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Northport

By Karen Forman

More than 1,000 Northport residents and the community joined together to show their support for the fight against cancer this Saturday, marking a decade of unwavering commitment to the cause.

Northport High School held its 10th annual Relay for Life event June 2, which raised about $180,000. This brought the  community’s cumulative total to $2 million in donations over 10 years to the American Cancer Society, a national nonprofit health organization which uses the funds for cancer research, patient care services, prevention and early detection programs.

Teams walked around the high school’s track for 12 hours starting at 6 p.m. Saturday. Each team had at least one member walking throughout the night, which is why the event is called a relay. People walked overnight to symbolize that cancer never sleeps.

Relay for Life is held in 30 countries and 3,000 towns across the United States, making it the the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, according to the organization’s website.

 

Judge rules to adjourn June 11 trial date for LIPA versus Town of Huntington

The Northport power plant. File photo

Northport school officials are inviting all district residents to a community meeting May 30 to address the potential impact of its lawsuit against Long Island Power Authority.

Northport school district will host a “call to action” community forum Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of Northport High School. Superintendent Robert Banzer will provide residents with a brief update on the status of the district’s lawsuit against LIPA, legislation and what steps it can take to make sure resident’s concerns are being heard. The high school is located at 154 Laurel Hill Road in Northport.

This is the second meeting the school district will hold this month to address concerns over the LIPA lawsuit. School officials held a May 1 meeting where attorney John Gross presented his argument on why the utility company should be forced to uphold a 1997 promise not to attempt to lower the taxes on the Northport power plant.

LIPA has filed a lawsuit that is currently pending against the Town of Huntington to lower the Northport Power Station’s assessed tax valuation by 90 percent along with a reimbursement of all overpaid taxes since 2010. The Town of Huntington and LIPA appeared in court May 29 after which the judge adjourned the previously scheduled June 11 trial date, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo at 1:10 p.m. Tuesday.

No additional information was immediately available on why the June 11 court date was adjourned.

Hundreds of Northport residents lined the village streets to honor those who serve our country and have
made the ultimate sacrifice this Memorial Day.

Northport held is annual Memorial Day parade and services May 28, led and organized by Northport American Legion Post 694. The parade stepped off at 10 a.m. from Laurel Avenue School.  As the parade wound its way into the village, members of the American Legion stopped at various memorials throughout town to lay wreaths to honor veterans. One of the wreaths laid was in memory of U.S. airman Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, also a New York City and Commack firefighter, who died in the line of duty March 15.

Raguso was one of seven members of New York’s 106th rescue unit killed in the line-of-duty March 15 when a H-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crashed while carrying out a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, an American-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, according to the United States Department of Defense.

Plan calls for the hiring of 40 additional engineers and police department staff

A temporary heating and air conditioning unit installed at the homeless shelter of Northport VA medical center. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The new leadership at the reigns of the 90-year-old Northport VA Medical Center has unveiled a three-year plan aimed at making $21 million in repairs to address critical infrastructural and staffing concerns.

Director Scott Guermonprez said since taking up the position in June 2017, he has drafted together a plan that looks to address the out-of-date utilities systems and crumbling buildings that led to the closure of its homeless veterans housing in January, and a brief shutdown of its operating rooms in February.

““We have to figure out how we focus on the resources we have and use them as quickly and prudently as possible.”
– Scott Guermonprez

“There was a facility condition assessment done last year that came out that said if we were to try to fully rehabilitate the entire campus it would cost more than $450 million, or to try to build a new one would cost more than $1 billion,” Guermonprez said. “We have to figure out how we focus on the resources we have and use them as quickly and prudently as possible.”

There are approximately $7 million in projects getting underway this year, according to the director, which includes replacing four of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning units of the main medical center as well as a new roof.

The VA director said they had also received approximately $1.1 million to renovate the homeless veterans shelter, run by the nonprofit Beacon House, with new ductwork and an electronically controlled heating and cooling system. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, according to Guermonprez.

