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Permits reveal slices of life in Riverhead

Just for fun, Riverhead Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm decided to go through her town records and see just how many special permits and certificates her office issued in 2013.

"It was kind of interesting," she said Thursday. "I may do it again."

Wilhelm, who was appointed to her job in 2008 and was deputy town clerk for seven years before that, learned a lot about her town: More people died (461) than were born (398), and more residents took out special deer-hunting permits (276) than new dog licenses (262), although 567 dog licenses were renewed.

She said that the birth and death numbers reflect the fact that Peconic Bay Medical Center serves people from across the East End and parts of Brookhaven. "You don't have to be a resident to be born here," Wilhelm noted.

The requests also revealed that 433 people got permits to hold yard sales last year, more than 35 times as many as the 12 peddlers permits for those selling items door to door, which were also issued by her office. "If we allowed hot dog trucks, there would be a lot more," Wilhelm said, noting that sales of home security systems were popular.

She added that it would be interesting to go through old town records and look for trends, getting some kind of picture of how the town has been changing over the years.

Wilhelm discovered that only 63 people applied for shellfishing licenses, and speculated that the 585 handicap-parking permits issued may be due to Riverhead's aging population, although there are no data to verify it.

And, in a nod to more transparent government, the biggest category on her list was the 1,563 Freedom of Information Act requests, which are filed with Wilhelm's office before they are reviewed and acted on by the town.

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