Vote on Nassau arena could cost $1.8M

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano talks about a

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano talks about a plan to build a minor-league baseball stadium and a new Nassau Coliseum during a news conference . (May 11, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A special election on whether to allow Nassau County to borrow up to $400 million to build a hockey arena and minor-league ballpark could cost as much as $1.8 million, a tab the Islanders say the team will reimburse if it gets the nod for a new Nassau Coliseum.

Islanders owner Charles Wang's unusual offer would kick in only if the vote passes on Aug. 1, and the county legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which controls the county's finances, approve the bonding.

Legal experts Friday said they had never heard of such an arrangement. But Nassau officials said the reimbursement would be part of a final contract with Wang, vetted by the county attorney's office.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Republican Elections Commissioner Louis Savinetti said Friday the election could cost between $800,000 and $1.8 million.

William Biamonte, the Democratic commissioner, suggested the cost would be close to $2 million.

The price tag depends on a determination by the county board of elections on how much equipment and personnel it needs.

Also Friday, Deputy County Executive Tim Sullivan said in a letter to NIFA that the Islanders and the county would hammer out a contract in the next month and would release financial details on costs and revenue by mid-June.

Mangano said that would include complete information for both the arena and the minor-league baseball stadium.

"The numbers will speak for themselves," Mangano said in an interview. "We want to be fully transparent as much as possible."

The response followed a request by NIFA late Thursday to the county to provide the financial data.

NIFA board member George Marlin Friday called Sullivan's response "sophomoric" and argued that publicly financed stadiums have been historically "great for the owners but bad for the taxpayers."

"They want to stick the taxpayers with $400 million in debt without providing an economic analysis, a feasibility study, a cost analysis, no figures in terms of the sharing of fees and no environmental impact study," Marlin said. "They went public with this without the facts."

Said Mangano in response: "George Marlin is entitled to his opinion and the voters are entitled to have their voices heard."

Tom Connolly, spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said state election law does not address the issue of a private entity reimbursing the cost of an election.

Nassau County spokesman Brian Nevin said the arrangement would be part of a final contract between the Islanders and the county, to be vetted by the county attorney. "If the Democrats don't accept this gift, it would cost taxpayers up to $1.8 million," Nevin said. With Robert Brodsky

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