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Sewers

Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. hosted a press conference at the comptroller’s office Feb. 11 saying the IRS has agreed with him about taxing recipients of septic system grants. Photo by David Luces

After nearly a year of waiting, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has ruled that Suffolk County homeowners should pay federal taxes on county grants that were used to upgrade septic systems. 

In a Jan. 15 letter from the IRS, the agency said the grants count as taxable income, regardless of whether homeowners received payments or not. 

Installation of the pre-treatment septic tank at the O’Dwyer’s home in Strong’s Neck. Photo from Tom O’Dwyer

The determination comes after Suffolk  County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) requested a private letter ruling on whether the grants should be counted as gross income. Beginning last year, Kennedy’s office sent 1099 forms to program participants, despite a legal opinion by the county’s tax counsel that advised that the tax forms go to the companies that received the funds, not the homeowners.   

At the time, the comptroller’s decision led to controversy and political fighting with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The executive’s administration has cited the prototype denitrifying septic systems as a key piece of fighting nitrogen overload in coastal waters. Kennedy and Bellone ran against each other for county executive later that year.  

Kennedy said at a Feb.11 press conference that the ruling has upheld their approach to issue tax forms from the very beginning. 

“They [the Bellone administration] have chosen to simply claim that I’ve made an effort to politicize this issue,” the comptroller said. 

He added that while his decision may “not be popular,” Kennedy blamed the tax issue on how the septic program was set up. 

“There may be ways to modify this program but it’s not up to me, it’s up to them,” he said. “We’ll continue to do the job we’re supposed to do.”

Peter Scully, deputy county executive, who heads the county’s water quality programs as the titular water czar, said Kennedy continues to simply play politics with the septic program. 

“This program is too important; we are going to find a solution — this will be a temporary disruption,” he said. “The fact that the comptroller is essentially celebrating the ruling speaks volumes about his motives.”

“We’ll continue to do the job we’re supposed to do.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Scully noted that since the comptroller’s initial decision last year, they have altered application documents to make clear to applicants that the grants they were applying for could be subject to income tax. 

While some individuals have decided not to move forward with the program, homeowners are still applying for grants. In January alone 111 homeowners signed up, Scully added. 

Since the program’s inception in 2017, the county has disbursed 293 grants and expended $3 million. In addition, the county received $10 million in state funding for the septic system program.

The Bellone administration has said there are about 360,000 outdated and environmentally harmful septic tanks and leaching systems installed in a majority of homes across the county. Nitrogen pollution has caused harmful algae blooms and can negatively affect harbors and marshes that make areas more susceptible to storm surges as well. 

In a statement, Bellone continued to call Kennedy’s decision political. 

“The comptroller’s actions have been contrary to the intent of the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program, the legal opinion by the county’s tax counsel, and longstanding practices used by similar programs in Maryland and other municipal jurisdictions,” Bellone said. “He chose to politicize water quality and decimate a program that has been praised by environmental, labor, and business leaders alike … In the meantime, our water quality program is running full steam ahead.”

“This program is too important; we are going to find a solution — this will be a temporary disruption.”

— Peter Scully

The deputy executive said their main focus is protecting homeowners as they may now be exposed to new tax liability. They are also prepared to challenge the IRS ruling. 

Tom O’Dwyer, a Strong’s Neck resident and engineer, has enthusiastically installed one of these systems at his own home. He said while he was aware that the grants could be potentially taxable, he and others had been “optimistic” that they wouldn’t be required to pay taxes on the grants. 

“We got the 1099 in the mail the other day,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who also upgraded, nobody really expected this to happen … this is a blow to everyone.”

Despite the ruling, O’Dwyer still believes that he made the right choice in upgrading and thinks the septic program is still a good cost-effective option. He plans on talking to his tax adviser to discuss what his options are moving forward.  

The Strong’s Neck resident also acknowledged that the ruling could end up hurting the momentum of the program. 

