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Suffolk stalls shutting homeless sex offender trailers

The Suffolk Legislature balked Tuesday at providing the cash to shut down two East End trailers housing homeless sex offenders by Feb. 11.

But Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass said the legislature's inaction would only delay for six to eight weeks the shutdown of the controversial trailers in Riverhead and Westhampton.

The legislature voted 15-3 to table a measure to allow Social Services to increase its long-stressed petty cash fund from $8,500 to $25,000. About $15,000 of that amount, officials said, is needed short term to move to a $90-a-night debit card voucher system through which offenders find their own shelter.

But it became the flash point of an hourlong debate over placement of homeless sex offenders that split lawmakers largely along geographic lines.

"This has very little to do with petty cash, but everything to do with the trailers, both of which happen to be in my district," said Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who with Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches) and Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) opposed the tabling.

"I don't see the crisis you are trying to convey to us," Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), who made the tabling motion, said to Blass. He said the problem arose because the agency acted without consultation to shut the trailers.

The trailers, which accommodate 26 offenders, were a response to provide supervised housing for predators, but Blass said they lack showers, cooking facilities, or programs to help offenders find permanent housing and jobs.

He also said the cost of running the trailers was expected to be $1.4 million this year.

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