The Brookhaven wildlife and ecology center in Holtsville will not close after all.
The town board passed a resolution Tuesday to keep open the popular center, which former supervisor Mark Lesko proposed closing when he introduced his preliminary 2013 budget last month, citing most of its visitors are nonresidents.
The proposal triggered considerable public outrage.
"We'll pay a price to go into the ecology center if necessary. But who is really paying the price is our children [if it closes]," Holtsville resident Wayne Carrington told the board shortly before the decision.
Council members Connie Kepert and Tim Mazzei introduced the resolution, which passed 5-1. "I'm very happy to save the ecology site, it's a great site. It has a pool and a zoo and people go jogging and walking," Kepert said after the board meeting.
Located on a reclaimed landfill, the Town of Brookhaven Ecology Site, Park & Animal Preserve includes a triple pool complex, exercise-trail fitness course, nature preserve and ecology center that features buffalo, bobcats, eagles, ecology exhibits and tours, free compost, greenhouses and a picnic area.
Funding for maintaining the Buckley Road center will come from combining the Division of Traffic Safety with the Highway Department, officials said.
Also, officials said savings would come from reducing duplication of paperwork and speeding up processing times, streamlining coordination of projects previously overseen by both departments, reducing administrative salaries by replacing an assistant director with an engineer, and eliminating the need to fill some future vacancies.
About 400 people attended the meeting, and many of them also protested proposed layoffs and budget cuts to women's services and the Brookhaven Animal Shelter. The proposed budget cuts the shelter's $1.6 million annual expenditure by $100,000.
Several supporters held signs that read, "Save Brookhaven Shelter Animals." Shelter supervisor Dori Scofield said she plans to resign Friday, citing "budget constraints."
"If they cut the budget, the animals will go down," said animal shelter volunteer Kristy O'Donnell, 30 of Rocky Point, during an interview at the hearing.