Sunset Bay residents voice concerns to sheriff

HANOVER – The Hanover Town Board and Sheriff Joseph Gerace heard an earful of residents concerns with the safety in Sunset Bay.

Resident Elaine Boyda told the town board Monday her grandson, Brandon, was attacked by four people, resulting in broken bones in his face.

Boyda and other residents said they are afraid to walk around at night and that something must be done.

Another incident brought up was when a lifeguard was struck on duty. Head Lifeguard Abigail Rocque said the lifeguards have called the police and have waited for 45 minutes to two hours for deputies to arrive.

“It is scary because people don’t listen. It has gotten to a point where it not only endangers the people in the water we are supposed to be watching, but it also endangers us,” she said.

Other residents brought up quality of life issues like littering, relieving themselves in the beach grass and destroying town property. One resident suggested putting up a fence and charging for residents and non-residents to use the beach. Other residents complained of too much enforcement of minor traffic charges, when other serious events are taking place on the beach.

Sheriff Joseph Gerace was on hand to answer some of the concerns.

He said the sheriff’s department is limited and cannot be everywhere at once. When dispatch is called, complaints are triaged, like in an emergency room, with the most severe getting attention first.

He emphasized keeping communication open, asking residents to call police whenever something looks suspicious. He said if there is ever a risk of injury or death to call 9-1-1; for administrative matters like parking, call the sheriff’s dispatch at 753-2131.

He said he would rather residents call when something is suspicious and have dispatchers assess the situation than have residents not call and have something bad happen.

Board members thanked Gerace for coming to the meeting and also thanked residents for bringing these problems to the board.

“It is good you brought these issues to the board because we can’t fix problems we don’t know about,” Councilman Kenneth Cross said. “I can’t say things are going to be fixed overnight because we are dealing with people and people are the hardest things to deal with.”

Supervisor Todd Johnson also promised action, although not right away.

“A lot of things can be done, but probably not this season since it is almost over,” he said.

Johnson also reminded residents to look out for their neighbors and to call the police if something does not look right.

The board also authorized Johnson to sign an agreement for enhanced protection with the sheriff’s in Sunset Bay. Johnson explained this is something the board does every year for the end of June through Labor Day. He said the cost for the added protection has increased over time and this year will cost $7,000 for 28 shifts.

It was also suggested at the meeting that in the future this cost be paid by a special district in Sunset Bay like the lighting district. He said he believes the services are needed but should not be paid by all residents of the town when only those in the bay benefit. Several residents disagreed saying everyone can use the beach and taxes are higher in Sunset Bay because property values are higher than in other parts of the town so it is not fair to add more taxes.

The measure was passed unanimously. A special district was not created and will be discussed by the board closer to budget time.

The board will meet again on Aug. 12.