Tags Posts tagged with "Northport-East Northport school district"

Northport-East Northport school district

District Lawyer Defends Agreement, Outlines Cost for Taxpayers

Northport power plant. File photo

After a webinar where a lawyer for the Northport-East Northport school district discussed the LIPA tax case and proposed settlement, the school board voted to accept an agreement that would reduce Long Island Power Authority’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant at a July 20 board meeting.

In a 6-1 vote, with board president David Badanes being the only “no,” board members reiterated that they wanted to avoid the possibility of losing the tax case and be stuck having to pay years of back taxes.

The approved deal would reduce LIPA’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant from $86 million to $46 million by 2027.

During a July 15 webinar, Northport parents and community members were provided figures and a detailed overview of the agreement.

John Gross, a lawyer for the school district, defended the proposal while fielding questions from both the public and trustee members. He detailed the tax impact on residents.

“Now we get to the difficult part,” the lawyer said. “I don’t want to mince words. There will be an impact on how much taxes are paid. The efforts of the school board through this attempted settlement is to minimize that as much as possible.”

Gross said 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. Those increases don’t include LIPA’s payments to the school district, totaling $14.5 million, nor any reduction to the school district’s costs and programs which would reduce taxpayers annual payments.

Gross discussed the implications if the district were to lose the current tax reduction case.

“If there is no settlement and LIPA is successful and able to achieve 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,” the lawyer said. “[A reduction of] 90 percent would be utterly horrendous.”

The district and LIPA could extend its agreement for an additional five years beyond 2027-28, when its contract with the Northport plant ends. If there is no extension, the payments would cease, according to Gross.

Critics of the deal have called for more transparency, public input and a delay to the approval of the settlement.

Huntington Town Councilman Eugene Cook (R) at a news conference earlier in the day July 15 called for a public forum to allow residents to voice their opinions. He plans to offer a resolution that would set a public meeting Sept. 16 — which would be more than a month after the Aug 11 deadline set by LIPA to approve the deal.

Cook was joined in support by fellow Councilman Ed Smyth (R) and Tom Kehoe, Northport Village trustee. Both Cook and Smyth detailed a previously promoted plan for the town to condemn the plant and take it over through eminent domain.

“We don’t need your permission to take it, we’ll pay you 154 million pounds and take it,” Smyth said, alluding to British-based energy company, National Grid.

Kehoe reiterated the need for a public meeting and said the Northport plant has been “a burden on the people of this district for many, many years.”

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has recently stated that “LIPA’s latest settlement proposal is, by far, the best offer presented to the town to date.”

A ruling on the tax case is expected to come from the state Supreme Court in Riverhead sometime this summer.

Northport power plant. File photo

The Northport-East Northport school district has come to a proposed agreement with the Long Island Power Authority on a settlement that would resolve the 10-year tax case between the two sides.

The school board has approved a deal which would reduce LIPA’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant from $86 million to $46 million by 2027. Under the proposed settlement, LIPA will make several upfront payments to the school district, totaling $14.5 million, that would help offset tax increases to residents and businesses.

In addition, LIPA and National Grid would forgive the collection of in excess of $800 million in taxes and interest that they claim are owed. National Grid owns the Northport power plant, and has been a party to the tax challenge case. The plant’s output is distributed through LIPA’s Long Island electric system.

The proposal ensures that LIPA would pay in excess of $460 million in taxes to various jurisdictions in the Town of Huntington over the first seven years of the settlement, including $312 million to the school district, according to Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta. It also includes the likelihood of a five-year extension with the authority.

In a letter to the district community on July 10, Robert Banzer, school superintendent, said the proposed settlement comes as the court ruling in the tax certiorari case against the Town of Huntington appears to be imminent, adding that “the very real possibility of a court ruling against the town could result in drastically reduced tax revenue from LIPA to the school system and create significant hardship for our community.”

The settlement would also protect residents from having to pay retroactive tax payments of $10,000 to $25,000 per household in addition to significant increases to property taxes, according to Banzer.

The deal still must be approved by the Huntington Town Board and Northport school board. The school district will host a virtual workshop this week to answer questions and concerns from community members. The school board is expected to vote on the settlement at a July 20 meeting. The Huntington Town Board has until Aug. 11 to approve the settlement. The town plans on holding informational meetings and answer any questions that residents or others may have regarding the settlement framework and its impact.

