Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Freeport's Water Quality Assessment

So, upon arriving home from work today I found a publication in my mailbox entitled "Freeport Water 2009, Annual Water Quality Report." Presumably covering the year 2009, I opened it to see - happily, might I add! - that water tables on Long Island have allegedly risen up to two and a half feet over the last year, continuing a supposed trend observed since 2005. As a quick aside: For those who don't know me, I find water resources to be one of the most pressing issues facing the U.S.

Anyhow, this brochure details how Freeport obtains its water - "The Freeport Water Department draws its water from 11 drilled wells located in our service area," each of which is "between 500 and 70 feet deep." The water is drawn from the Magothy Aquifer, whican can be thought of as "a natural water filter that's about 1,000 feet thick and a hundred miles wide." The health of the Aquifer itself was assessed by the New York State Department of Health, and while there are always possible contaminants it turns out that Freeport does not have any current violations in terms of its water. The biggest risks listed were nitrate contamination possible, in part, through the over-fertilization of land, and a vulnerability to industrial solvents due to the proximity of transportation routes.

The brochure discussed regulations on lawn sprinkling, most importantly that there is never a time to irrigate from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM during sunny periods; this water will mostly evaporate, which is one of the worst forms of waste. The 2009 annual water charge was described as a $20.00 base fee, with the first 50,000 gallons used costing 1.90/thousand gallons. According to their examples, a consumer who averaged 150,000 gallons of water in this year was billed $365.00. Additionally, new water mains were installed on Summers Place and Gill Avenue, a sizable upgrade from 4'' to 8''.

Nevertheless, according to this document a gallon of water costs less than one penny - 0.00185 cents. The brochure somewhat predictably encourages residents to use tap water instead of bottled water, and it makes a strongly compelling case to do just that. They even discuss how small bits of Iron, a naturally-occuring mineral in the Magothy Aquifer, are in fact essential nutrients for the body. Our water is additionally treated with Sodium Hydroxide (to raise the PH to optimal levels), Sodium Hexametaphosphate (to sequester this iron and keep water discolored), and finally Sodium Hypochlorite (for disinfection).

All of these perks, however, come at a cost. In a sidebar, Freeport's Mayor Andrew Hardwick reaffirms his administration's commitment to providing clean and safe water to residents in a reliable, inexpensive manner. At the same time, however, he reminds us that this aquatic infrastructure is aging and that the Village requires "its share of the funding" needed to make vital repairs to the system. He declares that "Government cannot continue to raise taxes and borrow money to replace these mains," and that he will "bring this message to our representatives." Taken at face value, these pledges reassure residents that one of our most important assets - our water system - will remain safe. I, for one, will celebrate by having a nice, tall, ice-filled glass of what can only be called Dihydrogen Monoxide.

In order to obtain a copy of this report, you may head to one of a number of locations:
- Village Hall Water Billing Department at 46 North Ocean Avenue (Village Hall)
- DPW's Water Department office at 355 Albany Avenue
- The Freeport Public Library at 144 West Merrick Road,
- Or just call 516-377-2379

Friday, May 21, 2010

Interview with Michael Suchan and Jason Bass

Hello, Freeporters! First, a bit of bitter-sweet news: I got some extra vacation time this week, and I'm going to be heading on a small trip with my girlfriend. Unfortunately, I will not be able to cover the May 24th Board of Trustees meeting, myself. On the plus side, I'm hoping to have a guest-reporter step in, and maybe even more! We'll see, but I don't want to promise what I can't deliver. I do hope that as many of The Weekly Freeporter's readers as possible will make it; it'll be an interesting time, to be sure!

On that note, I'm happy to announce that The Weekly Freeporter has conducted its first interview. I sat down yesterday in lovely Cow Meadow Park with two of the three administrators of the “Keeping the Freeport Festival on the Nautical Mile” Facebook page, a political lightning rod which just prior to the interview hit 3,800 members. It was one of the first major Facebook pages to be formed about the Village of Freeport, and has attracted a tremendous following that helped rally the Village around political issues across the spectrum.

Michael Suchan, the founder of the group, described his reasons for creating the group to be “a little bit of both” concerns over the way Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick was handling the Nautical Mile Festival, and the rumors he was hearing about the location of the festival being changed, or of its outright cancellation. Jason Bass, a second administrator who joined shortly after the group's founding, added that he joined because he “wanted to find the truth on this” issue.