“I think it could affect homeowners who want to voluntarily upgrade their system,” O’Dwyer said. “With the increased tax liability, they’ll have to pay more out of pocket and some might think it’s not worth it.” 

The county executive’s office has plans to work with federal representatives to reverse the IRS decision. They have already had discussions with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) and U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3), Scully said.

Suozzi has already sent a letter to IRS Commisioner Charles Rettig, saying he strongly opposes the decision and that it undermines the program’s mission.

Community members and public officials gather in Smithtown for a public hearing on the development of the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property in St. James in January. Photo by David Luces

By Cindy Smith

As a Smithtown native who mobilized my neighbors to study the Gyrodyne project and speak at the hearing, and having spoken myself, I am gratified at what was predominantly an open-minded reception. Clearly many residents had not been informed of the grossly negative impact that project might have, and why they should insist the Smithtown Planning Board ask more questions before rubber-stamping the proposal.

Cindy Smith. Photo by Jim Lennon

Based on research by dozens of concerned residents, including nationally known environmental advocates like Carl Safina, we testified to evident prior use of lead arsenate, methyl bromides and excessive nitrates at Flowerfield — a fact not mentioned in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). We documented how the Planning Board excluded data concerning traffic, provided evidence of potential harm to Stony Brook Harbor and surrounding waterways, and — disturbingly — rebuffed regional officials like Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) who sought to provide information about shared infrastructure and planned regional development.

We also presented economic evidence that many jobs potentially created by the development will produce low-paying, minimum-wage positions — and that the property might actually be removed from the tax base, causing it to shrink rather than grow.

Lastly, we shared our concern that the development will trigger more high-density use along historic 25A, creating more suburban sprawl.

As a descendant of Richard “Bull” Smith, I envision a shared North Shore future that values both our history and our tomorrows. I hope Smithtown residents will visit us online at www.UnitedCommunitiesAgainstGyrodune.com and at Facebook.com/UnitedCommunitiesAgainstGyrodyne.

The conversation is not over! The Planning Board will accept written comments through 5 p.m. Jan. 24. Residents should also communicate their concerns directly to Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

Thank you, Smithtown, for welcoming your neighbors into the planning process. 

Cindy Smith

United Communities Against Gyrodyne Development community group

Incumbent Tom Muratore is being challenged for his county legislator seat in the 4th District by Holbrook resident David Bligh. Photo of Muratore from his campaign site; photo of Bligh from candidate

In Suffolk County’s 4th District, Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) is seeking his sixth term and is being challenged by Democrat David Bligh, an environmental engineer from Holbrook. We reached out to both candidates via email to allow them the opportunity to fill us in on what is on their minds as they campaign.

Incumbent Tom Muratore

We asked Muratore what he was most proud of during his tenure as a county legislator. One was working with multiple government agencies as well as community groups to purchase land for a 24-acre park. The future Selden Park Complex will include multipurpose fields, a walking trail and more.

“This allows for more field space and places for our children to play baseball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer and softball right here in our district,” he said. “The state-of-the-art facility is also a great place to host children with specials needs learning new sports through challenges and inclusive sports offerings.”

The county legislator also counted securing funds for a feasibility study for sewers in his district among his accomplishments.

“The availability of sanitary sewers has the potential to increase business investment, improve water quality and provide greater environmental protection in the Selden/Centereach communities,” Muratore said.

The legislator also has secured $6.6 million for road improvements on County Road 16, Horseblock Road. He said in addition to the road being repaved, handicapped-accessible sidewalks were installed and there were improvements to several crosswalks.

Among the issues facing the county, Muratore cites Suffolk’s financial crisis as one of the biggest issues.

“We must budget responsibly, hold the line on taxes and eliminate the outrageous fees, such as the red-light camera fee,” he said. “We must also reduce our capital borrowing. In the next term, I support a 5-10 percent reduction in capital borrowing.”

Other issues he said are protecting the environment and open spaces; supporting law enforcement and first responders for tackling the opioid crisis; and growing the economy by investing in our energy and transportation infrastructure and revitalizing downtowns.