The director said the three-year plan also calls for hiring 40 additional engineering and trade staff to oversee maintenance and upkeep of the 71-building campus under its new Chief Engineer Oscar Prue.

“[Prue] has been very successful in overseeing a large number of projects over multiple years and multiple locations,” Guermonprez said, noting he’s worked on VA medical centers in Albany and Syracuse.

“While this VA has plenty of work ahead of them, I am confident that they have a plan and are moving in the right direction…”
– Tom Suozzi

The first major project Prue is expected to tackle is the demolition of long-abandoned Buildings 1 and 2 which housed the facility’s original hospital, standing opposite the current medical center.

“It’s an eyesore,” the director said. “One of the biggest complaints we’ve had with Northport is insufficient parking. When it was built nearly 40 years ago, the intent was to demolish those buildings. It never happened.”

He anticipates the Department of Veterans Affairs will give him clearance to move forward shortly, with demolition tentatively scheduled to start in the late fall. These two of the 428 buildings nationwide the Veterans Administration has plans to demolish or repurpose. The space cleared will be converted to additional parking space for the medical center, allowing a few hundred spaces to be added.

“We want to add valet parking,” Guermonprez said. “We have the largest number of veterans over 80 years old in the New York-New Jersey health care system. We want to make it easier for them.”

Adding more parking and upgrading the heating and cooling systems will allow Northport VA to consolidate its medical treatment services into the medical center. Currently some programs like the outpatient mental health services and opthamology are in outlying buildings.

“[W]e are expanding police services given the unfortunate incidents occurring across the nation with shootings as we want to keep our veterans safe.
– Colleen Luckner

“While this VA has plenty of work ahead of them, I am confident that they have a plan and are moving in the right direction to ultimately upgrade and restore these facilities so that they can properly serve and honor our veterans here and in the community,” Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said after touring the VA facility with the director in late April.

Other key components of the VA’s three-year plan include replacing the campus’s steam vents and expanding its security force to deal with modern threats, said Colleen Luckner, associate director of Northport VA.

“In addition to the construction projects, we are expanding police services given the unfortunate incidents occurring across the nation with shootings as we want to keep our veterans safe,” Luckner said.

The Northport VA will be hiring on additional staff for its police department as well as implementing new systems such as additional cameras, panic alarms and other such measures.
Later this year, the Northport VA expects to celebrate the grand opening of expansion of its Riverhead outpatient clinic to include more physical therapy space and hearing services in July, before adding physical therapy, occupational therapy and more services to its Patchogue location.

Northport-East Northport school district. File photo

Northport voters have approved the district’s 2018-19 school budget and elected a new face to serve their community May 15.

2018-19 school budget 

Northport and East Northport residents approved the district’s $166,810,381 budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year, 2,287 votes to 754 votes. The budget contains a 2.15 percent year-to-year increase, or $3.5 million more than the current year.

The district’s approved spending plan will allow starting a new alternative high school program for students struggling with the traditional model and expand the district’s coteaching model across all grade levels. It will also be able to move forward with its one-to-one Chromebook initiative by providing personal laptops with Google applications to students entering ninth grade as well as purchasing a new piano for its music department. There are also funds set aside in the 2018-19 budget to purchase new athletic
equipment for student-athletes including lacrosse helmets, treadmills, ellipticals and additional automated external defibrillators.


Northport budget results
$166.8M budget: 2,287 Yes votes to 754 No votes
Proposition 2: 2,524 Yes votes to 555 No votes
Proposition 3: 2,403 Yes votes to 696 No votes

Board of education results
Victorria Buscareno: 2,195 votes
David Stein: 2,173 votes
David Badanes: 1,915 votes
Thomas Loughran:  1,612 votes

The average Northport homeowner will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $159 per year. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $3,800, in which an assessed value is a dollar value placed on the property by the Town of Huntington solely for the purposes of calculating taxes based on comparable home sales and other factors.

