Written by Rich Forestano Thursday, 26 September 2013 00:00
Mayor Scott Strauss presented the State of The Village Address on Tuesday, Sept. 17. He gave brief updates on village finances, and current and ongoing projects in Mineola, while touching on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, whose one-year anniversary is next month.
Sandy packed a huge punch, knocking out power in 12,000 Mineola homes, according to the Long Island Power Authority.
Eight days after Sandy hit Long Island, a nor’easter dubbed Athena rolled in, dumping snow mixed with rain and sleet, creating hazardous road conditions that made the easiest of trips a nightmare.
Approximately 425 trees were taken out by these two storms. Weather services gave some advance notice of Sandy’s potential, which Strauss called, “a slight luxury.”
Strauss commended the Mineola Fire Department, which responded to 125 calls after Sandy hit. The department averages about 600 per year.
“These trees were uprooted, landed on buildings, tore up sidewalks and curbs, ripped apart power lines and blocked roads,” he said. “Our Department of Public Works organized its response team; our Village Hall staff prepared contingency plans; our Fire Department and Ambulance Corps and Auxiliary Police Department were put on alert.”
Mineola Chamber of Commerce President Bill Greene gave the opening speech, with founding member Lou Sanders introducing Strauss. Strauss was elected to the Mineola Village Board in 2010 and was elected mayor in March 2011.
Strauss has lived in Mineola since 1964. He’s a graduate of the Mineola High School Class of 1981.
“It’s an honor to introduce Mayor Scott Strauss,” Sanders said. “As you know, [the board] is considering changing trustee terms from two years to four years. He can do this by decree, but being a believer in democracy, he brought it out for public comment.”
Strauss touched on the village’s tax certiorari settlements, which Mineola budgeted at $450,000. These settlements are brought by property owners who claim they are over-assessed and are paying too much in property taxes. If their grievance is successful, the property owners are entitled to a refund of the overpaid taxes.
Certiorari plaintiffs demanded $464,950. According to Strauss, the village was able to negotiate a $262,700 settlement. The village also paid off $37,500 in carry-over obligations that were not due until 2014-15.
“Although there are financial challenges that lie ahead, I will tell you now that I and my fellow board members will take those challenges head-on and make the tough yet right decisions you expect of us,” Strauss said.
The village adopted its budget in April, which showed a .74 percent budget-to-budget increase from 2012-13. Mineola originally floated a 1 percent increase when it released tentative figures earlier this year.
“We had passed a budget with minimal tax increases and we were able to bring our fiscal year to a close under budget,” said Strauss. “We continue to maintain a healthy unreserved fund balance (our ‘rainy day’ fund) in order to protect our residents, taxpayers and business owners against unforeseen events.”
Financial stability, along with local commerce, is key to downtown revitalization. Strauss feels three projects, two of which are in major development phases, will aid Mineola’s vision of the “Village Master Plan,” created in 2005.
Strauss attended the recent “topping-off” ceremony for the new $80 million research facility constructed by Winthrop-University Hospital. He said the project “will help drive the economic engine of our businesses there.”
The 270-unit Winston Manor rental complex has been issued building permits. Demolition of old buildings on Willis Avenue has commenced. Its senior housing component, the Churchill, is under construction on Front Street, west of Roslyn Road.
The 315-unit rental facility at 250 Old Country Road (formerly KeySpan) is in final review stages with Mineola’s building department. Permits are expected to be issued soon.