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Municipal roundup: Public meeting speakers

Public gets to speak at meetings’ start

The North Hempstead Town Board has amended its rules to allow the public to speak at the beginning of its meetings instead of at the end.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth, who took office this month, said the change is intended to allow more residents to participate at town board meetings, which at times have lasted for hours.

“There has been some discussion about trying to make the meetings more accessible to the public,” Bosworth said as she introduced the measure, which the town board approved by a 6-0 vote at its Tuesday meeting.

The 30-minute public-comment period will come after the town board comes to order and announcements or special presentations are made.

During the period, 10 people will be allowed to speak for three minutes each. If there are still members of the public who want to speak after that, the board will hold an additional public-comment period at the end of the meeting, according to the revised rules.

$4G contract OKd to scan documents

The Village of Hempstead unanimously approved a contract estimated at $3,940 with Document Conversions Inc. to scan and manage village documents.

The board voted 5-0 Tuesday to hire the Manhattan-based company for the file-scanning project with the goal of converting grievance files to PDF format and eliminating the need to store paper files in the village office, according to the contract.

“There is a lot of documentation, and a lot of paper takes a lot of room,” Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne J. Hall Sr. said Wednesday. “If you can put that in microfilm, it would free up a lot of room. It is a smart thing to store it electronically because you can reach what you need right away. It is the modern way to do it.”

Village officials estimated they have about 700 paper records, the equivalent of 35,000 to 40,000 images based on a minimum of 50 scanned images per file. Scanning costs 8.5 cents per image, with additional costs for making DVDs, shredding documents, indexing files, and pickup and delivery, according to the contract.

The village staff would handle document preparation and clerical tasks before sending the documents to the company for scanning and conversion. The authorization for destruction of paper records would be issued within 30 days of receipt of the digital files and documents would be shredded, according to the contract.

Looks Great Services wins town contract

The Huntington Town board approved a contract with Looks Great Services for lawn and landscape maintenance for the highway department.

The Huntington-based company was the lowest “responsive, responsible” bidder in a recent bid request. The one-year contract has a two-year extension option and requires a certified payroll and prevailing wage schedule, town officials said.

The contract is a requirements contract, which means Looks Great will work on an as-needed basis. The line item in the budget has an estimated number of the cost.

Looks Great also had the contract last year and was paid $120,000 for various services including mowing, trimming grass along fence lines, trees, shrubs, curb strips and debris removal.

Looks Great has been the subject of several investigations concerning its wage practices during superstorm Sandy.

Town board member Mark Cuthbertson, sponsor of the resolution authorizing the contract, said the town is required to accept with the company that wins the bid.

“The law forces us,” he said. “If someone has an issue with a responsible bidder like that, they should bring the issue to our board of responsibility.”

He said a previous review by the board found there was not sufficient reason to not hire Looks Great.

The resolution was unanimously approved in a 5-0 vote.

New village budget can override tax cap

The New Hyde Park village board has authorized overriding the tax cap when it passes its budget this spring.

The board Tuesday night voted 4-0 in favor of piercing the cap, if need be, or as a precautionary measure, according to Kate Hillmann, the village’s clerk-treasurer. She did not provide estimates for the 2014-15 budget.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for April 1, Hillmann said.

The village last year adopted a $5,853,068.67 budget, which runs through May, and represented a 2.04 percent increase in the tax levy, under the village’s 2.23 percent limit, Hillmann said.

Tax levy cap pierced by tentative budget

Northport’s tentative budget for next year calls for the lowest percentage increase in the tax rate in the past 15 years, but does pierce the tax levy cap, village officials said in releasing the plan Tuesday.

The proposed 2014-15 budget, which starts on March 1, is set at $18,837,596 — about $4.7 million more than this year.

Village officials said the increase in expenditures and revenue comes mostly from the sewage treatment plant improvement project.

Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said the village has been awarded several grants, which will ultimately reimburse the village for the costs of the plant after the work’s completed.

The proposed budget calls for the village to raise $10,972,359 in taxes, representing a 2.87 percent increase. The allowable tax levy cap increase is 1.7 percent.

The tax rate is slated to increase by $1.60 per $100 of assessed value — which is a 2.68 percent increase from this year. That’s the lowest percentage increase since the 1999-2000 budget, according to village documents.

The largest portion of the budget that taxpayers will pay for is home and community services, which includes the sewage treatment plant and its upgrades, followed by employee benefits and the police department.

A public hearing about the budget will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the village hall. The village board is to vote on the budget that night.

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