While the alienation bill required to move forward with Kings Park sewers is stuck in the state Legislature’s deadlock, Town of Smithtown officials are formulating a plan B.
Smithtown officials said they have been eyeing property behind the Kings Park Jewish Center, though planning director Pete Hans said it is just one option the town is considering.
“The town has said for years that they maybe should acquire it, even before the pump station, because they’re not using it,” Hans said. “The town has property on both sides, and our parks department could use a little more space.”
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”
— Peter Scully
The original plans call for 11,000 square feet in front of the town’s Department of Parks, Buildings and Grounds facility located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park for a sewer pump station. Since the area is zoned as parkland, the town requires approval for alienation from the state Legislature in order to build on that property. The bill was left on the floor when the Legislature dismissed for the summer, along with multiple other small local bills, without a vote.
Requests for comment from the Kings Park Jewish Center were not responded to by press time.
The Jewish Center site sits at a low elevation, similar to the parks department property, which is necessary for the wastewater to flow through. Though Hans said the town still has to contact the synagogue about the unused property, that piece of real estate is just one of several ideas the town is considering. The planning director said town officials are also looking at the water district property just northwest of the parks department building or state-owned land next to the U.S. Post Office also on East Main Street. Building on these properties also faces complications that would cost the town and county both time and money, according to Hans.
Suffolk County’s Deputy Executive Peter Scully (D), who is handling much of the county’s wastewater projects, said that while there should be no odor issues at the Jewish Center if the town does build a pump station there, the best site would still be at its originally planned location. Doing it any other way could result in both the town and county spending more money and time than needed, especially important as the Kings Park sewer project is largely funded by a $20 million state grant offered by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in the 2018 budget.
“In this case, we wouldn’t need to issue any debt so the Kings Park business district and Kings Wood apartment complex would be connected at virtually no cost,” Scully said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never see again, so the notion that an inability to have the state Assembly pass this bill and have the project move forward is concerning.”
State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said that he remains optimistic the state Legislature will reconvene again this year. He said the most likely time frame would be after the Nov. 6 elections but before the Christmas season, leaving a very small window.
“People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019.”
— Nicole Garguilo
“I remain optimistic, we’ll see, but if not, then the goal is to pass it next year unless the town decides to look at a different piece of property,” Fitzpatrick said.
Scott Rief, the communications director for state Senate Republicans, said there has been no specific discussions at this time about the Legislature reconvening.
Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he has asked county engineers to examine if the Jewish Center site is feasible, because if they delay building the pump station it could delay nearly all of the town’s other sewer projects.
“I hope we don’t have to go that way, because this other part is already designed,” Wehrheim said.
The town had planned to start construction of Kings Park sewers in early 2019. Nicole Garguilo, the town’s spokeswoman, said pushing back the alienation bill into 2019 could push all current sewer projects back a year.
“People in Kings Park and Smithtown have waited long enough for sewers and we’re trying to make this a reality in 2019,” Garguilo said.