The Nassau County Legislature Monday night unanimously approved $262 million -- instead of the $722 million requested by the administration -- to repair Nassau's aged sewage and water treatment system and to begin to protect plants against future storms.
At a legislative hearing, Democrats questioned whether it was necessary to authorize the requested $722 million in borrowing all at once, but ultimately negotiated among themselves and County Executive Edward Mangano to approve the scaled-down bonding as a start on the four-year capital project.
Republicans control the legislature with a 10-9 majority but lawmakers need a two-thirds vote to do borrowing.
At the hearing, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) asked, "Why do we have to authorize all of it now, with no guarantee that the federal government will reimburse most of it?"
Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker responded that he was confident that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would reimburse 90 percent of the cost. "But even if they don't give us anything, we still have to do this," he said.
A significant portion of the funding would go for repairs caused by damage from superstorm Sandy, and to buttress the wastewater treatment system against future storms.
Ultimately, administration officials want to get $722 million in bonding that would cover expenses, including $540 million for post-Sandy restoration of wastewater treatment plants; $53 million for pump station repairs; $33 million to replace equipment at the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant and $26 million for better odor control.
Walker said damage to the electrical system at the Bay Park sewage treatment plant is among the most urgent repairs. The cost would be about $326 million. "We can't let our electrical system keep running on generators or some other temporary measure," Nevin said.
Walker said some of the projects covered by the proposed borrowing already have gone out to bid and he expects all of them to go out by the end of the year.
Speakers from the public said they supported the borrowing.
"Civilizations have lived and died on how they treated their sewage. Hopefully, we will choose to live," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a nonprofit group.
In other matters, the legislature restored nearly $2.4 million to social service programs. Youth Services received $1.7 million, Mental Health got $350,000 and Chemical Dependency received $321,000.
The legislature also was expected to consider $213 million for Nassau Community College's 2013-14 budget.