“LIPA’s latest settlement proposal is, by far, the best offer presented to the Town to date — and that includes any municipality that has negotiated with LIPA over legacy power plants on Long Island,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in a statement. “That’s not my opinion; it’s a fact. The town’s ability to negotiate such terms is due in large part to the substantial resources devoted to the defense of the case and the zealous advocacy of the town’s attorneys.”

If the settlement is not approved by both the school board and the Town Board, LIPA has advised that the settlement offer will be withdrawn and will not be revived.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) responded favorably to the news.

“I have said from day one that it is critical for the parties to come together to settle this litigation and avoid a court decision that could be catastrophic for the community,” he said. “I commend all parties involved and particularly the community leaders whose advocacy helped produce a far better outcome for Northport residents.”

LIPA settled similar suits with the Town of Brookhaven/Port Jefferson over taxes for the Port Jefferson plant back in December 2018.

Northport power plant. File photo

When the Town of Huntington’s planning board originally authorized in 1965 a site plan for the Northport power plant’s first generating unit on the shores of the Long Island Sound, the impact on the greater safety, health and general welfare of the community was an overarching concern. In fact, the town’s approval stipulated that plant operators were required to submit emissions reports to the town, which were subject to regular review by town officials. 

Today, the plant has expanded to four units, and while the town is still searching for records, officials do not know the last time the plant submitted an emission report from on-site monitors for a review. Town attorney Nick Ciappetta said the town is reviewing whether or not it has monitoring authority. The EPA and DEC, he said, have jurisdiction over plant emissions. 

Some lawmakers firmly disagree, and State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) is calling for action. 

“The town has had more power than it’s realized,” he said. “It should take whatever action it needs to take.”  

Gaughran said he regularly drives past the plant and smells foul odors. Last year, he requested a state health investigation after learning that graduates of Northport High School Class of 2016 were diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma, after community members said they want to know if the plant’s emissions are a factor. 

State health department investigators have now expanded their study to look at cancer rates in a broader population to look for patterns. (See story on Page A3) With that investigation underway, Gaughran finds it prudent to take steps to better protect the community. 

Town Council member Joan Cergol agrees. 

“If the Town, in its rezone of the property, or any of its agencies or boards in the 1960s imposed conditions on LILCO to protect the health and safety of Huntington residents, then it stands to reason that its successors should be bound by the same,” she said.

It is unclear what action if in any will be taken, but some are saying additional precautions would be prudent. 

Danielle DeSimone is one several young adults diagnosed with leukemia from the Northport High School Class of 2016, who received a bone marrow transplant and is now in remission. She said she would absolutely support any policies that would better protect the public’s health. 

“May no more families be faced with this burden unnecessarily,” she said in an email. 

As the state’s health investigation continues, and as the town bears the additional burden of fighting LIPA and National Grid, spending $4.2 million to date, many people are looking at the plant with a discerning eye. 

According to the DEC, the Northport Power Plant emissions are in severe violation of state and federal the air pollution standards for nitrous oxide and VOCs, which contribute to ozone. When inhaled, ozone chemicals react chemically with many biological molecules in the respiratory tract, the EPA reports, leading to adverse health effects.

It’s difficult to know whether or not a specific environmental toxin will cause a particular individual to develop cancer or other diseases, according to a 2003 report “Cancer and the Environment” published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

But significant sources of VOCs are chemical plants, gasoline pumps, oil-based paints, autobody shops, and print shops. Nitrogen oxides result primarily from high temperature combustion. Significant sources are power plants, industrial furnaces and boilers, and motor vehicles, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation Permit Review Report from February 2019.

In response to inquiries,  National Grid spokesperson Wendy Ladd said, “we submit our emissions report to the EPA and NY DEC.”

The DEC states that ozone is a regional air pollutant and most human and economic activity in the NYC metro area contribute in some way to ozone exceedences. 

“If the DEC finds any facility poses an imminent threat to public health or the environment, the agency works to address the situation immediately,” said DEC spokesman Kevin Frazier.  

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that the Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta said that the town had no authority over emissions monitoring.  The town is actually still reviewing the matter. (updated 1/29/2020)

District Hires Environmental Firm to Test Middle School

Northport district officials have found an alternative location for its bus depot. Photo from Close Northport MS Facebook page

In response to a Nov. 20 TBR News Media article that uncovered that the Northport-East Northport school district was in violation of laws governing petroleum bulk storage, district officials announced at the Dec. 12 board meeting that they found a new bus depot and refueling location.

