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Northport Wary of $7M Debt for Sewer-Plant Upgrades

The wastewater treatment plant must be upgraded, environmental experts say. The price tag is high, village officials say.

A meeting of the Thursday at  became somewhat heated as Northport Village Trustee Tom Kehoe clashed with Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizen's Campaign for the Environment.

The two were at odds because Kehoe, also the village commissioner of sanitation, refused to commit to borrowing $9 million to bring the up to 2014 standards until more information is available.

"Northport's budget is approximately $11 million and an $80,000 increase in our budget annually reflects a one percent property tax increase," he said.

Esposito said that the amount to be borrowed would likely be closer to $7 million, as the project has already been assured $1.8 million in funding from the state. "And you'll get more," she said.

Kehoe resisted a commitment to borrow the funds. "You can slice it any way you want. You do the math. We are a little village that has an $11 million annual budget. We have not decided and I don't want you to be deluded because we may not be able to borrow that money," Kehoe said. "We are not going to bankrupt this village to remediate the nitrogen problem that is still going to be there after we're done. This is what they refuse to talk about. New data is saying the problem is coming from the cesspools.”

Esposito said that Kehoe was taking a generalization resulting from research done at Stony Brook University and was applying it "mistakenly" to Northport. Kehoe disagreed.

Despite an upgrade in 2006, the Northport Wastewater Treatment Plant needs further upgrades to meet nitrogen standards for 2014. The project will likely cost between $9 million and $14 million, depending on technology available at the time the project commences, said Tony Leung of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Northport Deputy Mayor Tobin, also commissioner of finance, said that village has been meeting with the DEC to get everyone on the same page over what money the village would be requesting and for what.

"We want to move ahead with this, but want to make sure that all of the pieces agreed to are understood and we know exactly what we could be getting in to," Tobin said.

Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said that he knows that the financial situations of many municipalities are dire. "When the time comes we can sit down with the municipal entities to look at that and pull it apart. Technology changes as you go on and hopefully gets a lot more simplistic in terms of financial models. That's really half the problem."

He and Rep. Steve Israel, D-Huntington formed the committee in April 2010 as an outgrowth of a water infrastructure summit held at the Centerport Yacht Club after red-tide biotoxins were found in area waters by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  

Brian Whitehead April 18, 2011 at 02:51 PM
Mr. Kehoe claims he is protecting the Village from bankruptcy, but if he continues to ignore Federal limits on Nitrogen from the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), he may be doing just that. New York State has offered to pay for 80% of the first phase of the STP upgrade, but the Village is refusing to pay the balance. If the Village allows this offer to expire, Northport will get hit with the entire bill. If they don't meet the Federal limits, the Village will be subject to excessive fines. Mr. Kehoe's indifference to this problem is subjecting Northport residents to significant financial and environmental risks. His actions are irresponsible, and Mayor Doll must step in and move forward with Phase I, while continuing to apply for more grants for future phases.

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