By Eden Laikin
Democrats on the Nassau County Legislature are preventing the completion of critically needed work throughout the County, and in turn, causing the loss of millions of dollars in matching federal funds for capital projects.
Multiple traffic projects, that are 80% federally-funded, are on hold until the capital plan is approved by a super majority of the Legislature – meaning at least one vote is needed from the Democrats.
Projects held hostage include: Sewage-pump replacement in Roslyn Village; consolidation of Sanitary Sewer Services in the Villages of Cedarhurst & Lawrence; $678,000 of pavement markings for the entire County; traffic signals along Middle Neck and Lakeville Roads that incur the loss of $3 million in matching federal funds; and the rehabilitation of Glenn Curtis and Earle Ovington Bridges over Meadowbrook Parkway, with a loss of $ 4.7 million in Federal Funding. Most road resurfacing projects scheduled for next year are in jeopardy – unless there is an immediate board approval.
These and many other much needed improvement projects – including Asbestos abatement of several aging county buildings, and the final phase of a Sea Cliff sewer renovation – remain stalled because the Democrats have refused for months to approve the usual annual borrowing for the County’s 2015 and 2016 capital plan.
Legislators in the GOP Majority claim the Democrats are “bringing government to a grinding halt for a political agenda” and that their “Washington-style political obstruction is compromising public safety.”
“Stonewalling the capital plan is reckless …,” Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said.
After the Democrats twice blocked borrowing to fund equipment and facility repairs to the County’s buses – Nassau Legislator Laura Curran broke with her Democratic colleagues to back a $6 million bonding ordinance to replace 28 aging NICE buses that must be put out of service next year. The county provides 10 percent matching grants for the project while the federal government provides the rest. NICE CEO Michael Setzer said the buses being replaced are at least 12 years old, with a minimum of 500,000 miles in service. Without the new vehicles, he said, “there would be no choice but to curtail services.”
And, after intense pressure throughout a six-hour meeting from GOP lawmakers, police leaders and union officials, the Legislature did unanimously approve borrowing $7.2 million for three of the capital projects – public safety equipment such as new body armor for police officers, replacement police ambulances and patrol car computers.
The 26 contracts the Democrats did vote for, include 10 that came from Democratic District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office; and three for the county board of elections, which is run jointly by Democrats and Republicans.
Other affected capital programs include pedestrian crossings at Uniondale Avenue and Front Street in Uniondale; $3 million for improvements to Manorhaven Boulevard in Port Washington; $2 million for improvements to Centennial Park in Freeport; and the replacement of old, underground fuel storage tanks at NICE bus facilities in Garden City and Rockville Centre.