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Citizens want R. Clemente & Casamento Pools re-opened

Roberto Clemente/Timberline Pool

ISLIP TOWN—Before a packed house at the Islip Town Board meeting Tuesday night, the board retreated from its proposed pair of controversial resolutions that, if passed, would have effectively stripped Supervisor Tom Croci of several exclusive powers and spread them evenly among the board. Such authorities included the hiring and firing of personnel, purchasing powers, contract negotiations and an array of other administrative duties. In a unanimous vote, the board “adjourned” the public hearing centered on the resolutions, which in turn eliminated the proposals from consideration.
Councilman Anthony Senft addressed the board before making a motion.
“Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with each and every one of my colleagues,” said Senft. “At the these meetings, we gained a greater understanding of how to work together. As a result, I’m confident that the communication issues that I thought were in existence among the board have been eliminated.”
Previously, the board strongly supported the measure, stating that it would allow for more transparent and efficient government for the town and its residents. Councilwoman Trish Bergin-Weichbrodt, who was recently stripped of her deputy supervisor title amid the ordeal, voiced her agreement with her fellow board members in the face of boos and heckles from the crowd.
“I embrace the feelings of my colleagues,” said Bergin-Weichbrodt, who is running for re-election this fall along with Councilman Steve Flotteron. “I think with Superstorm Sandy, the recent blizzard that we had, working in better alignment will certainly serve the people of the Town of Islip.”
Croci, who had vehemently opposed the proposals, thanked the rest of the board and expressed his satisfaction with the decision.
“I was always confident that the good judgment, prudence and integrity of my fellow board members would see us through this difficult time,” said Croci. “Every resident should know that you run this government through the people that you elect, and that your vote will never be taken away from any outside influence in this town.”
The collective decision garnered loud applause from the packed room of residents, who voiced their firm support for Croci in what many have viewed as a politically charged effort to usurp his powers purportedly due to his unwillingness to fulfill Islip Republican Committee Chairman Frank Tantone’s orders to fill patronage positions. Tantone has publicly denied all accusations.
Although the proposal was dismissed, more than a dozen residents voiced their support for Croci and their displeasure with the board’s conduct.
“I’m glad that you came to the right decision, but it’s a shame that it took you this long to come to your senses,” said West Sayville resident George Surber. “Nothing positive came out of this. Remember that when you people are dysfunctional, our town is dysfunctional.”
“The matter is resolved, but it’s not something that we’ll brush aside,” said Ronkonkoma resident Darlene Dow. “This is an offense to the people who voted for you.”
“We were brought here by the actions of a select few,” said Bayport resident Craig Boyer. “We’re not privy to backdoor meetings with party leaders. We only need one [person] to make the final decisions. You ran as a solid team, and you became fractured. I’m just hoping that common sense prevails and that trust will remain amongst the board going forward.”
In other business, there were some complaints about snow removal and a number of residents also denounced the indefinite closure of the public pools at Casamento Park in West Islip and Timberline Park in Brentwood. The board had initially assigned capital monies in this year’s budget for repairs to the pools, but subsequently reallocated the funds for Superstorm Sandy repair and relief efforts.
“This is fundamentally wrong,” said West Islip resident Gerry Pallotta, Islip’s Democratic Party Leader. “There’s a human element to this decision that directly affects the children and families in these areas, where many are facing economic challenges.”
“These communities rely on these pools,” said Central Islip resident Renee Ortiz, who lost a bid for a council seat in 2011. “You said it’s about budget cuts, but I don’t think the millions of dollars in the deficit is based on these pools.”
The board’s response was that it was doing all it could to find alternative ways to open the pools by this summer without costing the town, which is strapped for money in the midst of a budget deficit.
“We’ve made some of these harsh decisions over the past year because we had to,” said Councilman Flotteron. “Our goal here is to find ways to offer equal or better services in the future through grants or public-private partnerships like we’ve already done with a number of other programs. I promise you that we’re attacking this and working to get these pools back open as soon as possible.”
The next Town Board meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 5 at 2 p.m