Reading between the lines after taking a long, hard look, the East Hampton Town Budget and Finance Committee, an unpaid group of citizens with tons of business and accounting credibility, has concluded that the work of setting Town Hall to rights remains half done.
Building on steps taken after the McGintee administration’s mismanagement, the town board and Len Bernard, its budget officer, are on a real path toward paying back internal debts and have kept a tight rein on spending. This is to the good, as the state comptroller’s office has indicated. On the other side of the coin, however, what might be termed the town’s parsimony is leaving a ticking time bomb for residents in the form of long-term needs and delayed work on infrastructure.
On the list of work unfunded and consequently not done, are the probable modernization of the town’s sewage treatment plant, storm-water run-off control, certain ecological protection measures, and deteriorating roads. Town Hall’s technological side is said to be outmoded, and that will also cost money down the line. As we learned from Hurricane Sandy, many town offices were left without power — there were no backup generators — and in some cases, key staff members just sat in the dark and tried to keep busy. As the town’s near-total silence before and after the storm demonstrated, better preparation and information systems will have to be put in place, and the cost is unknown.
The budget and finance committee has recommended that the town quickly develop a capital budget to address these and other long-term concerns. Not doing so now will leave the difficult job of selling a complex program of restoring town infrastructure to a future town board. It is time the town board got serious about East Hampton’s future needs and leveled with taxpayers about what it will cost to bring the town’s infrastructure to where it needs to be.