Challenger David Bligh

Bligh said he feels the biggest issues facing Suffolk County currently are affordability, government accountability and responsiveness. The county’s deteriorating water quality he views as a crisis.

Bligh, who grew up in Ronkonkoma, said he hopes his three children will be able to afford to live on the Island when they grow up.

“We have to make Long Island affordable, especially here in Suffolk County, so that our young people and elderly can afford to stay here, and this county doesn’t simply become a place for the wealthy to dwell in their summer homes,” he said.

Bligh said he considers the deteriorating water quality in the county a crisis as it recently had the highest rate of emerging contaminants in New York State, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group May 2019 report entitled “What’s in My Water?: Emerging Contaminants in New York’s Drinking Water Systems.” He said “every elected official’s number one priority must be the safety of the constituents they serve.”

“If people cannot drink water without fearing toxins such as 1,4-dioxane, PFAS [polyfluoroalkyl substances], and other carcinogens, then we have failed as a government,” he said.

When it comes to government accountability and responsiveness, he said his team knocked on more than 14,000 doors while campaigning, and they repeatedly heard about “constituents calling their local officials about concerns in the community and being largely ignored.” He said too many times elected officials will say that an issue cannot be dealt with on their level of government or it’s outside of their jurisdiction.

He said if a legislator cannot handle an issue, they should call those who can and connect the constituent with them.

“We work for the people, not the other way around,” Bligh said.

If elected, Bligh said he would introduce a comprehensive package of ethics and good government reforms, and implement legislation that allows for the development of affordable housing units.

Also, he said as an environmental engineer for the past 15 years, his job entails remediating contaminated sites, and he looks forward to passing further legislation to protect the water quality and to safeguard Long Island from the effects of climate change.

Town moves forward with design, engineering for Lake Avenue despite uncertainty of future site hookup

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials aren’t willing to risk wasting any time, so they are forging ahead with plans to sewer downtown St. James.

Smithtown town board voted unanimously Dec. 11 to issue a request for proposals for engineers to plan and design a sewer system for the Lake Avenue Business District this coming January. Three days later, the town hired Bohemia-based engineering firm P.W. Grosser Consulting to prepare the documents needed to do so.

We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019.”

— Ed Wehrheim

“We’re on a tight leash with the engineering for sewer projects to be ready to go in summer 2019,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “If we waited another two weeks, we’d be pushing back our timeline.”

Town officials are hoping to have the plans and funding necessary to sewer Lake Avenue’s business district by next summer, which the $2.4 million replacement of St. James’ aging water mains is slated for, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. Replacement of the business district’s water mains has already been delayed once by the town with a desire to complete both infrastructural projects at the same time while the roads are ripped up.

“We are going to sewer because we are opening the ground already,” Garguilo said. “We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

Smithtown officials will need to have these design and engineering plans in hand and submitted, as well as other necessary documentation, in order to receive the $3.9 million grant from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a nonspecific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance, announced by New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in October.

“We don’t want to put residents through the inconvenience twice.”

— Nicole Garguilo

The town does not have any official agreement with developer Gyrodyne LLC, according to Garguilo, to access the sewage treatment facility it has proposed building as part of its plans for the Flowerfield property in St. James. The developer has proposed plans to construct a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and day spa, two medical office buildings and a 220-unit assisted living complex. It is currently completing the final environmental review to present to the town’s planning board for approval.

“If we need to, we’ll find another sewer plant, hook into Kings Park or another pump station,” Garguilo said.

Many St. James business people and civic leaders have stated while they are excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said the town could plan to doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, previously stated the civic group believes the community will benefit more from construction.

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New York State Sen. John Flanagan, far left, and Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, third from left, announce the $3.9M in state funding for infrastructural improvements. Photo by Kyle Barr

With funds finally in place for St. James sewers, Smithtown’s capital projects might finally be getting off (or under) the ground.

New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) announced Oct. 29 that the Town of Smithtown would be receiving $3.9 million from the State and Municipal Facilities Program, a non-specific discretionary pot of funding for municipal assistance. The funds will be added to the town’s available money to create a sewer
district along Lake Avenue.

