Baldwin sanitation debate ignites passions

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray speaking with Levittown Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray speaking with Levittown families. (Nov. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

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The heated debate between opposing factions on the fate of a Baldwin-based sanitation district has intensified since Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray wrote a letter casting doubt on arguments made by the district's opponents.

Residents of Sanitary District 2, which serves more than 50,000 people, will vote Dec. 12 on whether to keep or dissolve the district. Opponents of the district say their tax bills -- more than $500, on average -- would be lower if Hempstead Town provided the garbage service instead.

But Murray wrote in a letter to a resident dated Nov. 15 that there is "no assurance" dissolution would result in a town takeover.

The letter -- which later was circulated on the Internet by opponents of dissolution -- also said that the financial ramifications of dissolution are uncertain, and that the town would not necessarily have jobs waiting for the workers of Sanitary District 2 if it is dissolved.

Opponents of the district, including members of Residents for Efficient Special Districts, accused Murray of using scare tactics.

But district backers, including some employees, said the letter provides evidence that the district should stay intact.

"We know they can absorb us," said Laura Mallay, executive director of Residents for Efficient Special Districts. "I hope that the voters see through this."

Sanitary District 2 employees are justifiably concerned about their jobs and Murray's letter supports that fear, said Chris Seman, a district mechanic.

"These groups are not out to do what's right for the taxpayer, they are out to make a name for themselves," he said.

The sanitation district would have to craft a plan for a new service provider if dissolution passes. Hempstead Town would have to issue a vote of approval if it was tapped to provide service, town spokesman Mike Deery said.

Deery said Murray issued the letter in response to a resident who inquired about the costs associated with dissolution. He declined to name the resident.

Murray issued a statement Thursday that said, "The dissolution of the district does not determine which entity may provide sanitary service to residents served by that district in the future."

A State Supreme Court case, in which district resident Patricia Cabram has called for a review of the petition that forced the Dec. 12 referendum, also is ongoing. Both sides are awaiting a ruling in the case, said a lawyer for the district.

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