund is needed to pay the $90 a night allowance to 20 to 35 homeless sex offenders. The offenders will have to find their own accommodations and will be issued debit cards in two weeks.

"Without the cash I don't know what will happen," Mohr said, noting the deadline for closing trailers in Riverhead and Westhampton comes just before the four-day Presidents Day weekend.

The legislature's health and human services committee voted 4-0 to release the resolution without recommendations allowing the measure to go to the full legislature for a possible vote Tuesday. Some doubt the proposal will pass. "I remain unconvinced," said Legis. John M. Kennedy (R-Nesconset). "I don't see it passing."

Gregory Blass, social services commissioner, said the resolution to increase the $8,500 limit on the fund predates County Executive Steve Levy's decision earlier this month to shut the trailers. Using emergency funds to pay for offenders' housing costs is temporary, he said.

The need for increased petty cash has "grown exponentially" because of the downturn in the economy, Blass said, adding that the money is needed to pay for things like food and clothes.

Levy chose to close the trailers after protests to use a warehouse in Farmingdale.

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