This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project.”

—John Flanagan

“This is how I see it, [the town] come up with the plans, and we do whatever we can to help them out, especially when it comes to the actual cost of the project” Flanagan said. “This is a great indication of cooperation: town cooperation, local cooperation and intermunicipal cooperation.”

In June, the town released a report provided by Melville-based H2M architects + engineers that calculated the projected costs of installing dry sewer mains and pump stations needed to build a sewer district for the Lake Avenue business district. The architectural firm came up with two methods to install the sewers: the first would cost approximately $3.8 million to install gravity sewers, a force main and pump station needed to reach a sewage treatment plant but would not provide for full road restoration; the second design would cost the town roughly $6.2 million with road restoration costs included.

The estimated costs for the proposed St. James Sewer District were calculated on the premise that Gyrodyne, LLC will build a sewage treatment plan with the capacity to accommodate its neighboring Lake Avenue businesses. Gyrodyne has continued to say it will work with the town, according to Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R).

“The main component to revitalize any business district is you have to reach the [Suffolk County] Board of Health requirements, and because of the present-day septic systems it’s just not possible to do,” he said. “The new sewer mains are what will make this project successful.” 

The town is currently sitting on $4.6 million for St. James business district improvements, including $2.4 million to replace the area’s 54-year-old water mains. The supervisor added he expects the town will sit down with engineers either in January or February 2019 to discuss the logistics of the project, and that construction could begin by fall 2019.

A number of local business people and civicleaders attended the Oct. 29 press conference where Flanagan and town officials announced the funding. Though many said they were excited by the prospect of sewers, they were also aware that construction, both the tearing and replacing of sidewalks and asphalt, could disrupt existing businesses. Wehrheim said there could be plans for doing the work in sections, separated by the connecting streets all the way down Lake Avenue.

“Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

— Natalie Weinstein

“It’s going to be a huge disturbance, but we’re prepared for that,” the supervisor said.

Kerry Maher-Weisse, president of the Community Association of Greater St. James, said they will take the long-term view that the community will benefit more from construction.

“We’re going to help them, whatever the time frame,” Maher-Weisse said. “Our organization represents the businesses and we’ll be there to get people in to patronize.”

Natalie Weinstein, a Lake Avenue business owner and president of the nonprofit Celebrate St. James, an organization that hosts artistic events in the community, said the best way to revitalize the area is to make it focused on the arts.

“We have a wonderful challenge,” she said. “Everyone on this street is nervous about what’s happening. But I’m certain in the long run it will do amazing things for our town, community and business life.”

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Kings Park Jewish Center. Photo by Kyle Barr

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.

A view of how Gyrodyne intends to subdivide the land. Image from Suffolk County planning department

The Town of Smithtown now knows it faces an estimated price tag of $7 to $10 million to bring St. James sewage systems into the modern era.

Smithtown officials are poring over the evaluation of the St. James Sewer District prepared by Melville-based H2M Architects & Engineers where they broke down the projected costs of installing dry sewer mains and pump stations needed to build a sewer district for the Lake Avenue business district.

“[W]e’ve already proceeded with sending those to state Sen. [John] Flanagan’s office to get us grant funding to put in sewer lines along Lake Avenue and pay for the pump station.”
– Nicole Garguilo

In its report dated June 8, H2M projected that installing sewers and a force main at the intersection of Lake Avenue and Route 25A would cost approximately $1.78 million, including funds for curb-to-curb roadway restoration, if undertaken in 2020.

The engineers considered two different options for providing sewers to 18 properties along North Country Road/Route 25A from the Long Island Railroad track near Edgewood Avenue east to Clinton Avenue. The first method would cost approximately $3.8 million to install gravity sewers, a force main and pump station needed to reach a sewage treatment plant but would not provide for full road restoration. A second
design would cost the town roughly $6.2  million with road restoration costs included.

