Written by Carol Frank Friday, 27 November 2009 11:23
Seven years of turmoil, conflict and political divides came to a resolution last night as the board of the Town of North Hempstead voted unanimously to approve a $60 million bond to construct a combined sewage treatment plant on East Shore Road that will not only meet and exceed environmental standards, but will be cheaper to operate and maintain than the two existing plants.
All of the players acknowledged that Supervisor Jon Kaiman has prodded, “sometimes none too gently” and pushed to solve the disputes and hone the budget for the facility. The packed house at Town Hall applauded and cheered after the final votes were cast.
Supervisor Jon Kaiman remarked, “Tonight marks the beginning of achieving extraordinary goals. We will fulfill our obligations to take care of sewage in a responsible, environmentally sound way and our fiduciary responsibilities to spend the money wisely and prudently.” He stated that it has been a public process, has been the vehicle for a voluntary consolidation of two entities, and he promised that the town will “aggressively pursue grants and stimulus money” for these environmental upgrades.
County legislators David Denenberg and Dennis Dunne, representing a constituency from the county’s Cedar Creek sewage treatment facility, spoke first at the hearing, urging the board to approve the bond. Both legislators opposed, on behalf of their communities, the scheme to divert sewage from Great Neck to the south shore, which was a hotly disputed topic for the past seven years. Legislator Denenberg referred to the poor conditions at Cedar Creek and the chance that with future development of the Hub and Bethpage that facility will be greatly overburdened. He also indicated that the county legislature would never have gone along with diversion anyway. He concluded by saying that the standards, for effluent discharge, are more stringent in the Sound and “everyone knows the standards should be more stringent for ocean discharge.”
Supervisor Kaiman noted that in the past he had thought that there might be savings with diversion, but “with deadlines, for improving water quality in the Sound, looming” and no other viable option, the only choice on the table was the bond.
District chairperson Jane Rebhuhn stated that there would be no adverse tax effect in the long run. She said, “We’ll still be paying the least of anyone in the county.”
Commissioner Deena Lesser added that the level of service and response time will remain high. She noted that all district lines are checked by a camera probe every 9 months as a part of preventative maintenance while the county checks sewage lines every 9 years. Commissioner Jerry Landsberg also commented that the combined district and village system will be a “classic case of savings brought about by economies of scale.” District superintendent Christopher Murphy said that the village and the district will save $2 million a year in operating costs. Over the life of the bond, they have calculated that there will be a savings of $13 million. A detailed presentation made by the district is now available for perusal at their website: www.gnwpcd.net.
For a homeowner living in the current district boundaries with a house valued at $1 million, a raise is expected of $62 a year. Residents presently served by the village plant may expect a slight decrease in their current payments. This is reflective of the greater costs borne by a smaller plant.
Mayor of the Village of Great Neck Ralph Kreitzman indicated his support of the bond and the critical need to meet the state’s requirements and deadlines to avoid huge fines.
Village of Saddle Rock Mayor Leonard Samansky also urged passage of the bond, but warned that the mayor’s advisory committee should not be de-activated and that oversight of the construction project would be essential.
Village of Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin also spoke in favor of the bonding having been reassured that the new construction would be softened and blocked by tasteful landscaping, known in zoning parlance as “parsley around the pig.” Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender sent a letter of support.
A number of community activists who have intently participated in the process, notably Shirley Siegal and Leon Korobow, expressed their support once more and thanked all concerned for their efforts.
The evening marked a milestone in what will be a long journey. Much hard work lies ahead. Construction is slated to begin in July of 2010. The goal is to complete the construction in July of 2013 and for sewage to flow through the new plant in January of 2014 and enter Long Island Sound, cleaner and purer than ever before.