Proposed fee waiver at Suffolk County beaches on excessively hot days

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With Memorial Day less than three weeks away, a Suffolk County lawmaker is looking to allow County Executive Steve Bellone to waive the county's $8 parking fees at county beaches on excessively hot summer days.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) has filed a resolution to permit waivers when the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory, excessive heat watch or excessive heat warning.

The proposal, which comes before the County Legislature's parks committee Wednesday, would allow the county executive to waive fees at county beaches with lifeguards -- oceanfront Smith Point in Shirley that can hold 3,700 vehicles and Cupsogue in Westhampton with 660 parking spaces -- and at Meschutt, a bay beach at Shinnecock with 315 spaces. Last summer, county beaches generated $1.23 million in parking fees.

"I see it as a public health and safety issue," Schneiderman said, "And it will help us protect residents, particularly those who are less affluent."

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But the proposal comes as budget aides estimate as much as a $170 million shortfall for 2015. Also, Moody's Investors Service, a Wall Street rating agency, recently downgraded county bonds.

"There's a budget impact associated with it," said Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). "We already have a lot of waivers for fees and we have to be very careful because of budget constraints."

Said Minority Leader John Kennedy (R-Nesconset): "We still have to pay to pick up garbage and clean the seaweed away. We can't do that for free."

Spokesman Justin Meyers said Bellone agrees " . . . there needs to be a mechanism to allow for parking fees to be waived as long as the necessary process and procedures are in place to ensure the function is used scarcely and judiciously."

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