The Hen Island Impasse: A Tale of Two Islands
June 9, 2011


Depending upon whom one asks whether or not there are violations on Hen Island, one will get a different account of the seasonal inlet which lies off the coast of Milton Harbor.

The city says it is addressing health and safety “complaints” on the island, with the expectation of a resolution in the near future.

But if you speak to Ray Tartaglione, the island resident at the center of the ongoing controversy, the “violations” have been largely ignored by two successive city administrations.

Last week, the Kudor Island Colony, Inc., the island’s governing body, voted in favor of several proposals aimed at addressing concerns over mosquitoes, potable water and sanitary upgrades on toilets. But a final decision still awaits approval of the island’s shareholders – a procedure that will likely take a month to complete.

This news may finally lessen tensions between the two opposing sides, but City Manager Scott Pickup doubts that.

“Because even in his correspondences, [Tartaglione] talks about wanting to have a sanitary [sewer] connection to Greenhaven,” the manager explained. And that is something officials are not willing to entertain.

“The city at this point honestly doesn’t want to have an underwater sanitary line they would be responsible for running through Milton Harbor,” Pickup told us. “It’s not something we’re terribly interested in exploring.”

To address the mosquito concerns – Tartalgione says the island is infested – standing water will be covered. The manager said spraying would not be involved as part of the plan.

The city is pushing the island’s board to adopt composting toilets, since the island does not have any septic tanks or sanitary sewer lines. The city has also been in talks with the county to make sure there are no regulatory hurdles.

But Tartaglione doesn’t understand why he hasn’t been included in conversations between the city, county, and island board – particularly since he is the one who raised the concerns to begin with.

“All they’re saying is they are ‘addressing issues’,” he added. “They’re not even willing to admit there is a problem. Not the island, not the city.”

Mayor Douglas French (R) said the issue is being handled just as any other complaint that comes before the city. The City Council has asked the city manager to review the issues and determine what remedies may be put in place, French said.

“Rye is negating this issue,” Tartaglione said. “What are you hiding? That’s the problem with this council: They are not enforcing the laws.”

Tartaglione said that the city wouldn’t admit that there are violations because to do so would be an admission of guilt. He said his mission is not about the theatrics which residents have grown accustomed to, rather it’s aiming to bring to light the city’s allowance of polluters.

“If the city wants me to go away, it’s a very simple procedure,” the critic said. “Issue violations and take [island homeowners] to court.”

But the mayor contended that there is no public policy matter before the council and no legislative action to take. “It is really an administrative function,” he said.

When the new administration took office in January 2010, the group said it would take a fresh look at the issue. Since then, however, Tartaglione did initiate a lawsuit against the city hoping to compel officials into action. Then, earlier this year, the courts dismissed the case, saying Rye had the authority to act but only if it chooses so.

“All we can do is again look at the issues and come up with remedies, if any,” the mayor said. “Frankly, there is not much more we can do beyond that. I think that’s strong leadership we’re providing. We’re problem solvers; we look at issues, analyze them, look for the right solutions and than move on.”

Phone calls seeking comment from Ira Goldenberg, an attorney representing the Kudor Island board, were not returned as of press time.


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