On July 21st, Southold VOICE hosted its second public meeting at Southold Recreation Center, Peconic, NY. John Kramer, Chairman SoutholdVOICE, opened the meeting, then turned the floor over to Southold Trustee Dave Bergen to report on his activities with respect to dredging.
Mr. Bergen reported that the principal challenge today is the Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) requirement for an “Essential Fish Habitat Report.” The requirement runs 9 pages of text and 17 pages of attachments plus other material. Since mid-April, the ACoE has not responded to a request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an elaboration of the report’s requirements. This delay prompted Mr. Bergen to contact the congressional offices of Senators Schumer and Clinton and Representative Bishop, who together wrote to the ACoE, requesting an explanation with a deadline. (A copy of this Congressional letter was posted on SoutholdVOICE website last week.)
Senator Schumer’s office, Mr Bergen said, had reported that the ACoE has asked for a little more time. The dredging window runs from September to mid January. Despite the federal uncertainty, the five East End towns have proceeded as if the needed permits will be forthcoming. By their calculations, there will be sufficient time for 16 projects and they have come up with a priority list that is presently under review by each town. When approved, Dave Bergen will post it on the SoutholdVOICE website. (Watch this space!)
At the same time, the DEC (Dept. of Environmental Conservation) has been cooperative. However, their permits have a shorter life (5-years vs. 10-years for ACoE), hence it makes sense to wait until the ACoE acts before DEC issues permits.
John Kramer thanked Dave Bergen, then updated attendees with a report on what has happened since the last open meeting on May 19th.
By popular demand, the organization name was changed from WPOCA (which no one could remember or pronounce) to SoutholdVOICE, an acronym anonymously suggested at the last meeting. This fits with our goal of becoming a voice of reason and is very memorable. John has acquired the DBA (Doing Business As) in the name of Southold VOICE and has opened a post office box, which is now the organization’s official mailing address. The address for correspondence is Southold VOICE, PO Box 996, Southold, NY 11971.
Joanna Lane then took the floor to explain the website, how it works and the difference between the main website and the Yahoo Discussion Group, asking whether there were many non-computer users among us. Only one person raised their hand. The website is an evolving process, a work in progress, yet already more than 3700 “hits” (visits) to the site had occurred in the short time that it had been in existence. To reach that same number by newsletter would have cost $1,800.00. There are plans for a newsletter to be mailed to members on a quarterly basis, but cost is a factor and she encouraged everyone who did not have a computer to use their local library, or ask friends, family and neighbors to print out copies of recent articles. The principal means of communication with members at this time and for the foreseeable future is going to be online. The purpose of the website is to build a comprehensive resource and shine light on every relevant topic. As an interactive site, members are encouraged to submit articles and add comments. The most popular topics rise to the top and every viewpoint is welcome. For this reason, anonymous articles will not be accepted for publication.
Paul Birman then elaborated on the difference between a “blog” and a standard website or newspaper, where information is PUSHED to the viewer/reader. SoutholdVOICE, he explained, is different in that it is PUSH-PULL, with viewer participation crucial to establishing a meaningful dialog. He noted that voice.southold-at-gmail.com will be the address used for mass mailings, for example the notice for this meeting. He emphasized that it is essential for subscribers to add this address to their address book, known as “whitelisting” the email address, or it could end up in their spam folder, and several had bounced already.
John Kramer thanked attorney Steve Kilar, whose services had been secured pro bono. The Charter was being prepared for incorporation as a not-for-profit organization, which would mean contributions will be tax deductible, and Officers had been appointed (see previous post “Meet The Board of Directors”).
The volunteer group which has been meeting regularly had hammered out a mission statement, which was not, he noted, easy. He read the statement from the web screenshot that had been handed out. An interim Board of Directors has been appointed as have the Officers. A tax ID number has been requested. Once it is in hand, we plan to open a bank account, hopefully next week.
John cited, as a proud accomplishment, the growth of awareness of our organization as a forum for issues that impact the shoreline. We will have perhaps 400 names following this meeting. By the end of the summer, in 8-weeks, he hopes to grow the total to 1000, and urged attendees to talk to their friends and neighbors. Membership growth is a priority.
Fundraising is another priority – we do need money to fund the website, a prospective newsletter, insurance, letterheads etc.
He asked for volunteers experienced in newsletter preparation, in fund raising, able to study the impact of the LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan) on our property rights, to evaluate the cost to dredge vs. the cost not to dredge (fish kills because of low oxygen levels), study water pollution and evaluate the permitting process.
“I don’t think anyone would defend present process.” John Kramer said.
We are an equal-opportunity employer; whatever your talents, we’ll employ them. The Board cannot do it all. We have a diverse outlook, he explained. For example, “Joanna wants to feed the geese, I want to shoot them.”
Our slogan will be “where the blue meets the green ….”
A 50:50 drawing closed the meeting. First prize was $152.00, second prize $91.00 and third $51.00. Much appreciation was expressed for the efforts of the fundraising crew.