Newly elected officials join town boards
Election recount will decide council majority
EAST HAMPTON — A recount Monday morning will determine which party will control the Town Council for the next two years.
It will determine if Republican Tim Feegle or Democrat Alan Hurst will become the seventh and deciding member of the council. In the wake of Tuesday’s voting, Feegle leads Hurst by 12 votes.
In the meantime, there was a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday evening for some members of the council, the Board of Finance, Board of Education and Zoning Board of Appeals elected to their positions Tuesday.
The relaxed ceremony was held in the T-Bell room at the high school and the oath of office was administered by Assistant Town Clerk Bernice C. Bartlett. Bartlett volunteered to take on
the role so Town Clerk Sandra Wieleba, who had worked late into the night Tuesday coordinating election results, could rest.
Then, as soon as she delivered the oath, Bartlett adjourned the meeting.
The nearly 20 newlyminted officials went back to talking among themselves, sharing congratulations and/or meeting with Town Manager Michael Maniscalco and Superintendent of Schools Paul K. Smith.
Aided by newly elected Board of Education member Marc Lambert, who cut the cake, Administrative Assistant Cathy Sirois served pieces of a congratulatory blue-and-white iced chocolate sheet cake.
Immediately after the winners were announced, Republican Melissa Engel, who appeared to be the council chairwoman designate, said her first priority will be to resolve the nagging issue of bringing potable water to town.
Addressed by reporter Elizabeth Regan as “Madame Chair,” Engle laughed as she said, “Oh, I love that!”
Engel said she was “thrilled that (the GOP) did so well” in the voting.
“In the last two years, there has been a lot of progress, which speaks to the tenacity of the Republican Party,” Engel said.
The GOP held a 5-2 majority on the just-expired council.
Two reasons drive her desire to resolve the water issue, Engel explained. They are “economic development and providing water to people who need it.”
The town was built around wells to provide water. But its long history of late 19th- and early 20th-century manufacturing also left a toxic legacy of contaminants which have fouled many of those wells. The well that is supposed to provide water to Town Hall is contaminated, forcing the staff to rely on bottled water instead, Maniscalco has said.
“The next big thing for me is reducing property taxes, and the way to do that is through economic development,” Engel said.
And the key to economic development is a reliable water system, she said.
If she is indeed to become “Madame Chair,” Engel said she does not expect pushback from the Democrats on the new council over the issue.
“Water is the primary goal of both parties,” Engel said.
However, Kevin Reich, the prospective chairman if Democrats capture the council majority, said he is not yet ready to commit to any one issue. Speaking following the swearing-in ceremony, Reich said, “I haven’t given any thought to ‘a priority’ at this moment.”
He said he didn’t necessarily disagree with Engel about the need to address the lingering water issue. Rather, “we have yet to discuss and prioritize the issues,” Reich said.
“I hope we can have a conversation” about the various issues facing the town and the council and then prioritize the council’s approach, Reich said.
Newly elected members in East Hampton took their oaths of office on Thursday morning at Town Hall.