“We have found an alternate location and the resolution would allow the school board to enter negotiations to finalize that work with Cavay’s [Building & Lumber Supply] on Brightside Ave.,” Robert Banzer, superintendent of schools, said.

Over the last several weeks, the district addressed its violations with the Suffolk County Health Department and officials there said that the site was reinspected without violations found.

A separate resolution unanimously passed that would allow the district to utilize the fueling facilities operated by the Village of Northport for its bus fleet and maintenance.

“We are still seeking other possible methods of fueling, including [reaching out to] some of our other municipalities. We have reached out to them and they are considering it, “ Banzer said. “By January we should have this [relocation] in motion, if not sooner.”

Other highlights of the meeting include the board approving the subcommittee’s recommendations in hiring PW Grosser Consulting, a Bohemia-based environmental firm to begin framing a soil testing plan for the Northport Middle School. The firm would recommend soil testing parameters to the district beginning sometime in January.

The subcommittee members said that the firm could come do an initial walk-through of the building as early as later that week and would do other work throughout the winter break when students aren’t in school.

The announcements were made just days after students were again evacuated from several classrooms in the middle school after children were overcome by fumes.

A parent of a middle school student who spoke at the meeting said that children should be moved out of the school while testing is being done.

“We are very concerned, we need an answer ourselves on how this [testing] is going to happen,” he said. “The safe alternative is that they [the students] leave the school, and you do your testing.”

Subcommittee member Lauren Handler said as a group they haven’t discussed that as an official topic but agreed that the kids shouldn’t be in the building when they don’t know if its safe.

No vote was formally conducted on that issue.

State and county health officials have stated that the school board has jurisdiction over air quality at the school and not health officials.

The subcommittee plans to meet each Monday, beginning Jan. 6 or 13 of next year.

 

Community gathers at Northport Middle School for 'sickout' . Photo by Donna Deddy

Northport Middle School students were once again evacuated from several classrooms on Monday Dec. 9 and Tuesday Dec. 10 in response to foul “rotten-egg” odors. The school’s new heating and ventilation system is being blamed. 

“There are a number of factors that can lead to odors in a school building,” said Superintendent Robert Banzer. “We believe the source of the latest indoor air quality issue at NMS may be related to the substantial amount of rain over the past few days.”

The district has hired an outside consultant to review the latest situation and will provide an update to the community once it is complete.

The district has said that laws prevent it from providing information on student health visits, but one parent on social media stated that five kids in one class went to the nurse’s office in response to the odors, according to the child’s account. 

Just last month parents and former teachers held protests, called sick-outs, demanding that the 65-year-old building be closed to address ongoing serious health concerns.

One of the classrooms involved in this week’s evacuation is a newly renovated science room G-51. In 2017, the room was found to sit above a storage area for hazardous chemicals, which have now been removed.

No formal health studies have yet to be initiated, to potentially link the school environment to disease, though Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) has requested that the state’s health department conduct a longitudinal study of students and teachers at Northport Middle School. 

More than 18 Northport Middle School students over the last 10 years, according to parent groups, have been diagnosed with rare, environmentally induced diseases, including blood cancers. Retired teachers have also conducted an informal survey that they say raises serious questions about the building’s safety. These health studies, state health officials have said, are often inconclusive. 

For decades, contamination issues have been the subject of ongoing concerns at the school, which has a history of storing hazardous chemicals, in some cases improperly.

Residents are invited to attend the Dec. 12 school board meeting, where Banzer will provide details about relocating the district’s bus depot and refueling station, which is located on the middle school grounds. 

Board member Larry Licopoli has been appointed to a subcommittee comprised of board and community members that is looking to test the soil for an array of chemicals. The subcommittee will be presenting some recommendations during the Dec. 12 board meeting. 

A mugshot of Charles Titone, who police said sexually abused a 6-year old and possessed child porn. Photo from SCPD

Police arrested a school bus driver early on Tuesday, Dec. 3 for alleged sexual abuse and possessing child pornography. The man drove a bus in the Northport-East Northport School District.

Police, which included the members 2nd precinct, along with computer crimes and special victims sections, said they launched an investigation into Charles Titone III, 46, following a tip from the New York State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Police said investigators executed a search warrant at Titone’s home, located at 250 Depot Road in Huntington Station, early in the morning and arrested Titone at around 7:30 a.m. for allegedly having sexual contact with a 6-year-old and possessing child pornography on his phone. Titone is a school bus driver for Huntington Station-based Huntington Coach Corp. and drives in the Northport-East Northport school district.

