The Suffolk County Legislature's public safety committee in February 2013, meeting in Hauppauge, considered a bill that would end the county's policy of providing emergency shelter for homeless sex offenders in a trailer outside the county jail in Riverside. File photo: Denise Civiletti

For the first time in decades, the Suffolk County Legislature will hold its committee meetings in Riverhead next week in the run-up to a Riverhead general meeting.

The legislature’s next general meeting is scheduled to be held at the Evans K. Griffing County Center in Riverside on May 10.

North Fork Legislator Al Krupski pushed for the change because of the great distance East End residents must travel to attend committee meetings in Hauppauge.

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Legislator Al Krupski
File photo: Denise Civiletti

The legislature often handles issues important to the East End during its Riverhead general meetings — six of the legislature’s 15 regular meetings are scheduled to be held in Riverhead this year. But, Krupski says, much of the important work that gets done happens at the committee meetings. Legislative measures generally cannot be addressed by the full legislature unless they are first reviewed and passed by the relevant committees.

It’s a question of access to government, which is a key factor in a functioning democracy, said Krupski, who proposed and fought for the change.

“Previously, some of my constituents would have to travel for 90 minutes and up to 60 miles in one direction to speak for three minutes in the committee setting,” Krupski said.

Krupski first attempted to have committee meetings held in Riverhead whenever the the full legislative body was set to have its general meeting here. But that plan failed to gather enough support on the 18-member legislature, on which the East End has only two representatives.

Legislators opposed to the idea cited cost concerns. Holding committee meetings in Riverhead for one week would cost the county about $2,000 in staff travel expenses, according to an analysis prepared by the legislature’s budget review office. Supporting committee meetings in Riverhead on a regular basis with six computers and six cubicles would cost $38,200, according to budget review office director Robert Lipp.

Pleas by Krupski and then-South Fork legislator Jay Schneiderman that the expense was justified — they cited the contributions of the East End to county property taxes (one-third) and the region’s role as an important economic engine for Suffolk — fell on deaf ears.

In January, Krupski got the legislature’s support to move two of the week-long committee sessions to Riverhead.  Next week is the first of the two. The second week is scheduled to take place during the week of August 29 to September 2, in advance of the legislature’s Sept. 7 general meeting.

Krupski and Bridget Fleming, who was elected in November to succeed the term-limited Schneiderman — he was elected Southampton Town Supervisor — are urging residents to take advantage of this opportunity to have input into the legislative process at the committee level.

The legislative committee meetings will be held at the Maxine Postal Legislative Auditorium at the Evans K. Griffing Building, 300 Center Drive in Riverside.

Next week’s committee meeting schedule

Click on committee name to view agenda. (Opens in a new window or tab.)

Monday, May 2
Environment, Planning & Agriculture – 10 a.m.
Seniors & Consumer Protection – 12:30 p.m.
Public Works, Transportation & Energy – 2 p.m.

Tuesday, May 3
Veterans – 9:30 a.m. (No agenda available online as of this publication)
Budget & Finance – 10:30 a.m.
Education & Human Services – 1 p.m.(No agenda available online as of this publication)

Wednesday, May 4
Government Operations, Personnel, Information Tech & Housing – 10 a.m.
Parks & Recreation – 12:30 p.m. (No agenda available online as of this publication)
Economic Development – 2 p.m. (No agenda available online as of this publication)Thursday,

Thursday, May 5
Public Safety – 9:30 a.m.
Ways & Means – 12:30 p.m. (No agenda available online as of this publication)
Health – 2 p.m.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.