WATER MILL - A street sign intended to honor a nun who was killed in a hit-and-run is causing controversy in Southampton.
As News 12 has reported, Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor put up the sign in memory of Sister Jacqueline Walsh. The Catholic nun was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Rose Hill Road in Water Mill back in 2012.
The memorial sign for the 59-year-old Walsh was placed atop the corner street sign last summer by Gregor, although he didn't know her. "I'm in charge of the road system," he says, "and when people get hurt or especially killed, it deeply affects me."
But other town officials say Gregor didn't have the authority to place the sign. In a July 28 memo to Gregor, the Town Board said the unauthorized sign was removed because "town law... reserves to the Town Board the authority to designate the name of a street."
Gregor put the sign back, arguing that he is not changing the name of the street, but is simply memorializing Walsh.
Some neighbors are speaking out about the sign. In a letter to Gregor, resident John Carley writes, “Designating a street to honor a person is to acknowledge a notable or historic achievement... While I have no doubt Sister Jackie was a wonderful person... her tragic death while visiting us is not an event residents wish to recall."
Still others say they are in favor of the sign because it's a tribute to a woman who did wonderful work for her parish, and is a reminder for drivers to be cautious.
A town spokesperson tells News 12 that according to the town attorney, the highway superintendent does not have the authority to rename the road even in a memorial fashion. The sign will be removed again, according to the spokesperson.