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Mastic Beach mayor adding timer to help keep order at unruly board meetings

Mayor Bill Biondi is shown in Mastic Beach

Mayor Bill Biondi is shown in Mastic Beach on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi blames himself for the chaotic nature of village meetings and says he'll install a timer at Tuesday's board meeting to stop unruly behavior and long-winded speakers.

Biondi called the meetings "a circus" and said he may also increase security if necessary.

The past few village board meetings have been disrupted by residents yelling and arguing from their seats, interrupting other speakers and insulting the trustees.

Speakers who are allocated two minutes to address the board often talk for much longer -- in one meeting this past summer a resident kept talking for 40 minutes. Speakers rarely stand at the podium to speak or identify themselves, as required.

And when Biondi does strike his gavel to quiet the room, he's often ignored or derided.

As a result, board meetings have stretched from two hours to about four in the past six months.

Biondi, charged with keeping order at the meetings, said his upbringing made it hard to cut people off when they're talking. He said he has let people speak at length whether they criticize him or not.

"They took the time to say something, so I don't cut them off. That's how I was raised," Biondi said. "I feel that if the residents have a concern in the village, they've earned the respect to talk for more than two minutes."

Some residents said the meetings have simply become political theater for people more interested in being seen than a place to address critical village issues. The Oct. 14 village meeting violated state fire code when 117 people squeezed into a newly constructed Village Hall room with an occupancy maximum of 98.

Other residents said concern for the community drives the interruptions and long speeches.

"Because I'm so knowledgeable, so involved in the community and aware of the issues, I feel so passionately about our community and care so much about our future," said resident Frank Fugarino, a former mayoral candidate who interrupted last month's meeting four times.

But passion shouldn't lead to disrespect, said village trustee Maura Spery, who is often at odds with Biondi over village issues.

"We need to respect the office," she said. "There should be more respect and order."

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