Titone was charged with sexual abuse 1st degree and possessing a sexual performance by a child.

The victim was someone previously known to Titone and not a student from his bus route, police said.

Attorney information for Titone was not immediately available.

Titone is being held overnight at the second precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 4 at First District Court in Central Islip.

The investigation is continuing. Police said detectives are asking anyone with information to contact the Computer Crimes Unit at 631-852-6279 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.

Northport district officials have found an alternative location for its bus depot. Photo from Close Northport MS Facebook page

At a board of education meeting Nov. 21, Robert Banzer, Superintendent of Schools, recommended to the board that they seek other fueling alternatives of the two 4,000 gallon tanks and look at options to move buses to another location. The district has already begun researching options for alternative tanks locations and placement of buses, according to the superintendent.

In addition,  a plan will presented at the December 12 board of education meeting.

The decision comes less than a week after a TBR News Media article disclosed that the district was in violation of laws governing petroleum bulk storage.

On Nov. 25, the NYS Department of Health re-inspected the fueling tanks and indicated to the district that the previous citations were corrected.

In a letter to the Northport School Community, Banzer said they would:

  • Conduct refresher training on the latest guidelines for tank maintenance and inspections
  • Schedule periodic tests of all tanks throughout the districts with an outside environmental testing firm
  • Ensure consistent and documented follow up with the Department of Health when seeking follow up inspections
  • Formalize internal communications which includes the superintendent and board of education.

Similarly, the board of education approved two other recommendations brought forward by the subcommittee:

  • Authorizing that the district request the Suffolk County Department of Health perform a follow-up inspection to their May 2017 visit and its subsequent inspection report.
  • Authorize follow-up testing of indoor air quality to follow the same protocols as the August 2018 assessment as well as air quality testing in individual rooms.

 

Students and parents address the board during a standing-room only board meeting Nov. 7, after air quality issues have resurfaced at Northport Middle School. Photos by David Luces

A day that began with over 60 parents and children participating in a “sickout” protest in front of Northport Middle School ended with a public meeting later that night, where the seven-member board of education unanimously voted to begin soil testing at the school. 

A packed crowd at the boarding meeting Nov. 7. Photos by David Luces

A crowd of concerned parents and community members packed into the standing room only public meeting at the William Brosnan School. Many parents voiced dissatisfaction about how the school district has been handling recent incidents with foul odors at the middle school, saying that soil and groundwater testing are long overdue.

Many people blamed illnesses, such as cancer, headaches, nosebleeds, mold infections and other serious diseases, on the school’s long history of air quality issues. 

Board President David Badanes and Superintendent Robert Banzer both reiterated to the crowd that according to experts, the middle school is safe for operations.

“Since 2017, we have made major capital and personnel improvements to the school and have corrected issues found in a 65-year-old building, as well conducted environmental testing and engaged experts from the Department of Health, the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center of Long Island and the Icahn School of Medicine,” Banzer said. “In their professional assessments, all have indicated that the middle school is safe for occupancy. Without the assurances of these professionals we would have not occupied the school.”

“In their professional assessments, all have indicated that the middle school is safe for occupancy. Without the assurances of these professionals we would have not occupied the school.”

– Robert Banzer

The district expects that soil testing and the creation of a subcommittee will quell any remaining concerns and help bring a divided community back together. 

The subcommittee will be made up of 10 members, which will include board trustees, parents, district staff and professional experts. Together they will work on an analysis and come up with parameters of the soil testing. 

The timetable for the subcommittee’s actions has already been established. On Dec. 12, recommendations will be given to the board identifying experts that will conduct soil testing and additional analysis. December through January, soil testing begins. January-February, assessment of soil testing results. By March, the district expects a final report, which will include recommendations given to the board.  

Parent Lauren Handler called on the board to stop utilizing the services of Hauppauge-based firm J.C. Broderick, which has come under scrutiny for some of its previous reports and findings at the middle school. 

She also asked for a comprehensive review of all previous testing done at the school, additional groundwater testing, cesspool testing, and investigating the environmental impact of the VA Hospital and Covanta among other things. 

“If any part of this testing cannot be completed, or if testing is completed and the source of the result cannot be identified and remediated, than this building should be closed,” Handler said. “If this request cannot be met, I’m asking the superintendent and board members to step down.”

 A number of speakers called on the board to consider appointing an independent broker to select the consultant and experts that will be on the committee. 

