There will be a Santa Claus in Suffolk County after all. Earlier this week folks got in quite the huff when the grinches at Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy's budget office decided not to approve a new contract for Dave McKell, the 83-year-old man who has donned St. Nick's gear at the county-owned St. James General Store for the past nine years. Luckily for McKell, today the Democratic candidate going for the executive seat, Steve Bellone, decided to throw a press conference at which he pledged to pay the $660 needed to keep the McKell's ho-ho-hos coming [reg. req'd]. And Bellone swears the move wasn't political!

The current Babylon Town Supervisor says he just threw the news conference, well, because "We have to let people know Santa will be here." And it certainly seemed to please McKell. "This definitely puts Steve Bellone on the nice list," he said. "I am thrilled to once more have the opportunity to help area children enjoy the holiday season."

McKell's job had initially been cut by the budget office because its finances are a mess. Currently 750 employees of the county are facing layoffs and every penny counts. Steve Levy and his chief deputy, Edward Dumas, had instead offered to don the suit themselves as volunteers and were looking to find more. Instead, McKell will get to keep the gig. And Bellone may not even have to pick up the tab—reportedly a number of others have stepped forward looking to do "the right thing for the kids."