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Riverhead At Crossroads Canidates Debate

Denise Civilleti

Democratic town supervisor candidates

The preliminary bout, was between Democrats Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito who, at times seem to be involved in a grudge match over things that happened when both were on the Riverhead School Board. It wasn’t Tyson and Holyfield and no ears were bitten, and both had their rooters in the audience.

Both agreed that maintaining services without raising taxes was an essential philosophy given the increasingly heavy debt load Riverhead has. Cotten-Degrasse preferred forming a committee to maximize what could be obtained from the EPCAL property, and wanted that committee composed of businessmen, environmentalists and real estate experts. DeVito, noting that was a good idea, suggested temporary workers in town to grow the work force to provide more service at a lesser cost. Both agreed the plan to subdivide EPCAL, could provide an answer to the town’s revenue generation problems, which Cotten-DeGrasse considered the preeminent problem facing Riverhead. DeVito was concerned of the possibility of the EPCAL subdivision plan falling prey to land speculators. “That’s why we need a committee, so it [EPCAL] ends up looking how we envisioned it,” said Cotten-DeGrasse.

A mention of transparency in Town Hall drew first blood when both women traded barbs about school board transparency.

Both essentially agreed on how they would handle the town’s boards — Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Industrial Development Agency, etc. “We need to improve communication between all the town’s boards,” said DeVito. “That’s why we need an office of economic development within the town.”

As for the IDA, “They’ve never seen a proposal they didn’t love,” said Cotten-DeGrasse. “I’m opposed to giving tax abatements to companies that are coming here regardless of whether they’re getting a tax abatement.”

“They need to establish a criteria before giving out abatements,” said DeVito. “They should have to prove a need for the abatement.” An exchange of light blows ensued regarding tax abatements granted by the IDA when DeVito was a member of the IDA board.

"I'd like to know when my opponent had an epiphany about the IDA," Cotten-DeGrasse said.

DeVito said she did not have an epiphany, and said Cotten-DeGrasse misrepresented her vote on the Atlantis tax abatement. She said she asked the school board to have itself removed as a special taxing district for IDA abatement purposes, but no one on the school board wanted to act on it.

As for developing downtown: “We need to partner with the south side and the county,” said DeVito. “As long as the south side remains blighted we’re going to have quality of life issues,” she said, adding, “and compare the taxes the small businesses pay to the shops on [route] 58. They need tax relief.”

‘We have to look at what we can do,” said Cotten-DeGrasse,” and what we can afford to do. We have to prioritize. The bridge should be a very low priority,” although “the” bridge hadn’t been mentioned.

“I’m running for Town Supervisor for the same reason I became a teacher,” said Cotten-DeGrasse, “I want to positively affect the lives of the people in this town. "

“The town government isn't working. It’s bickering, fighting and cronyism,” said DeVito, calling for an end to "dysfunctional government." She advocated the appointment of a town manager to professionally and efficiently run town government.

DeVito argued that she is the only candidate who can defeat Sean Walter in November.