Huntington Board Schedules Public Forums on Settlement After LIPA Deadline

Huntington Board Schedules Public Forums on Settlement After LIPA Deadline

Northport power plant. File photo

The Huntington Town Board has unanimously voted to hold two public forums on the proposed settlement with the Long Island Power Authority. The decision pushes a vote on the matter to Sept. 29, more than a month after LIPA’s Aug.11 deadline.

The passed resolution calls for a public hearing Sept.16. The Town Board added a second scheduled date Aug. 10, the day before LIPA’s deadline, to be held at Heckscher Park. Both forums will be available on Zoom.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the amendment that would call for a vote on the settlement in late September.

“I think it’s good that we are inviting the public to put their thoughts on the record, this is the most serious court case since 1653,” he said, alluding to the year the town was founded, at a July 21 town meeting. “If we go forward with scheduling these two [forums], we [should] schedule a vote on the settlement offer so LIPA knows we are not disregarding any timetables … that they know all parties involved are serious and we are vetting this agreement out.”

Town Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) supported the move to add a September vote on the settlement.

“We’ll have two bites at the apple to be able to host public forums as the supervisor is suggesting, so that we don’t end up getting this settlement pulled from the table,” she said.

Town Councilmen Edmund Smyth (R) and Mark Cuthbertson (D) both raised questions about LIPA’s deadline.

“I was under the impression that LIPA’s counsel gave us a drop deadline date in August, and that there was not going to be any settlement offer left on the table after that date,” Smyth said. “Has there been any communication with them that they’ve agreed to extend that date?”

Lupinacci said there hadn’t been communication with LIPA but was hopeful that if the authority saw that the town had a timetable for a vote that they would extend the deadline date.

“Hopefully we can go back to them and say, ‘Look, we’re going to vote [on this],’” he said. “By at least setting this date we can go back to LIPA and say we have this August public hearing, we have a September public hearing and a scheduled vote soon after.”

The proposed deal, which was approved by the Northport-East Northport school board earlier this month, would reduce LIPA’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant from $86 million to $46 million by 2027. The tax impact on residents would be lessened compared to the implications of a verdict in LIPA’s favor.

Owners of a $500,000 house paying $10,861 in taxes would see their tax bill increase to $13,741 in the seventh year of the agreement. Annual increases for residents would go from an additional $288 a year in the first year to $556 a year by year seven, according to John Gross, an attorney for the school district.

Gross said if LIPA was to win the lawsuit and was able to achieve a 75 percent reduction in assessed evaluation “that taxpayer [of a $500,000 home] would immediately have to pay $3,723, in addition to the refund liability that could range from $12,000 to $13,000.” If the authority were able to secure a reduction of 90 percent, those figures would increase significantly.

At the July 21 meeting, the Town Board also approved a measure to retain the Manhattan office of Mercury Public Affairs for public outreach related to the LIPA tax case.

LIPA did not respond to request for comments by press time.