The response, or lackthereof, to the recent blizzard by the Town of Brookhaven has caused many to shift their focus toward the upcoming special election for highway superintendent.
Candidates Dan Losquadro and Kathy Walsh appeared at Wednesday's Shoreham Civic meeting at the Miller Avenue School and fielded questions mostly regarding the response to the blizzard and how it would be different if either of them held the position. A special election for the position, set to be held March 5, had been largely overlooked before road issues from the storm brought the position's responsibility to the forefront.
"In light of recent developments people are now realizing the importance of strong leadership in the highway department," said Civic President Bryan Lilly. "You don’t really notice anything until something smacks you in the face and that storm really did. I hope people come out and vote in this special election."
Many in attendance who asked questions were not only concerned over future response, but also why this response was such a failure.
"This was really an instance of a lack of leadership that we saw," Losquadro said. "One of the things this department did not do was reach out to its outside vendors to supplement the workforce of the town. By the time they reached out all those resources were committed elsewhere."
According to Losquadro, about one-third of the state’s total snow removal assets are currently operating here in Suffolk County. An evident issue was a lack of these outside vendors helping with snow removal in the area, and Walsh pointed to issues with the insurance liability those vendors faced on the bid contract.
"The insurance liability was raised to a level that eliminated a lot of small business from being able to participate," she said, "and that needs to be reviewed."
Acting Highway Supervisor Michael Murphy resigned Wednesday and John Capella, current deputy highway superintendent, will replace Murphy in the interim. Some have questioned whether this position should be elected or appointed, and both candidates pointed to the failure during the blizzard as an answer to that question.
"We have a perfect example of a politically appointed person that was not well prepared to do the job," Walsh said, "and I think it reinforces the need to have an election."
Losquadro mentioned that a referendum to make the position an appointed one was put to voters a few years back and failed "almost 80-20."
"God willing, we’re not going to have these major weather events every year or in this case, twice in six month," Losqudro said. "Just the day to day operations, a lot of times these are the things that have to take place and people expect as the fundamental service provided by town government for the taxes that they pay."
Go here to rate the Town of Brookhaven's response to the storm.