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Last-minute wrinkle stalls Suffolk sale-lease back proposal

A last-minute wrinkle to Suffolk County’s initiative to get a quick cash infusion by executing a “sale-lease back” for county buildings has put the idea on hold in the state Legislature.

The proposal won’t be contained in either the state Senate or Assembly budgets set to be voted on today. What the omission means for County Executive Steve Bellone depends on whom you ask.

“It’s not dead – it’s just not in the budget,” said Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), dean of the Suffolk Assembly delegation. “It could come back later in the [legislative] session” which runs till mid June.

In contrast, Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said there’s still time to include the initiative in the state budget, which must be adopted by April 1. But he said Suffolk officials have to explain a significant variation to the proposal.

Bellone originally suggested allowing the county to sell the H. Lee Dennison building to private investors and lease it back, a plan he says would yield about $70 million. He needs approval from the state Legislature to move the idea forward.

Days ago, he asked to include other buildings on the “north campus,” across the road from Dennison, LaValle said.

“They added new language Friday,” said LaValle, dean of the Suffolk Senate delegation. “The delegation wants to talk about it. We understand the $70 million is critically important to the Suffolk County budget … But people are wondering: How many buildings are you using? How did you get that number [$70 million]? Is the county saying that Dennison alone doesn’t get you to $70 million?”

LaValle emphatically said the proposal isn’t dead, adding “it’s a matter of communication” with the county. Bellone's office couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

The state Legislature is set to vote today on budget resolutions – essentially, a public statement of spending priorities. That formally starts the negotiation process with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Though technically they have until April 1 to adopt a plan, lawmakers are trying to wrap up things in the next two weeks, before the Passover-Easter recess.



 

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