File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town will start holding meetings using the Zoom video conferencing platform beginning in May, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said in an interview yesterday.

“We’ll have the technology and everything in place,” Aguiar said. “We’re testing it now.”

The town board held its regular meeting in town hall on April 7, with the supervisor and two board members in attendance. It was closed to the public but it was livestreamed on the town website and aired on the Optimum government access channel (22). The format did not allow for live public comment. The Zoom platform can be configured to allow for public comment and interaction with board members.

The town board’s April 21 meeting was canceled by the supervisor in her April 12 emergency declaration order. All other meetings, except the April 16 planning board meeting, were also canceled by that order through the end of the month. All March meetings scheduled to be held after March 12, the date Riverhead first declared a state of emergency, were also canceled.

Planning Board chairman Stanley Carey said he decided to call a planning board meeting this week despite town hall being closed, because there are business items the board can take care of.

“Everybody is being paid to stay home,” Carey said.

“Why can’t we meet?” Carey said. “There’s an executive order allowing us to meet. People have hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in applications. Closings are held up. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Carey said the planning board won’t take up any controversial items.

The planning board meeting will be held via telephone conference and the audio will air on channel 22 and on the town website.

The agenda can be viewed and downloaded on the town’s website.

Public comments and questions can be submitted to the planning board until 12 noon on Thursday by email to [email protected], Carey said. The board will answer any questions during the meeting.

Aguiar said she offered the planning board chairman the use of Zoom but “he doesn’t want to embrace technology.”

Carey said that’s just not true. He’s been asking to use Zoom or Go to Meeting, another video conferencing platform he says he uses for meetings all the time. Carey is the superintendent of the Massapequa Water District and serves on the N.Y. State Water Quality Council and the L.I. Water Conference.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller, the town’s emergency response coordinator, has been working to find alternatives to in-person meetings. He initially did not want to utilize Zoom because of problems the platform was having with hackers and security vulnerabilities.

Some governments, schools and businesses have stopped using the platform because of security concerns. Zoom says it has taken steps to beef up its security protocols.

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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.