Oyster Bay, Freeport OK Sandy cleanup borrowing

Damage caused by superstorm Sandy on Woodcleft Avenue Damage caused by superstorm Sandy on Woodcleft Avenue in Freeport. (Oct. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Two Long Island municipalities have voted to borrow money to pay for superstorm Sandy cleanup costs while they wait for federal reimbursements to arrive.

Oyster Bay's town board Tuesday voted to borrow $15 million, while the village of Freeport's board of trustees approved $4.5 million in borrowing the previous day.

Officials in both communities, which were hit hard by the October storm, said they needed the money to pay for cleanup costs such as debris removal and damage to infrastructure.

"This stuff isn't going to put itself back together," Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick told residents at Monday night's village meeting. "Freeport's got to move forward."

Oyster Bay's vote pumped up a $6 million request for bonds that the town board approved two weeks ago. The $15 million bond matches the town's estimate for Sandy cleanup, town officials said.

The town expects to be fully reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, town officials said.

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Before the vote, town Supervisor John Venditto described driving around shoreline areas of Massapequa during the height of Sandy.

"The devastation from the storm was amazing," he said. "It looked like a war zone."

Freeport's $4.5 million in borrowing will cover all of the damage to the village that isn't covered by insurance, said Howard Colton, the village's attorney. The village expects to be fully reimbursed for the costs by FEMA, but the federal money is unlikely to arrive until next fiscal year, which begins March 1, 2013, he said.

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The damage to the village, which is still being tallied, is likely to include a bill of more than $3.3 million for debris cleanup, Colton said. The electrical grid also suffered about $1.1 million in damage, he said.

The remaining money is largely taken up by overtime costs for village workers, Colton said. The borrowed money should arrive in about 20 days, Colton said. The village will pay as much as 2 percent in interest on the note, he said.

At Freeport's meeting, resident Stephen Malone encouraged the village to borrow more.

"By the time we get done with disposal costs, this will well exceed that amount," Malone said.

With Bill Bleyer

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