By Eden Laikin
A Nassau County Legislative committee yesterday unanimously approved a request by County Executive Ed Mangano to proceed with nearly half million dollars in critical repair and mitigation projects at the Sandy-damaged Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant.
The seven members of the Public Works Committee approved a plan to utilize a no-interest loan from a private entity for the much needed work at the plant. Ninety percent of the funds will be reimbursed by FEMA, county officials said, and the other 10% would be covered by CDBG housing funds, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Earlier this year, County Executive Mangano asked for $720 million to repair the plant and strengthen it against future storms. But, he was unable to get Democratic support needed to borrow the entire sum and instead, the legislature approved $260 million for repairs.
Saying the plant is being held together with “bandaids” and, that repairs can’t wait, Mangano came to an agreement with Governor Cuomo and the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) to borrow the funds without it costing taxpayers any money.
The $465 million is part of $815 million in funding for a series of critical Superstorm Sandy recovery and rebuilding infrastructure projects on Long Island that Cuomo announced late last month. These projects include rehabilitating wastewater treatment plants, upgrading Long Island’s utility system, creating microgrids to meet energy needs, and strengthening vulnerable bridges for future severe weather.
In return, EFC wanted the loan backed by Legislative support.
The $455 million will fund 6 major projects at the Bay Park plan, which Nassau County will oversee:
• Building a system of dikes, levees, and movable flood walls around the entire plant to provide protection against the 500-year storm and account for anticipated sea level rise;
• Elevating and hardening the Electrical Plant Distribution System and repairing existing generators to take the plant off of temporary power;
• Elevating and/or hardening 57 pump stations that serve one million residents to protect from floods;
• Building a larger sewage collection line to accommodate increased flow levels during storm surges; and
• Hardening and replacing the sludge dewatering equipment and building damaged during Sandy.
During the storm, engines for the plant’s main pumping system were flooded by 9 feet of water, and sewage began to back up and overflow into low-lying homes and even burst through the street in a neighborhood. The plant shut down for more than 50 hours, and about 200 million gallons of raw sewage flowed into channels and waterways. The flooding destroyed the plant’s electrical system and compromised many other critical systems.
The legislative Rules Committee also unanimously approved participation under the Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act. Home and business owners whose property was damaged or destroyed by the storm are entitled to a reduction in their property tax assessment for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 tax years. With the state’s passage of the SSAR Act, the state will reimburse the County for the loss in property tax revenue after the reductions; and “make whole” the school districts for the tax money they won’t receive.
Home or business owners who already applied for a reduction for the 2013-14 tax year, can and should apply now – again –under the Act, for 2012-13. Incorporated Villages must opt in to the program on their own. The “refunds” on any overpaid taxes will come as direct FEMA reimbursement. Homeowners can also grieve the amount through ARC.
Forms can be found online at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov, Office of Real Prop Tax Services.