Proposition 2

District voters cast their ballots in favor of Proposition 2, by 2,524 votes to 555 votes, Tuesday night. The measure will allow the district to take $900,000 out of the district’s capital reserve funds for infrastructure upgrades and repair. The list of districtwide projects includes fencing and gate replacement, door replacements, window replacement and heating and air conditioning unit upgrades and enhancements.

Proposition 3

Taxpayers also gave their stamp of approval to Proposition 3, by 2,403 votes to 696 votes. The district will be able to establish a new Capital Reserve III Fund. The board members said that the fund is necessary for several critical infrastructural improvements including roof replacements of its buildings, window replacement, bathroom replacement, masonry and concrete work, floor replacement, wall replacement, classroom renovations, library and multimedia center renovations and gym reconstruction among other projects. The district has put forth that a maximum of $20 million will be placed into this fund along with any investment income the account earns for a term of 10 years. Under the terms of Proposition 2, the district would move no more than $1 million from the remaining 2017-18 budget into the fund to get it started and invest no more than $2 million in each of the following school years.

Northport board of education

Northport residents will have one new community voice on their board of education for the 2018-19 school year.

Newcomer Victoria Buscareno received 2,195 votes, the highest of any of the candidates, and will take the place left open by current trustee Tammie Topel who did not run.

Buscareno is a Northport resident for the past 43 years and currently works as a seventh-grade special education teacher at South Woods Middle School in the Syosset school district. She has four children, one who graduated in 2017 and three who are currently students in the district.

Current board Vice President David Stein was re-elected with 2,173 votes was trustee David Badanes with 1,915 votes. Challenger Thomas Loughran trailed receiving only 1,612 votes. Buscareno and Stein were elected to serve for three years, and Badanes was elected to a two-year term.

Olivia Carner competing in the Suffolk County championship last year against Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

All season long, Northport’s girls lacrosse team has shown it can handle the pressure, and Friday was no different.

Olivia Carner had three goals and three assists and Emerson Cabrera added four goals and one assist
to lead Northport to a 15-9 win over crosstown rival Huntington May 11 and complete the program’s first perfect season since 2009.

Emerson Cabrera ompeting in the Suffolk County championship last year against Middle Country. File photo by Bill Landon

“It feels good to go undefeated — the girls have been working extremely hard and have stayed focused all season,” said head coach Carol Rose of her 16-0 Tigers. “It’s not easy to go undefeated — the pressure can be overwhelming, but this group handled the pressure all season with poise, grit and determination. I love seeing them be successful because this group has earned the title ‘undefeated division champions.’”

Northport came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, building up a 9-1 advantage over the Blue Devils by the halftime break. Carner said the team’s closeness has led to this year’ successes.

“Throughout the season our team has become closer and closer — knowing how much potential we have,” she said. “We all play for one another and work well as a team. We all want each other to do whatever it takes to win.”

The team’s leading scorer credited its strong bond for her own personal accomplishments this season.

“It felt great being able to contribute to our wins and is easy to do so because our team is so close and we all want to achieve the same goal,” said Carner, who leads all Suffolk scorers with 64 goals and 25 assists. “When the final whistle blew it was an awesome feeling of pride knowing all our hard work had paid off and we were finishing undefeated.”

She said with an undefeated season and as the No. 1 seed, she knows her team has a target on its back, but said the Tigers will work that much harder this postseason to prove they’re where they belong.

“We’re motivated and determined this time around, especially knowing so many teams are looking to beat us.”

— Danielle Pavinelli

“We want to get back to that county title game,” she said.

Northport lost 13-3 to Middle Country in 2017, ending a 13-5 season in the county finals. Senior Danielle Pavinelli, who is the second Tiger in the top 10 in the county in scoring, coming in at No. 9 with 46 goals and 25 assists, said she only sees her team continuing to thrive this time around.

As the top team Northport earns a first-round bye. The Tigers will take No. 8 Sachem East Saturday, May 19, at the local Veterans Park at 11 a.m.

