Suffolk vote on PBA deal may be delayed

An undated file photo of a Suffolk police An undated file photo of a Suffolk police vehicle. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alan Raia

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The Suffolk legislature's vote on a new $201 million police contract scheduled for Thursday appeared headed for delay after a budget committee canceled a special meeting to review its fiscal impact.

Also on the agenda are votes on the sale of two key pieces of county property, both in Yaphank: the Foley nursing home and a 230-acre parcel that would be used to expand a freight rail hub. The deals total $43 million.

Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) said he does not expect a vote on the police contract, but he hopes the real estate deals move forward. He conceded that "there are lot of moving parts in play."

Lawmakers, including Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said the problems with the police contract could delay the real estate deals.

"We have some huge-ticket items. We're eight days from budget submission and I don't know how to call them," Kennedy said. "I think the unraveling of one has led to the unraveling of the others."

Horsley said negotiations were under way to soften the impact on employees at the nursing home and ease concerns of Yaphank residents over use of the rail property.

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The administration of County Executive Steve Bellone had claimed all three votes were vital to helping close the county's $250 million shortfall in time for Bellone's first budget, due Sept. 21.

Legis. Lou D'Amaro (D-North Babylon), chairman of the budget committee, canceled the special meeting Wednesday after learning that the Police Benevolent Association and Bellone aides were still discussing final terms of the police contract, and that an analysis by the Office of Budget Review would not be ready until late Wednesday, if at all.

"I don't want anything presented to us last-minute where we don't have time to digest the information," D'Amaro said. "We're not going to rush the process for the sake of being able to vote. Everyone has to make an informed decision after full analysis."

Noel DiGerolamo, Suffolk PBA president, said the main holdup involves the union's push for the police contract and a resolution that would make health insurance concessions affecting all county unions "go through simultaneously" because the health concessions also are part of the police contract.

The health care deal would require new employees to pay 15 percent of premium costs. Current county workers would continue to not pay premiums. But to compensate, the unions would be required to come up with $17 million in health savings.

Jon Schneider, deputy county executive, said the administration stands by its existing PBA deal. He said the administration is "amenable" to allowing an emergency vote on the health concessions, but that lawmakers have to have "a comfort level with what they are voting on" in the PBA contract.

Bellone says the PBA deal will save $43 million, compared with what the county would have paid if the contract had gone to arbitration, through lower police salaries and the health care concessions.

Suffolk Comptroller Joseph Sawicki, meanwhile, is expected to issue a letter Thursday on the process used to sell the nursing home, including the appraisal and fees associated with the deal, in response to a request from the Association of Municipal Employees, which represents nursing home workers.

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