Nassau County lawmakers failed to reach an agreement Monday to borrow $360 million to fix the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant electrical system, which has been running on temporary repairs since Superstorm Sandy.
Democrats in the Republican-controlled legislature argued over the funds with aides for County Executive Ed Mangano, who has requested $722 million to fix and upgrade the plant, before voting down the borrowing—then tabled the measure, meaning it will be taken up again at another meeting.
“I’ve heard a lot of discussion about our side delaying the process,” said Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the Democratic legislative minority leader. “There was money allotted in previous years. We’re trying to figure out what happened to that money.”
Abrahams was referring to $357 million in borrowing that was authorized but never spent on prior sewage plant projects. He and fellow Democrats grilled Mangano administration officials about that and why the $262 million the legislature passed three weeks ago wasn’t brought before the Nassau Interim Finance Authority for final approval last week.
Timothy Sullivan, the deputy county executive for finance, said that contractors are still bidding on the projects approved by the legislature last month, but NIFA needs specific pricing weeks in advance of their next meeting before that New York State-appointed fiscal control board signs off on the measure.
As for using the $357 million in previously approved borrowing for new repair projects, he said: “My understanding is that that would be illegal,” citing state local finance law.
Department of Public Works officials were unsuccessful in convincing the Democratic hold-outs of how perilous the situation is at the plant, which flooded homes and waterways with sewage and was offline for more than a month after Sandy.
“Without a fully functioning electrical system, the Bay Park plant is in peril every day,” said Rich Millet, the deputy commissioner of the public works department. “Different parts of it fail every day.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the county for most of the repairs.
Environmentalists with Vision Long Island, Operation SPLASH (short for Stop Polluting Littering And Save Harbors) and Citizens Campaign for the Environment urged lawmakers to put aside the politics for the sake of residents, 500,000 of whom are served by the plant.
“What this looks like is a mess,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of CCE. “Cross examining people here doesn’t look to be too fruitful… It doesn’t look like we’ve made much progress today.”
The legislature is scheduled to have holds its committee meeting Sept. 9 and its next full legislative meeting Sept. 23, although Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) alluded to the issue being taken up again soon.