“We’re motivated and determined this time around, especially knowing so many teams are looking to beat us,” Pavinelli said. “I believe we will be able to handle whatever teams throw at us in playoffs. We’re the closest we’ve ever been — we treat each other like family and we’re always looking out for each other. Each and every one of us understands how hard we have to play in order to go far.”

She attributed much of the team’s success and will to win to Rose, who eclipsed 800 career victories this season.

“She encourages us every day to be the best we can be,” Pavinelli said. “And we owe this season to her.”

Voters will have two propositions on the ballot regarding capital infrastructure projects

Northport High School. File photo

Northport taxpayers will be casting their ballots three times as they head to the polls on the school district’s $166.8 million proposed 2018-19 budget and two propositions.

Northport-East Northport board of education has proposed a $166,810,381 budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year, representing a 2.15 percent increase, or $3.5 million more than the current year. In addition, it is asking residents to vote on two propositions regarding capital reserves and improvements to the district’s buildings and facilities.

“I think that not only were we able to maintain our instruction programs and our extracurricular and co-curricular programs,” Superintendent Robert Banzer said. “We were able to move some other initiatives forward. There’s been a lot of talk this year about making sure we are addressing the needs of our students.”


Northport-East Northport school district

$166.8 million 2018-19 proposed budget
2.15 percent year-to-year increase
2.1 percent tax levy increase
$159 annual tax increase for
average Northport homeowner

Under the proposed budget, Banzer said the district would be able to initiate a new alternative high school program for students struggling with the traditional model and expand the district’s co-teaching model across all grade levels. If approved, the district will move forward with its one-to-one Chromebook initiative by providing personal laptops with Google applications to students entering ninth grade as well as purchasing a new piano for its music department. The district hopes to purchase new athletic equipment for student-athletes including lacrosse helmets, treadmills, ellipticals and additional automated external defibrillators.

If approved by voters, the average Northport homeowner will see their annual school taxes increase by an estimated $159 per year. This is based on the average home having an assessed value of $3,800, in which an
assessed value is a dollar value placed on the property by the Town of Huntington solely for the purposes of calculating taxes based on comparable home sales and other factors.

Proposition 2

Proposition 2 will ask residents to approve the release of $900,000 from the district’s capital reserve funds for infrastructure upgrades and repair. The list of districtwide projects includes fencing and gate replacement, door replacements, window replacement and heating and air conditioning unit upgrades and enhancements.

Proposition 3

Under Proposition 3, the district seeks to establish a new Capital Reserve III Fund. The board says that the fund is necessary for several critical infrastructural improvements including roof replacements of its buildings, window replacement, bathroom replacement, masonry and concrete work, floor replacement, wall replacement, classroom renovations, library and multimedia center renovations and gym reconstruction among other projects. The district has put forth that a maximum of $20 million will be placed into this fund along with any investment income the account earns for a term of 10 years. If approved by voters, the district would move no more than $1 million from the remaining 2017-18 budget into the fund to get it started and invest no more than $2 million in each of the following school years.

Go Vote 

The polls will be open May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Dickinson Avenue Elementary, Fifth Avenue Elementary and the district’s William J. Brosnan Building.

Councilman Eugene Cook calls for residents to launch letter-writing campaign to Huntington Town officials

The Northport power plant. File photo

Town of Huntington officials are moving toward making a power play against Long Island Power Authority and National Grid to take over control of the Northport power plant.

Councilman Gene Cook (R) has called for town residents to participate in a letter-writing campaign asking Huntington’s elected officials to consider utilizing eminent domain to take control of Northport power plant.

His proposal comes days after LIPA allegedly submitted documents to Suffolk County Supreme Court for its pending lawsuit against the town, in which it disputes the tax value of the plant, claiming the structure only has a fair market value of $193 million, according to Cook.

“Their estimate is so far out of wack on it, they are almost like giving us the plant,” the councilman said. “If they want to give it to us, I want to take it.”

Cook said he thinks the Northport facility is one of the biggest power plants in the Northeast, which will become more valuable with future improvements. He estimated the power station could produce $5 billion in revenue per year for the town if it took over operation of the facility. He suggested the name “Huntington Power Service Company.”

