Mayor Pat Irving spent much of Monday's Board of Trustees meeting expressing frustration over the village's exclusion from Town of Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone's meeting last month to discuss the LIPA tax grievance.
Mayor Irving and Village Attorney Ken Savin addressed the matter separately during their reports at the village meeting. They expanded on the matter together when prompted by resident Doug Wickham during a public session. What was clear each time the subject was broached was that Irving and Savin feel that Asharoken's important voice is being ignored by the town supervisor.
National Grid, who owns the plant, . It is, according to Savin, currently valued at $3.4 billion. If that happens, it will greatly reduce the $70 million in taxes that the company has to pay to the town, which are then appropriated back to the Northport's school, library, fire and water districts.
Asharoken is outside of this tax agreement, which is the reason they were given for exclusion from the meeting. But the plant has tremendous impacts on Asharoken's beaches and property values, Irving and Savin said, that the village wants to make sure are considered by the town.
"Asharoken shares a beach with the National Grid [power plant]," Irving told Village residents Monday. "Anything that goes on at that plant certainly should involve Asharoken."
Petrone's meeting was a gathering of various Northport school board members, village trustees, and other important community members. Asharoken was not acknowledged by the committee Petrone put together, but Irving told the community members at the village meeting that she and Savin went uninvited to make a statement.
"I feel that whatever goes on in that plant affects us," she said.
Petrone clearly saw things differently, and made no attempt to hide that fact at the meeting. When Irving and Savin introduced themselves at the meeting, Petrone went out of his way to make it clear to the committee that they were simply attending as "guests."
"The supervisor wanted everyone there to believe that everyone's interests at the meeting were exactly the same," said Savin. "They certainly are not. We pointed that out, and that's why we were referred to as 'guests'."
Reportedly Irving left the meeting early, and Petrone followed. When he asked why there was a problem, she responded, "Frank, the Asharoken people don't trust you when it comes to the plant, and that's why I'm here."
After the meeting, Petrone followed up with a letter to Irving clarifying the town's position. The letter, dated Dec. 15, stated that the village was not included because Asharoken's contract for protection by the is separate from the deal that the town has with Northport Village. The town's deal entrusts Northport Village to protect Fire Protection District No. 1, which encompasses Fort Salonga and Crab Meadow. The taxes that LIPA pays pass through the town and are given to the village to provide fire services. Since the LIPA plant is located in Fire Protection District No. 1, and Asharoken is not part of that district, they were excluded.
Irving fired back with a letter of her own four days later, where she stated that "the Village of Asharoken is the most effected community by the plant's operation and existence". She pointed out that Asharoken shares a beach with the , which greatly impacts the beach and the lives of its residents. She added that the presence of the plant causes a significant impact on property values in the area. "Common sense would dictate that the Village of Asharoken be represented in any matters effecting the National Grid plant," she wrote.
The tax re-evaluation was discussed itself at the meeting by Savin, since the tax reductions will impact funding for Northport schools and the Northport Fire Department, directly impacting Asharoken residents. He predicted that there would be a massive tax reduction even in a best-case scenario.
"There is no way, no matter how you do the math, and no matter whose math you do, that you can get anywhere near 3.4 billion dollars," he said. "I don't think you can get anywhere near 1 billion dollars."
The say that Asharoken will have in the proceedings from here on out remains unclear. But Irving called on the Asharoken residents to work hard. To illustrate her point, she read from the June 1965 Asharoken newsletter, which showed how Asharoken's persistent challenges to LILCO's initial plant plans got those plans reduced in support of the village.
"It's important to stay as involved as possible in what goes on with the dealings of the plant," she said.
She didn't say whether she plans to attend the rallly Wednesday at the Soundview Boatramp organized by Petrone and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson to fight the assessment challenge.
Town highway superintendent William Naughton last week appointed Irving as his deputy.