With so many issues and rumors floating around, Mr. Bass discovered to his chagrin that “nobody was recording the minutes” of Village Hall meetings; or, if they were, they were extremely hard to get hold of. They related to me how Village residents stood up and asked questions at Board of Trustee meetings, and how the answers they received only seemed to fuel the rumors, at first. As the movement grew, however, Village Hall had to take notice, and eventually they made clear what the situation for the Festival was. “One day in 2010, June fifth,” Mr. Suchan stated plainly, “with June Sixth as a rain-date.” On next year's Festival, however, they were more optimistic – their group has been working closely with Nautical Mile business owners, they stated, in order to make sure that the next year's festival would be “complete.”

As one of the first – and perhaps, still, the largest – Facebook pages discussing Freeport community activism, they've also fallen under fire from other community leaders for their way of doing things. Mr. Suchan didn't seem phased by this, offering the opinion that “We just keep with the movement we started, and keep trying to do the right thing.” Mr. Bass concurred, offering his well-wishes. “I'm proud that a lot of the followers of our site took a handle on other issues that [Mayor] Hardwick was dealing with,” he added.

With their involvement with the Nautical Mile Festival coming to an end, as both they and the Village itself are turning its future over to the area's businesses – a third incarnation of the Festival that is much closer to its original, business-sponsored format than today's Village-sponsored one – my interviewees offered both advice and possible next stops for their energies. “If we want Freeport to get better,” Mr. Bass counciled, “we must figure out, first, what changes we expected, and what will we do in order to work on these changes ourselves?”

For Mr. Suchan, his next stop might be an interesting one. “The incinerator issue is burned,” he mused, “maybe I'll focus on education.” He also advised that “we have to come together as a community to face these issues. We need to focus on local politics.” Mr. Bass's next endeavors were more concrete – literally. “The roads,” he simply stated, “and to educate people on local elections so this doesn't happen again.” He realized that the condition of Freeport's roads were a minor nuisance to many, but proposed that it was the issue that was most present in his daily life.

Both men, however, had one clear objective, one dictum that underscored their reasons for their involvement: “Its for the community.”

You can find the “Keeping the Freeport Festival on the Nautical Mile” Facebook group by clicking its name. And don't forget to visit the Nautical Festival on June 5th; with June 6th as its rain-date!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Freeport School District Budget Passes; Election Results

The challengers struck first, but the incumbents carried the day.

That is the only way to describe tonight's budget vote. When I arrived at Caroline G. Atkinson school, it was 9:00 sharp and the doors had closed to new voters. As late as 9:10, rumors circulated that there were still lines out of the door at Columbus Avenue School. The incredible number circulating, 5,000, swam through one's head as one considered just how many voters that figure actually amounted to.

Freeport High School Principal Ernest Kight had an explanation as to why so many people came out for the vote. "The Mayor got involved in the process. Its never happened before," he stated calmly. When the first numbers hit the projector, however, the budget's future looked secure in ways that the incumbents, Debra McQuillan and Michael Pomerico, did not: All three challengers had gained more votes from the Freeport Family Community Center than the incumbents.

As the night progressed, however, more schools were added to the list, and ultimately the incumbents struck back like this was the second Star Wars film. The final votes were as follows:

Proposition One - Freeport Union Free School District Budget
- 2847 votes in favor.
- 1460 votes against.

Proposition Two - Freeport Memorial Library Budget
- 2701 votes in favor.
- 1314 votes against.

On the passing of the budget, Trustee Ron Ellerbe declared jubilantly of residents that "They got it right!" But the most shocking figures were yet to come, as the final schools trickled in to reveal the outcome of the school board vote:

* Michael Pomerico: 3240 votes.
* Debra McQuillan: 3240 votes.
Fidel Abreu: 674 votes.
Thelma P. Lambert Watkins: 769
Sandra Richardson: 907
Other: 1

*: Incumbent
Bold: Winner

While this was anything but a dull race, the outcome was an impressive show of force from the community: 8831 total votes were recorded in the school board race, with each person being allowed two votes. This adds up to a staggering 4415.5 voters. As the incumbents were congratulated, Mrs. McQuillan offered me a simple, powerful observation on the community's show of support, the approval of the budget and even the tie she found herself in with Mr. Pomerico: "Very cool."

Monday, May 17, 2010

School Budget Protest at Village Hall

The first thing I noticed were the marchers as I drove by. The next thing, the thing that struck me the most, was the chant: "Hardwick no, Vote yes." Signs, including one that read "Cut Hardwick, Not Budget," were carried by children, teenagers and adults alike as they marched in front of Village Hall on Monday, May 17th. One day before the budget vote, Freeport residents worked together to express their opinion.

I spoke with Ellen Frey, President of the Freeport PTA Council. "This protest is about the fact that Mayor Hardwick wants to influence village residents to vote down the budget," she explained. As the Freeport School District and the Village of Freeport have separate organization structures, taxation authorities, and even different boundaries, the Village has no authority over how the School District proceeds with its budget. As Mrs. Frey put succinctly, "The mayor has no say."