“Now that they gave us these cost estimates, we’ve already proceeded with sending those to state Sen. [John] Flanagan’s office to get us grant funding to put in sewer lines along Lake Avenue and pay for the pump station,” town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said.

Smithtown officials are hoping Flanagan (R-East Northport) can secure the funding through New York State’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in April 2017, which provides money for drinking water infrastructure and groundwater protection.

The estimated cost for St. James Sewer District are calculated on the premise that Gyrodyne, LLC will build a sewage treatment plan with the capacity to accommodate neighboring Lake Avenue businesses. Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) first opened conversations with Gyrodyne about considering such a move earlier this spring.

“We continue to be supportive of Supervisor Wehrheim’s vision for Smithtown, as well as the hamlet of St. James.
– Gary Fitlin

“We continue to be supportive of Supervisor Wehrheim’s vision for Smithtown, as well as the hamlet of St. James,” Gary Fitlin, CEO and president of Gyrodyne said. “Our plans include a sewage treatment plant, which is tremendously beneficial to the community versus traditional cesspools.”

Gyrodyne announced its intentions to work with the Town of Smithtown to its shareholders on June 29 calling it “an opportunity to create added value for both the company and the towns of Smithtown and Brookhaven.” It has hired Woobury-based Cameron Engineering & Associates to redesign its proposed sewage treatment plant to handle the plans it has for Flowerfield property and have excess capacity to service the business district of St. James.

Wehrheim said hearing Gyrodyne is sharing these intentions with its investors is positive news for St. James business owners and Smithtown.

“I think it’s great,” the supervisor said. “The fact they are selling it to their shareholders and having their engineers look at it means they are serious about doing it.”

A rendering of the proposed outline of the Kings Park sewer lines. Photo from Smithtown Planning Department

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.”

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Lake Avenue business district's water main work slated to begin in May will be postponed

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

By Kyle Barr

The assessment for sewers in St. James Lake Avenue business district may be arriving on the town doorstep soon.

It’s only been days since Smithtown Town Board voted April 10 unanimously to pay $24,000 to H2M Architects + Engineers to provide a study of whether installing a dry sewer line is economically viable. Yet, George Desmarais, the wastewater department manager at H2M, said the assessment would be finished in about a month.

“What we’re looking at right now putting a [sewer] district within the commercial area, which would be just south of Woodlawn Avenue between Patricks Way, north of Route 25A,” Desmarais said.

“What we’re looking at right now putting a [sewer] district within the commercial area, which would be just south of Woodlawn Avenue between Patricks Way, north of Route 25A.”
— George Desmarais

He went on to explain the study will look at how much sewage wastewater is produced by the commercial business district to determine what is needed, and the cost of installing dry sewer mains at the same time as the water mains.

At a public meeting hosted by the Community Association of Greater St. James, Desmarais and town board members discussed the sewers and other upcoming projects for St. James.

Although the town board has $2.4 million set aside for water main installation from its 2018 capital budget, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) stated that the town is still looking for additional funding for the dry sewer lines.

“What we do not have, what’s not budgeted for is funding for a dry force main for future sewers,” Wehrheim said. “I have been in discussions with higher levels of government to go after some funding methods on how we might possibly come up with enough funding to do that.”

Wehrheim said he had a sit-down meeting with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) to discuss possible sources.

Wehrheim asked St. James residents to agree with putting off the  water main project, originally slated to begin in May,  for one year so they could install everything, including the dry sewer lines, all at once. He said it would be more economical for the town and better for businesses.

“All this is being done while the roads are still open, while the concrete is up, because we’re not going to do it any other way,” he said.

The planned dry sewer lines will be gravity fed lines using the areas natural slope, according to Desmarais. The pump station for the sewers is planned to be a 30×30-square-foot area, but the exact location of the station has not yet been determined.

All this is being done while the roads are still open, while the concrete is up, because we’re not going to do it any other way.
— Ed Wehrheim

Wehrheim previously stated he was looking to negotiate with Gyrodone LLC to use the treatment station it proposes to build on the Flowerfields land, the property off Route 25A in St. James that is often used to host community festivals.

