Suffolk County Legislators voted on Tuesday to enter into an agreement with a private contractor to provide housing throughout Suffolk County for homeless sex offenders, a potential social gain for residents of Riverhead and Southampton who have hosted the roughly two dozen criminals for over three years.
However, less than two hours after the vote, it's apparent that East End Legislators will need to rally two more votes since County Executive Steve Levy has already said he will veto the bill.
"We will veto," Levy said in a statement. "(Presiding Officer) Lindsay's concept of creating undisclosed sites for housing homeless sex offenders will undoubtedly wind up in court, leading to no real resolution for months if not for years. The voucher system solves this housing problem immediately."
Romaine "vowed" to override the veto.
While the vote doesn't direct the closure of the trailers currently housing the sex offenders in Riverside and Westhampton it would force the County Department of Social Services to enter into an agreement with Community Housing Incorporated, Inc. by Jan. 15, 2011.
The final vote was 11-7, before which there was no discussion. In order to override Levy's veto, one more vote will have to be gained by Legislators Ed Romaine, R - Center Moriches and Jay Schneiderman, I - Montauk. This could prove difficult since Legis. Dan Losquadro, R - Shoreham - who voted for the CHI plan - is leaving for the State Assembly in January.
The vote was a request by CHI, through the DSS, to get the Legislature's approval before entering into a contract with the county on such a contentious issue.
Rather than two trailers on the East End, the CHI plan calls for "no more than one shelter ... in any town or legislative district and no more than six (6) offenders shall be housed at any shelter."
Since April, the Legislature and Levy have gone back and forth trying to find a new plan for the homeless sex offenders.
Earlier in the year, Levy implemented a "voucher program," which gave homeless sex offenders $90 per day to find their own housing. Under this program, according to Schneiderman, hotel owners who housed sex offenders were required to tell potential customers that sex offenders were housed on-site. This program was cut by the Legislature in the spring.
In August, the legislature passed a resolution directing the DSS to implement a "new program" for housing homeless sex offenders by Oct. 15. The resolution was subsequently vetoed by Levy, and passed with an override veto by the Legislature on Sept. 16. - an override Schneiderman was quick to note took no small effort to pass.
Oct. 15 then came and went, and the DSS requested the Legislature for a vote of confidence, since CHI was the only plan the county received.
Similarly, the Jan. 15 deadline can come and go as well. Or Levy can veto the bill.