Supervisor candidate Catherine Kent and council candidate Evelyn Hobson-Womack on Tuesday criticized the Aguiar administration for the pace of progress on a security camera program downtown, where cameras installed in Grangebel Park remain inoperable. Photo: Alek Lewis

Internet provider Optimum/Altice has told the Town of Riverhead it expects to have the equipment and infrastructure needed for the operation of the town’s wireless security camera system in Grangebel Park installed and ready to use by the end of this month, according to town officials.

Optimum did a final site inspection at the downtown park today and started to install preliminary infrastructure, including conduit, Deputy Town Attorney Dan McCormick said in an interview today. They will need to test signal strength and upload speed, to ensure that images from the cameras in the park can be viewed in real time at Riverhead Police headquarters, McCormick said.

McCormick met with the town board this morning to give the board a status update on the project, following criticism of its progress Tuesday by town board candidate Evelyn Hobson-Womack.

But Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said McCormick’s appearance before the board this morning wasn’t a response to Hobson-Womack’s press conference, which was attended by Councilwoman Catherine Kent, who is looking to unseat Aguiar in the November election.

“We already were going to discuss this,” Aguiar said. McCormick has been working hard on this project, she said. “I saw 120 emails,” she said.

Deputy Town Attorney Dan McCormick during the July 22, 2021 work session. Photo: Alek Lewis

The security camera project was always to be completed in phases, McCormick told the board. Phase one was the area around the Riverhead railroad station; Grangebel Park was phase two. The town hired a vendor for the cameras in August 2019. The supervisor signed a property access agreement with Optimum on Feb. 7, 2020, authorizing the internet provider to access town property near the railroad station for the purpose of installing the necessary equipment.

Then in March, COVID struck and the the project stalled, McCormick said. “As we know, Governor Cuomo issued his executive orders, and as we know, Town Hall came to a close in late March of 2020, and remain closed for months on end,” McCormick noted.

Many businesses, including Optimum, are still struggling to rebound, he said. Optimum has had personnel, equipment and supply line issues, McCormick said. The town’s security system technology vendor has had similar issues, he said.

There were some technical problems to to iron out with the railroad station phase of the project but that phase has been completed, he said, and as of February, it has been “fully operational,” McCormick said.

McCormick said he had prepared a site access agreement concerning Grangebel Park for the supervisor to sign today, which he said he’d email to management at Optimum.

“And that agreement was prepared a while ago,” Aguiar said. “And it was already scheduled to be on” the work session agenda today, she said. Aguiar said she called Optimum yesterday and they told her everything was set and the installation would be complete by July 30.

Retired Riverhead Police Detective Evelyn Hobson-Womack, right, during her press conference in Grangebel Park July 20. Also pictured is Councilwoman Catherine Kent. Photo: Alek Lewis

Aguiar expressed annoyance at the candidate’s press conference Tuesday morning, as well as her appearance at the Riverhead Town Board meeting that afternoon to air the complaint directly to the board.

“Many of us in the law enforcement field feel that our security was jeopardized for political purposes, by someone holding a press conference where they could have just contacted my office or Dan McCormick,” she said.

“The fact that it was asserted that there’s no cameras out there, we’re probably going to see an increase in crime,” the supervisor said. “And that’s unfortunate,” she said. “Then you bring it to the town board, open it up. And then it becomes a show. And that’s exactly what it was. And I am offended.” On Tuesday, the supervisor, a retired New York City Police Department sergeant, said the candidates’ statements about the cameras jeopardizing active ongoing investigations.

Aguiar said the police department will now have to assign more officers to the park as a result of the announcement that the cameras aren’t working and it’s going to cost the taxpayers money.

Kent attended Hobson-Womack’s press conference and defended her running mate’s right to speak out as a resident. “It was completely within their purview to bring out something that they were concerned about as a community member,” Kent said.

“Public safety is not to be used for political purposes,” Aguiar said.

“The public safety concern is that the cameras were sitting there for two years,” Kent replied. “And not connected. They were sitting there for two years. And that is a public safety concern.”

Hobson-Womack declined comment. “The only thing I want to say is, thank you town board,” Hobson-Womack said.

The supervisor said it was a lengthy process. “And this was almost just about to reach its culmination,” she said.

“We operate together as a council. There’s no finger-pointing here,” Aguiar said.

Councilman Ken Rothwell commended McCormick for his work. “I know you’ve been working on this a long time. I’m just sorry you get attacked two weeks prior to the completion of this,” Rothwell said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard joined in to thank McCormick for his hard work.

“There is so much tap dancing going on here at Town Hall lately,” Kent said. “I seriously feel like I’m in a Broadway show,” Kent said. “That was such a litany of excuses,” she said.

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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.