Spending approval sought for post-Sandy repair

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The Town of Smithtown is facing nearly $1 million worth of repairs and improvements to fix problems caused by superstorm Sandy.

Even for Smithtown, which sustained far less damage than South Shore towns such as Babylon and Islip, the Oct. 29 storm left officials with a hefty bill for repairs to town facilities.

At a town board work session Monday, several department chiefs requested approval for capital spending to repair buildings and parks damaged by Sandy. They requested millions more for upgrades unrelated to the storm.

Approval of capital expenses, which are funded by bonds, requires the votes of four of five town board members. The board may vote on the requests within a month, said Councilman Edward Wehrheim.

Public Safety Director John Valentine, who asked for $42,000 for a generator to pump fuel during a power outage, said town trucks almost ran out of fuel after Sandy hit.

"One of the things I quickly realized was that the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing when it comes to fuel," he told board members. "It became a serious issue."

Town board members cautioned that taxpayers can't afford to repay the principal and interest on so many expenses at once.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy questioned a request for a $17,000 sailboat to replace a vessel used in town-sponsored sailing classes. "It looks in perfect condition," he said. "I want a newer car, too, but maybe it always isn't prudent."

Among other spending requests related to Sandy:

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$450,000 for sand to replace 30,000 yards of beach washed away from two town parks;

$90,000 for a roof at the town senior center;

$6,000 for two freezers and a refrigerator at a concession stand.

In an interview, Wehrheim said the projected expenses could cause an unacceptably high property-tax increase, but added storm-related spending may be partly reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "It's unfortunate that we have to do it, but my hope is that we will do it," he said of restoring the beaches.

Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen reiterated his call for an additional $5 million to augment $7 million allocated for road, curb and sidewalk improvements.

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The board met without Supervisor Patrick Vecchio, who was absent because of what Councilman Thomas McCarthy called a "family emergency." Vecchio announced Sunday he would seek re-election.

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