Nassau County lawmakers have approved more than a quarter of a billion dollars in borrowing to fund repairs to the Sandy-damaged Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, but another half-billion is still needed.
Legislators unanimously approved bonding for $262 million to fix the plant and its sister facility, the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Seaford, on Monday after Democrats initially refused to give Republicans in the GOP-controlled chamber the supermajority votes needed to pass the full $722 million in borrowing that County Executive Ed Mangano requested.
“We are committed to spending every single penny that necessary to renovate that plant,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead) said afterward. “The idea would be to continue to talk and move ahead.”
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) added: “I hope that somehow within the next few days we’ll be able to continue that work toward compromise and get what we need to put this plan in action.”
The vote followed hours of heated debate over adding to the cash-strapped county’s $3-billion debt load in order to fix the Bay Park plant, which failed during Sandy, flooding homes and waterways with sewage before temporary repairs got it back online a month later.
Democrats cautioned that there needs to be oversight over such large amounts of money in light of investigations reportedly ongoing into prior Sandy contracts. Republicans warned that if the county doesn’t act fast, federal Sandy aid reimbursement funds could dry up or another storm could hit.
“We can’t continue to wait,” Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, told the legislators amid the debate. “We’ve become very casual about sewage coming to our waterways. It’s sickening.”
Mangano in May led residents on a tour of the Bay Park plant that serves about 40 percent of the county to outline upgrade plans to ensure it won’t fail in future storms and install an ocean outflow pipe that would extend passed the current one in Reynolds Channel. That tour followed a report that found that Bay Park’s Sandy spill was the worst in New York State and the second worst in the Northeast. Before the storm, the rickety state of Bay Park and its sister plant, Cedar Creek, had been the subject of a Press investigative series.
The borrowing still needs to be approved by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state-appointed fiscal control board that has yet to meet since Democrats and Republicans broke a longstanding stalemate last month over bonding to pay for overdue property tax refunds.
In a back-and-forth with legislators over the sewage plant repair money, Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker warned: “You cant afford to take the risk and wait.”