“We want to serve our residents, not be an authority over them like LIPA has done,” Cook said. “They have taken LI Power Authority as ‘we have authority over everyone.’” 

Their estimate is so far out of wack on it, they are almost like giving us the plant.”

— Eugene Cook

The councilman drafted a resolution he said he plans to present at the May 17 town board meeting for Huntington to hold a public hearing. If approved, a hearing will be held June 5 at 2 p.m. for residents to voice their thoughts and concerns on the acquisition of the plant from National Grid, which is the owner of the power station.

“The basis of this acquisition will be for the purpose of delivery to the public of electrical power in a safe and cost-efficient manner,” reads the draft resolution.

Under New York State law, the town must publish its findings and determinations on the proposed acquisition from the public hearing within 90 days. The Town of Huntington is due in court to face LIPA less than a week later June 11.

“We are looking at every facet of possibility here when looking at the LIPA situation because it’s a very serious situation,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “Any possibility that comes up we will review with our attorney — we will review it with experts to see if it’s feasible.”

Even if the town initiated the process of obtaining the power plan via eminent domain, it would not resolve the town’s lawsuit with LIPA. In addition to seeking a 90 percent reduction of taxes on the power plant, LIPA is asking for the town to reimburse it for alleged overpayment of taxes each year since it filed the claim in 2010 — totaling more than $500 million.

“Let’s save the consulting and legal expenses of evaluating this idea, which would be fiscally disastrous to the town, its taxpayers and wouldn’t resolve the pending tax certiorari litigation,” LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said in a statement.

Let’s save the consulting and legal expenses of evaluating this idea, which would be fiscally disastrous to the town, its taxpayers and wouldn’t resolve the pending tax certiorari litigation.”

– Sid Nathan

LIPA disputes that the Town of Huntington could turn a profit operating the station, claiming Northport power plant is operated at a loss. The power company said its contract with National Grid requires it to pay all costs to run the plant — including $80 million in annual property taxes leveraged by the Town of Huntington — which exceeds its revenue. LIPA also stressed that if Huntington took control of the plant, all beneficial tax revenue would cease, leaving residents to pay more for their government services.

“We hope the town will join with other local communities on Long Island that are working with LIPA to reach a fair settlement offer that puts an unsustainable property tax situation at the Northport plant back on a sustainable path,” Nathan said.

The Town of Brookhaven and Village of Port Jefferson both announced they had reached settlements over the tax assessed value of the Port Jeff plant with LIPA in early April.

If the lawsuit is decided in LIPA’s favor, the utility company estimates that Town of Huntington residents would see their taxes increase by $62 a month, with Northport-East Northport school district residents responsible for an additional $210 to $220 per month.

Lupinacci has said the town remains open to bargaining with LIPA, while Cook said the only negotiation he is for is LIPA agreeing to withdraw its lawsuit.

“I will fight to the death on this one,” Cook said. “Either they want to be good neighbors or they don’t. If they don’t, they can hit the road.”

St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Northport. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Northport congregation is now turning to the public for one last needed push, or “Hail Mary,” to restore and modernize a local landmark.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, located at 270 Main St., has launched the second phase of its capital campaign in hopes of raising $300,000 to restore and make structural repairs to its steeple and facilities. With more than $200,000 pledged, it’s now in the final race to fully fund these projects by June 30.

“We’re somewhere around 70 percent of the way there, but the last 30 percent is always the hardest,” said Charlie MacLeod, the campaign’s chairman and a member of the church for 30 years. “We’re working very hard to obtain the last 30 percent.”

We’re somewhere around 70 percent of the way there, but the last 30 percent is always the hardest.”
– Charlie MacLeod

The church’s original steeple, built in 1873, began leaking rainwater into the church’s sanctuary more than a decade ago, according to Pastor Kristina Hansen. While churchgoers have dealt creatively with the problem using pots and pans, the damage has become progressively worse over time and needs to be addressed.