“If we do the concrete and asphalt, we’re just going to spend the money haphazardly and then 10, 15 years again, they are going to come back and say ‘we need more money’” Smithtown Highway Superintendent Robert Murphy said. “We have to do this smart.”

Deborah Powers, owner of Hither Brook Floral and Gift Boutique in St. James, was concerned that the construction would disrupt her business when work would be done on the roads and sidewalks.

“I’ve been through roadwork before, I know what it’s going to do, and it’s not going to be pretty,” Powers said.

Wehrheim mentioned that the town was looking at means of doing the construction without interrupting daily business.

“We’re looking at the percentage cost for doing the paving at night. I think that’s something that very much will be feasible,” he said. “The other thing that we’re looking at instead of having this be spread out among contractors, is to see if we can come up with enough funding by putting this out as one request for proposal and have a larger contractor come in who can subcontract the work so that would speed up a project like this.”

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim has approached Gryodyne LLC about a shared sewer plant on Flowerfield property in St. James. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Smithtown’s Town supervisor has approached a developerabout creating a shared sewer plant to service downtown St. James.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he’s asked Gyrodyne LLC whether it would consider building a shared sewer treatment plant large enough to handle wastewater for the Lake Avenue business district on Flowerfield. The Flowerfield property off Route 25A in St. James is often used to host community festivals and contains freshwater wetlands that feed into Mill Pond in Stony Brook, Stony Brook Harbor and on into Long Island Sound.

“They said they would be amicable to having a conversation about it,” Wehrheim said.

“[Gyrodyne] said they would be amicable to having a conversation about it.”
— Ed Wehrheim

Gyrodyne has an application pending before Smithtown Planning Board to subdivide the 62 acres of Flowerfield property in St. James to construct a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and day spa, two medical office buildings and a 220-unit assisted living complex with its own sewage treatment facility. After substantial traffic concerns were raised at a Nov. 15, 2017, public hearing, the town has ordered Gyrodyne to complete a full environmental study of its proposal.

If the environmental study comes back clean, the supervisor said he believes this could pose a great opportunity for the town.

“They have ample property to build the sewage plant,” Wehrheim said. “Even after building the plant, their plans include keeping 30 acres of property undeveloped.”

He noted that the 4.5 acres set aside by Gyrodyne for a sewage treatment facility are not adjacent to any residential neighborhood. Wehrheim said he is also interested in seeing if the developer would be open to future discussions on providing sewers for Smithtown’s business district.

“Without sewering, we can’t do any kind of revitalization,” he said.

Paul Lamb, chairman of Gyrodyne’s board, confirmed that Wehrheim had reached out to the company, but declined any further comment until after his March 30 board meeting.

The town has approved $4.6 million in its 2018 capital budget program to fund St. James downtown business district improvements. This includes $2.4 million to tear open Lake Avenue to replace the town’s aging water mains.

Without sewering, we can’t do any kind of revitalization.”
— Ed Wehrheim

Wehrheim said the Lake Avenue construction originally slated to start this May could potentially be delayed until 2019. The supervisor said he anticipates the town board will vote at its next meeting on hiring H2M architects to complete a study to determine if installing dry sewer lines would be economically feasible at this time, given the town’s plans for a sewer treatment plant are not solidified. The study, if approved, would take several months to complete and cost about $24,000, according to Wehrheim.

“What we are trying to eliminate is the excavation of the road for water mains, then rebuilding the road, sidewalks, curbs — about $2.6 million in restoration work — to find out a year later we have to cut the brand new roads back up,” he said. “It’s wasteful.”

If negotiations fail, town officials would be forced to return to their original plans which have a starting price tag of $65 million to sewer and build a plant for the Smithtown business district, according to Wehrheim.

Town officials are currently waiting for the state to pass an action that would authorize the town’s use of land proposed for Kings Park’s sewer treatment plant, according to Wehrheim. He hopes to have state approval as early as June.