Kaden Linnen, 12, Riverhead Town 'Supervisor of the Day' at the Town Board meeting on Nov. 21. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town now has a Department of Economic Development and Planning. The Town Board last week, after a public hearing, passed a local law to formally establish the new department, which consolidates the planning, building and economic development departments into one new department.

The Town Board did not act last week to appoint Community Development Administrator Dawn Thomas as head of the new department, as is the board’s stated intention. Thomas was temporarily assigned to oversee the new department in September, before the department was formally established by code.

The board at last week’s meeting also terminated the suspension of Jefferson Murphree, the town’s head planner who served as the head of the Department of Land Management until his suspension in March, following the filing of disciplinary proceedings against him. The hearing on the charges remain ongoing. Murphree had been paid his full salary after the first 30 days of his suspension.

“And just be mindful that this is a very common position that I believe Brookhaven practices, you have the CDA department which is a planning. And then you have the planning department — they need to all talk to each other. So now it’s more cohesive, it’s more centralized and there’s an oversight,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. “So this is a very common approach and many counties across Suffolk County practice this type of efforts to consolidate and put everybody together under one roof,” Aguiar said.

The legislation also formally removed the fire protection office (the fire marshal’s office) from the new department. That office had been made part of the Department of Land Management when it was created in 2017, but the fire marshals have been reporting to the chief of police for the past few years at the direction of the Town Board.

Kaden Linnen of Riverhead helped the town supervisor preside over the Nov. 21 Town Board meeting. Kaden, 12, was chosen by the town supervisor as “supervisor of the day” and spent part of the day shadowing the supervisor at Town Hall. Kaden is in the 6th grade at Pulaski Street Intermediary School. He became a Boy Scout this year after five years in Cub Scouts and is an aspiring Eagle Scout and future Riverhead volunteer firefighter.

Riley Avenue Elementary School nurse Judy Marcus-Shivers and security guard Sarah Atkins were honored by the Town Board Nov. 21 for saving a chocking child on May 9.
Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Town Board on Thursday also presented Riley Avenue Elementary School nurse Judy Marcus-Shivers and security guard Sarah Atkins with certificates of appreciation for their actions that saved the life of a choking child at the school on May 9. On that day Marcus-Shivers and Atkins performed the Heimlich maneuver on a child who was choking on a chicken nugget.

The presentation was delayed due to scheduling conflicts, the supervisor said.

“We thank them and congratulate them for their stellar work on that fateful day,” Aguiar said.

In other action at the Nov. 21 meeting, the Town Board:

Authorized an extension of time to remit real property taxes for up to five business days without penalty or interest for senior citizens receiving enhanced STAR benefits under the State Real Property Tax Law.

Authorized shotgun hunting for deer on certain town-owned properties, including the Calverton Enterprise Park and 1751 Sound Avenue, Calverton during the special shotgun season Jan. 1-31, sunrise to sunset.

Authorized Peconic Hockey Foundation to site two portable food concession trailers in a portion of the parking lot adjacent to the domed ice rink facility to offer the sale of light fare, dessert items, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.

Approved the special event application for Andrew’s Top Gun Run, a 5K footrace to be held at the Calverton Enterprise Park on March 30.

Authorized the supervisor to execute a professional services agreement with BJH Advisors to prepare a benefit-cost analysis for the community development department’s 2024 RAISE (Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Riverhead has sought RAISE grant funding for four years without success. Last year, the town requested $24.6 million to help fund: a flood resiliency project on the Peconic Riverfront; the amphitheater and playground elements of the new town square; new streetscape lighting and signage improvements downtown; public Wi-Fi and new security cameras downtown; and $10 million of the projected $20.3 million cost to build a 569-space parking garage on the north side of Main Street.

Authorized the supervisor to sign an engagement letter with the law firm of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna as special counsel for tax certiorari (property tax grievance) litigation. The town’s current tax certiorari counsel, the law firm of Lewis & Greer, which was hired by the town in January 2022, is closing and all partners have moved to Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, according to the Town Board resolution.

The board last week also took a number of personnel actions, including:

Appointing Supervisor Yvette Aguiar to serve as a marriage officer through Dec. 31, 2024, without salary or compensation.

Ratifying the resignation of longtime Riverhead Sewer/Scavanger Waste District clerk Jill Sollazzo effective Nov. 10 and authorizing the supervisor to sign a consulting agreement with the former clerk to continue clerical functions in the district through the end of next month or until the town hires a permanent senior account clerk to replace her in the sewer district.

Ratifying the resignation of Justice Court Clerk Lindsey Ronning effective Nov. 14.

Accepting the resignation of part-time Court Officer Charles Wansor.

Accepting the resignation of part-time Police Officer Cristian Mayorga;

Authorizing the publication of a help wanted advertisement for part-time police officers.

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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.