St. Paul’s has had a number of construction firms come to review the damage, receiving estimates ranging from $125,000 to $150,000 to repair the iconic steeple off Main Street. That cost could increase once scaffolding is built and a closer inspection made of the two- to three-story high structure, according to Hansen.

The church is also seeking funding to preserve the sanctuary’s turn-of-the-century stained glass windows. The leading between sections of the glass has started to deteriorate, leaving the weight of the stained glass unsupported and prone to possible collapse. The estimated cost of repairing a single window can run more than $20,000, according to Hansen.

The pastor would also like the community’s support in upgrading its bathrooms to be handicapped accessible. The facilities are used frequently by residents for athletic events, artist performances and local organizations like the Boy Scouts.


Large Corporate and Charitable Contributors
– $25,000 from John W. Engemen Theater
– $25,000 Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation

The first donation to the church’s capital campaign came from Kevin O`Neill, owner of the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport, located down the street. It was matched by a charitable $25,000 donation from the Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the Fort
Salonga family that owns and operates five IGA Supermarket locations.

Proceeds from the parish’s annual golf outing held in April, which raised $25,000, will go toward construction costs. Work is slated to begin this summer.

The parish’s board of trustees is currently in the process of submitting an application for a historic preservation grant, which is pending according to MacLeod, that may provide an additional $5,000 up to $20,000.

“If we raise more, we have plenty of projects it could go toward,” he said.

Some of the campaign’s stretch goals are to make the entire church handicapped accessible and improve the kitchens.

Northport school district attorney John Gross explains the LIPA lawsuit to residents at a May 1 presentation. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Northport residents are gearing up for a David-versus-Goliath showdown as school district officials will call on Long Island Power Authority to uphold its promise in Suffolk Supreme Court next week.

Northport-East Northport school district attorney John Gross will present his argument May 9 on why the utility company should be forced to uphold a 1997 promise not to attempt to lower the taxes on the Northport power plant.

As both the district and LIPA’s attorneys have asked for summary judgments, or immediate decision in their favor, Gross explained at a May 1 presentation at Northport High School to the public there could be a decision made that significantly impacts district taxpayers days before the 2018-19 budget vote.

“If there is a substantial reduction in taxes, the impact shifts to the individual taxpayers,” Gross said at the May 1 presentation. “That is the threat. That is the concern of which the school district has spent a lot of time and effort combating.”

If there is a substantial reduction in taxes, the impact shifts to the individual taxpayers.”
– John Gross

LIPA currently pays more than $81 million annually in taxes on the Northport power plant, according to a statement from the utility company. The school district receives approximately $53 million per year in tax revenue from the power plant’s taxes, which would pay for less than 40 percent of the district’s proposed $146 million tax levy for the 2018-19 school year.

“The $81 million tax burden on the Northport plant is not sustainable, especially as the output of the Northport plan is forecast to continue to decline, as more solar and wind energy is added to the electric grid,” LIPA said in a press release.

In 2010, LIPA filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the Town of Huntington’s Assessor’s Office seeking a 90 percent reduction in the power plant’s taxes. The trial is scheduled to begin June 11.

Gross explained to residents in his May 1 presentation that Northport school district doesn’t have any standing in that lawsuit, but is a mere bystander because the Huntington Town assessor determines the assessed value of the plant, which is currently set at $30,255,550.

“The plant we believe is worth well over $3 billion,” Gross said, speaking to its fair market value.

In 2011, the district’s attorney filed a lawsuit against LIPA claiming it is the third-party beneficiary of a “promise” made in the 1997 Power Supply Agreement between LIPA and National Grid.

Gross pointed to Article 21.16 of the contract that reads the utility company, “may challenge any property tax assessment on its generating facilities or generating facility sites only if the assessment on any such challenged facility is increased not in an appropriate proportion to the increase in value related to taxable capital additions.”

The district’s attorney said he believes LIPA illegally broke contract when it filed the lawsuit against the Town of Huntington to lower taxes on the plant in 2010.

