By Alex Petroski
Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is nothing if not confident about the future of the town he oversees.
Brookhaven Town’s leader delivered his annual state of the town address at Town Hall April 3 in which he touted its financial footing while also looking toward the future.
“The state of Brookhaven Town is good and getting better,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven Town, though not perfect, is still a town full of promise and hope. It is up to all of us who live here to help realize that promise.”
“Brookhaven Town, though not perfect, is still a town full of promise and hope. It is up to all of us who live here to help realize that promise.”
Brookhaven has a structurally balanced budget for the current fiscal year that stays within the state mandated tax levy increase cap, in addition to maintaining its AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s financial services company. Romaine detailed a few cost-saving measures he said he’d like to accomplish going forward, including more sharing of services amongst other municipalities as a way to streamline government and save taxpayer money.
“Sharing resources and services to reduce the size, scope and cost of government is one of the best ways to control and reduce expenses,” he said, adding the town remains in the running for a shared services grant from New York state that, if selected, would add $20 million to Brookhaven’s effort. “We must continue to closely monitor our capital and operating expenses. Our residents cannot pay more in taxes. Too many Long Islanders are leaving.”
He said growing the local economy through additional jobs was another priority for him and the town going forward. Romaine said he still hopes Brookhaven will be selected as the second national headquarters for Amazon, which he said could bring in about 50,000 jobs to the town. He also praised the work of the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, an arm of municipalities dedicated to funding projects that will stimulate job creation and economic growth.
“The IDA closed on 20 projects that will result in $435 million of private investment and the creation of 4,050 permanent or construction jobs,” the supervisor said. “In addition, the IDA has 13 approved projects that have or are about to close in 2018, with the potential for another $440 million of private investment into our town, creating or retaining another 1,000 jobs.”
Romaine detailed several “green” initiatives already underway or on the horizon in 2018, noting the real threat to Brookhaven posed by climate change and sea level rise.
“With the largest coastline of any town in New York state, the Town of Brookhaven knows full well that global climate change and sea level rise is real and poses significant challenges in the decades ahead.”
— Ed Romaine
“With the largest coastline of any town in New York state, the Town of Brookhaven knows full well that global climate change and sea level rise is real and poses significant challenges in the decades ahead,” he said.
He said the town has adopted a practice of “strategic retreat” from commercial and residential development in low lying areas to allow nature to reclaim wetlands. He called land use and zoning among the most important powers a town government possesses. He also pointed to the imminent closure of Brookhaven’s landfill as a wakeup call in need of attention in the coming years. He said the town is ready to work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and other towns to formulate a regional plan for solid waste disposal.
The supervisor also made an impassioned call for updates to the Long Island Rail Road, including electrification of the Port Jefferson line east beyond the Huntington station, adding he co-authored a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority asking for just that with Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).
“It is time for a better transportation system, one based on 21st century innovation, not 19th century technology,” Romaine said.