As previously reported by News Twelve, Mayor Hardwick announced that the school board wants to give increase to the "Deputy Super-Intendent and Assistant Deputy Super-Intendent anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 raises." If true, in the face of a massive loss in state aid, it would be cause for alarm.

According to one member of the Freeport Board of Education, Ron Ellerbe, however, this is nothing more than the a simple case of "The Mayor misrepresented the facts." As he stated at a public town hall meeting recorded by Channel 18, "Inside Freeport," Mr. Ellerbe explains that the Superintendent is a new Super-Intendent, and is not getting a raise - he is, instead, under a brand new contract that places him at a salary level that is actually below that of the average for Nassau County.

About his encounter with the Mayor, Mr. Ellerbe simply explained that "if I hadn't spoken out to correct the record, it would have been false." Mr. Ellerbe Also went on to state that Mayor Hardwick is "actively campaigning against the budget. He's supporting two other candidates who are running for the board who are also opposed to the budget." School Board President Debra McQuillan added that "the budget has always been put out on a neutral level. The Mayor has tilted the scales."

Also countering the Mayor's claim that the budget is out of control and "needs to be rolled back," Mrs. McQuillan explained that "the Board of Education put up probably the most responsible budget possible given the loss of more than $4,000,000" Looking about at the one hundred and fifty protesters Mrs. Frey estimated were in attendance, the impressed School Board President calmly ruminated that "This is the beast woken up."

Resident Susan Lyons commented that "The Mayor put up two candidates who are unqualified," adding to Mr. Ellerbe's concern about the Mayor being too involved in this election. The Co-Chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee, Jeremy Impellizeri added that he believes "its come to a point where the people are not going to take it," vowing "we're not letting him (Mayor Hardwick) touch our schools."

If tomorrow's Budget is rejected by voters, an alternative budget must be created and voted upon at a later date. If that fails, the consequences - known as "austerity" - are devastating. Freeport has been through such periods before, and they are periods with seriously reduced services - such as crippling cuts to music education and athletics. Layoffs and pay cuts are also potential consequences for an austerity spell.

While there may be something to be said for controlling spending, the protesters made clear that they don't believe it to be out-of-hand in the school district. Mrs. Frey had some impressive parting words; according to her, "the Mayor has increased his office's budget 92%." Her message for Mayor Hardwick was simple: "tell the Mayor to stay out of the school budget and roll back his own." Unfortunately, she missed her opportunity; immediately after taking this quote down, protesters began to claim that they had seen Mayor Hardwick leave through the back entrance, leading one to wonder what his response to the picketers might have been - they were certainly shouting loudly enough for him to hear them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mission Statement

To our readers,

This Blog is being created as a venue for residents of the Village of Freeport, located on Long Island and within the state of New York, to receive as well as contribute information pertaining to our Village. This could be anything, ranging from the latest Board of Trustees Meeting to notices of elections and whatnot.

Business reviews, sporting events and even (hopefully!) interviews with Village Officials are the choice entrees of this verbal restaurant. But before we can get into the metaphorical main course, a little about myself; my name is Jesse Pohlman, and I've been a Resident for twenty five years. That's about as long as I could have been a Resident, since that is my age. Since I was sixteen, I've worked as a lifeguard for the Freeport Recreation Center. I hold a Masters Degree in Secondary Education as well as a BA in History from Adelphi University, and a BA in English from Queens College. I'm a writer, and my personal webpage can be found at for those who are interested in fiction or articles about more than just the Village.

I've been active in Village politics for a few months now, and hope to remain a vigilant, concerned citizen. Hopefully, I'll live up to my standards of personal honor - antiquated as that word might be! - and will be able to provide you all with concise, factual information that is gleaned through journalism and not simply through rumor. To that end, any suggestions that you might have are more than welcome; if something is worth looking into, or a business worth reviewing, I will be more than happy to do so upon your suggestion.

Since I've explained what this blog is for, allow me to explain what it is not. This blog is not a group effort. The name "The Weekly Freeporter" was chosen because I believe I can post once or twice a week, and will not necessarily be reporting about a million things every day. It is, similarly, not a partisan or politically-oriented effort: I might elect to write an op-ed piece now and again, but I will strive to avoid endorsing political candidates and will certainly not permit visitors to leave slanderous/deceptive sentiments behind. Finally, it is not something to be used to any one person's ends - I would like to believe we are all free-thinkers, and that we all form our own opinion. You may or may not disagree with me, and as with all journalism there are times when even the best informed people "get it wrong." Perfection is impossible, but I commit myself to pursuing it as close as I can get.

My warmest regards,
--Jesse Pohlman