Town of Smithtown officials are counting the days to June 20 to see if state officials will take the necessary steps to help Kings Park sewers become a concrete reality.
Smithtown town board held a special session June 1 to approve an amended home rule bill requesting permission to alienate, or use, 11,000 square feet of parkland to construct a pump station necessary to move forward with sewering the Kings Park business district. The paperwork was overnighted to Albany, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said, in hopes the legislation will pass before the state legislative session ends June 20.
“They are only in session for a few more weeks, if we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year,” Wehrheim said.
“[I]f we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year.”
– Ed Wehrheim
Smithtown and Suffolk County require approval from the state to turn parkland located on the property of Smithtown’s Department of Parks building, located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park, into a sewage pump station. While the state Senate previously granted its permission, the state Assembly took issue with the town’s request.
“The Assembly takes the alienation of parkland very seriously, there must be an equal or greater amount of land that is sterilized,” Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said. “There is never a net loss of parkland.”
The Assembly has requested three changes in order for the process to move forward, according to Wehrheim. The first requirement was to permanently preserve an additional 7,000 square feet of open space in exchange for constructing the pump station and to provide an aerial overview of the property to see the layout. Minor wording changes to the legislation were also requested.
“[The Assembly] wanted some additional data to make sure everything passes muster,” Fitzpatrick said.
The Suffolk County Legislature must take up the same amended home rule bill, pass it and send it back to the state legislature for approval as well, according to the assemblyman, for the project to move forward.
Wehrheim said he will be watching and waiting to make sure the alienation bill passes, while the project has funding from the state. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has earmarked $20 million for sewering of the Kings Park business district in the 2018 state budget, but it is not in the town’s hands yet.
“We haven’t been notified by anyone or assured that the money will stay there until we are ready to do the project,” the supervisor said. “We are methodically pursuing it.”
“The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”
– Michael Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick said home rule requests, such as Smithtown’s to use parkland for the public purpose of creating a pump station to install sewer lines, are usually handled at the very end of a legislative session.
“I have every confidence on the Assembly side that we will get this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”
The amended bill must also be reapproved by the state Senate, which passed the prior version in May, but has been deadlocked in recent days.
“Once the home rule messages are adopted and filed by the town and county, the Senate has every intention of passing the bill again,” said the office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in a statement.
The supervisor said the final draft of the Kings Park market analysis study to revitalize the area — in which sewers are noted to play a critical role — is expected to be finished shortly and presented to the public. The study, which cost $200,000 and was paid for by county taxpayers, could become outdated, according to Wehrheim, if the project gets delayed because the state approval isn’t granted this year.
“I understand the town supervisor is worried about getting this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “But it ain’t over till it’s over, and it ain’t over until June 20.”