“From 1997 to today, [their taxes] have not been moved one dollar,” Gross said. “It has not been increased.”


Tax Impact of LIPA lawsuit
Assuming 2 percent school tax increase per year and average home assessed value of $3,700

If LIPA wins 90 percent reduction:
– 57.86 percent increase after 2 years
– 67.53 percent increase after 5 years
-81.33 percent increase after 9 years

LIPA settlement offer of 60 percent reduction over 9 years:
– 9.57 percent increase after 2 years
– 26.37 percent increase after 5 years
– 54.66 percent increase after 9 years

LIPA settlement offer of 9-year reduction to $28 million in taxes:
– 12.46 percent increase after 2 years
– 32.11 percent increase after 5 years
– 60.18 percent increase after 9 years

LIPA has refuted this claim for the last seven years. It stated that, “The alleged promises to the school district are not enshrined in the Power Supply Agreement between LIPA and National Grid or any other contract documents.”

Gross said his legal team has deposed 17 individuals on the 1997 Power Supply Agreement and what it contains, and filed more than 60,000 pages of documents with the courts. These documents point to the several 1997 events where former LIPA chairman Richard Kessel spoke with Northport school administrators and Huntington Town officials. Among them is correspondence sent between LIPA, federal agencies and elected officials including documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.

“They put the promise in black and white in submissions to the IRS that taxes would not be affected for the host communities — us,” Gross said.

The utility company’s defense is that the original PSA expired May 28, 2013, which was replaced by a new agreement that runs through April 2028. Therefore, the promise claimed by the school district expired nearly five years ago.

Gross claimed LIPA and National Grid said they renewed their original contract in 2013 through 2028, which should extend their promise to the school district for another 15 years.

The alleged promise contained in the 1997 Power Supply Agreement will take front and center stage in the court arguments May 9.

Gross warned residents they’re facing three potential outcomes next week. First, that the judge agrees with Northport’s position, keeping tax rates steady and LIPA will likely appeal. Second, the judge finds for LIPA that there was never a promise made to the schools.

“If it’s decided for LIPA, we are in deep trouble,” Gross said.

Third, if the judge decides both parties have raised significant issues then she can schedule the case to go to trial.

“I feel like we’re on our own in this,” said Michael Marcantonio, of Eaton’s Neck. “If we lose this case it will devastate our community.”

State Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) introduced legislation April 20 that could help mitigate any potential impact of the lawsuit on Northport taxpayers, and the other
municipalities and school districts battling similar disputes with the utility. The bill seeks to lengthen the time frame over which LIPA’s taxes would be gradually reduced from nine years to a proposed 15 years. In addition, it would grant the municipal governments and school districts who lose a tax assessment challenge to LIPA after April 1, 2018, access to the state’s electric generating facility cessation mitigation program. This way, town government and schools could create reserve funds to mitigate the burden on their taxpayers.

They put the promise in black and white in submissions to the IRS that taxes would not be affected for the host communities — us.”
– John Gross

Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer encouraged residents to reach out to their state
assemblyman and encourage them to push the legislation forward before this year’s session ends June 30.

“We are strenuously working on this from multiple arenas in both the court of law but also the legislation that’s been proposed,” Banzer said. “I want to thank those of you that are advocating for this legislation, as again, we want to cover this on as many fronts as possible.”

A spokesperson for state Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) said Raia had reached out to his fellow Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to see if he would review the legislation and introduce it as a member of the house’s majority party. If not, Raia would sponsor it.

If LIPA were to win its lawsuit for a 90 percent reduction of taxes against the Town of Huntington, Gross said Northport homeowners whose homes have an assessed value of $3,700 could see their school taxes jump by as much as 81 percent over the next nine years.

Banzer said the district still remains open to negotiation of a settlement.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced April 3 that the town government had reached a settlement with LIPA on its assessment lawsuit over the Port Jefferson power plant. Port Jefferson School District officials called this news “deeply troubling.”

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