Tammie Topel, a former board member who served for six years, said she previously brought up health concerns to the board.

A Northport Middle School student addresses the board Nov. 7. Photos by David Luces

“I am a former board member and when I was on the board two years ago, I requested for soil testing more than once,” she said. “Especially during one of my final board meetings, when I learned two former students had developed aplastic anemia.”

Topel, a nurse by profession, said proposals to approve soil testing at the middle school were voted down twice during her tenure. 

“Why didn’t we do this two years ago?” she asked. 

A number of parents also accused the board of not being up front with information about student illnesses at the school.

“I’m alarmed and disgusted by some of these things I just learned recently,” Michael Figeroura, an emergency medical technician for the New York City Fire Department and parent, said. “I find it disgusting when kids are complaining that they have headaches or smelling metallic things, they go to the nurse and all that gets done is that they check their temperature.”   In addition, Figeroura criticized Timothy Hoss, Northport Middle School Principal, for his handling of the situation.

“Who tells them [the students] after he comes into the room that there’s nothing there … But miraculously 30 minutes later there’s an email, a text message and a phone call — that yes there was some type of smell in the air and that they are working on the ventilation systems,” he said. “I want something to be done, we absolutely need more testing now and later.”

He also called for better trained medical staff in the schools. 

“For a nurse to check the temperature of a child after they complained about metallic smells, it is unacceptable,” Figeroura said. 

Timothy Heck, an accountant and community member, was one of a number of individuals that proposed the idea of moving the middle school students to another building in the district, arguing that the district has the available space due to declining enrollment. 

“I did a rough estimate myself and I figured from the administrative and operation costs, it costs around $2.5 to $5 million to keep one of the schools open,” he said. “What makes sense to me is that you could close one of the schools down and move the kids to this building or one of the grade schools.”

Heck cited a 2015 demographic study done by the district, where they projected that about 502 students were expected to be enrolled in the middle school in 2024 compared to 2007 when it had a peak of 908 students. 

Similarly, at a board of education budget meeting in January, the district projected that the schools have lost nearly 1,165 students since the 2011-12 school year. 

It’s unclear if board members are considering that option. 

Three board of education trustees have been appointed to the committee: Vicky Buscareno, Larry Licopoli and Tom Loughran. If you are interested in being considered for the subcommittee please send an email to: [email protected]

 

by -
0 621
The Northport girls lacrosse team flash their bling after winning state championship title.

The Northport High School varsity girls lacrosse team proudly flashed new hardware: their New York state championship rings Sept. 10.

Upon receiving their rings, the student-athletes reminisced with their teammates over a “dominating” season. Having earned second place to Middle Country with a record of 13-1 in the regular Division I season, the team qualified for playoffs in May.

In the opening round, the Tigers beat Commack, 15-5, and advanced to the semifinals where they beat Ward Melville, 13-7, to qualify for the Suffolk County championship.

Northport won, 13-7, against Middle Country to earn the county title and proceeded to beat Farmingdale, 15-4, for the Long Island championship. Hard on the heels of these victories, the team dominated over Pittsford, 13-3, in the New York state semifinals, and defeated Baldwinsville, 10-8, in June to win their first state championship since 2011. The Tigers overall record was 21-1.

“They dominated the competition,” Mark Dantuono, the district’s director of heath, physical education and athletics, said.

Congratulations to the entire team, as well as head coach Carol Rainson-Rose, assistant coach Alton Rose, and volunteer assistant coaches Alexis Curcio and Cortney Fortunato.

With 18 minutes left in the game, Ward Melville’s field hockey team retied the game at 4-all before Northport sophomore Shannon Smith scored the go-ahead goal two minutes later. It would prove to be just enough for the Tigers to edge the Patriots to win the game 5-4 at home in a Div I matchup Sept 11.

Northport’s scoring came from five different players. Along with Smith’s goal, senior Kate McLam rocked the box as did her younger sister, freshman Emma McLam. Sophomores Anna Trizzino and Sophia Bica also helped stretch the net.

Courtney Quinn, a senior, had a pair of goals for the Patriots while Amanda Lee and Isabella Paglia both put one in the back of the box.

The win puts Northport at 3-0 early in the season and the Patriots slip to 2-1.

Ward Melville retakes the field Sept. 13 at home in a non-league contest against Southampton, set to start at 6:30 p.m. The Tigers are back action the following day, Sept. 14 where the travel to Sachem North for a 12 p.m. start.