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Burned Biz’s Get Deadline

Owners of five businesses razed by a major fire last month have until Aug. 27 to fill in open ground or present a plan of action, Village of Williston Park reps announced last week.

“We’re moving forward and its going to be a while before things get back to normal,” Mayor Paul Ehrbar said. “I want to compliment our firemen and the surrounding communities who provided additional fire support.”

Village Attorney James A. Bradley revealed property owners had 10 days to reply to orders issued by village Building Inspector Kerry Collins on Aug. 13. If they don’t, Williston Park can convene a special hearing to determine whether the board should issue an order to correct any deficiencies found on the property.

“That may mean that the village itself could go in and take corrective action,” Bradley said. “All of the cost incurred in doing that would be added to the tax bills, or be a special assessment against the property for which the work is done—hopefully this will not be necessary.”

Collins said on Aug. 18 that all store owners affected by the fire have been notified they have a certain period of time to remediate the site to a safe condition.

“This means taking the foundation and rest of the building up,” Collins said.  “There are two buildings up that still have to be removed.”

According to Collins, the village has four or five different insurance companies. The village is currently in the process of coordinating with the building owners, working to take down two buildings and removing foundations from the other three.

“We’ll be working on that within the next month,” Bradley said.

According Ehrbar, one minor injury was reported in the Albertson Fire Department on the night of the fire. Flames consumed five storefronts and impacted a sixth.

A local bar, plumbing business and shoe repair shop were torn down after the fire. Officials said the two remaining buildings, a laundromat and hair salon, need to be bulldozed as well.

Williston Park Fire Department Chief Gary Smithing thanked village officials for their assistance and other stores for assisting how they could during the fire, specifically Nassau County Assistant Fire Chief Marshal and Williston Park trustee Michael Uttaro for responding to a 2:44 a.m. call when the fire broke out in the Village Cobbler Shoe Repair at 617 Willis Ave.

“I got there pretty quick, I live right behind where it took place—there is a lot going on now and a lot to be done, but the village is very grateful for what everyone did that evening,” Uttaro said.

Water Rate Squabble

Ehrbar commented on the ongoing water rate dispute with neighboring East Williston, saying, “we’ve been accused of price gouging and being vindictive—the rates we’ve established have been affirmed by the court and we’re trying to establish a working, long-term relationship with East Williston.”

Ehrbar has said that East Williston has paid an overdue water bill for $250,000, however an estimated $300,000 remains to be paid.

Ehrbar said the village will seek $300,000 in penalties from East Williston “in any legal way we are entitled to.”

Village of East Williston Mayor David Tanner has said recently have paid what courts ordered, but will not pay what they consider to be “excessive.”

“This is an example of what we’ve been up against with water rate negotiations—the fact that we’re charged $300,000 on a bill that is $300,000 in a commercial environment,” Tanner said.

East Williston had prevailed in the first round of two law suits, which began in April 2011, when they objected to a $3.83 per 1,000 gallon rate set by Williston Park, and the Nassau County Supreme Court found the rate was improperly set. The court found that Williston Park did not hold a required public hearing to discuss water rates.

Following an appeal by Williston Park in the Appellate Division of the Second Department, the second lawsuit was brought about in August, 2012, contesting a $4.33 water rate.  After the Nassau County Supreme Court reviewed the case, arguments took place with respect to each of these matters before the Appellate Division on May 5, and in a July 9 decision, East Williston was ruled against.