HEAP emergency benefits extended

Suffolk officials say that HEAP emergency heating fuel benefits for low-income families have been extended to March 27, and those who have already received regular and emergency HEAP benefits can still get additional help with a second HEAP benefit if they do not have resources above established limits.

Eligibility criteria for the second emergency benefit will be the same as the first. Applicants must have exhausted or have unavailable to them both the regular benefit and the emergency benefit in order to be eligible for the second emergency benefit.

Applications for regular and both emergency component benefits will be accepted through close of business March 27.

To qualify, total gross monthly income for your household size must be at or less than the gross monthly income guidelines: $2,194 for a single person, $2,869 for a household of two, $3,544 for a household of three and $4,219 for a family of four.

Applications for emergency benefits can also be taken by phone at 631-853-8820 or 631-853-8825 or online through - RICK BRAND



Track work reducing LIRR train service

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Long Island Rail Road track work will impact service on the Huntington/Port Jefferson branch this weekend, LIRR officials said.

Service between Huntington and Jamaica will be reduced to hourly, from half-hourly, Saturday and Sunday as one track is taken out of service.

The outage is necessary as LIRR crews install new concrete railroad ties between Hicksville and Syosset, LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said. The work will also result in some adjusted travel times on the LIRR's Ronkonkoma and Montauk branches as trains travel between Hicksville and Jamaica.

For more information, visit - ALFONSO CASTILLO




$1M in state funds to restore sand dune

New York State will contribute $1 million toward the restoration of a sand dune that protects a fragile barrier island in Hampton Bays, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday.

Cuomo's NY Works infrastructure program will fund 70 percent of the $1.42 million project, aimed at preventing a breach of Tiana Beach. Suffolk County and Southampton Town will provide the rest of the funds, officials said in a news release.

Southampton and Suffolk crews began the work in January and plan to finish by April 1. The project involves using more than 50,000 cubic yards of sand to repair 3,000 feet of dune. Tiana Beach, located on the barrier island that stretches from Cupsogue Beach County Park to Shinnecock Inlet, is prone to flooding and has sustained major storm damage in recent years.

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"This emergency project is a shining example of state, county and town government working together to proactively address a perilous situation," Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said in the release.

Cuomo said the project will help the barrier island hold up in a weather event like superstorm Sandy. "Today we are continuing to build back stronger and smarter to meet the new reality of extreme weather," Cuomo said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the project would strengthen the coastline and "is vital in ensuring the safety and well-being of our residents on the East End as well as the thousands of tourists who visit Suffolk County every year." - WILL JAMES



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FEMA funds will help improve power grid

PSEG Long Island plans to use FEMA funding to make major improvements to infrastructure in Huntington, Huntington Station and Cold Spring Harbor.

It is part of a larger effort to improve Long Island's electric grid following superstorm Sandy through a three-year, $729 million hazard mitigation assistance grant. The goal is to strengthen the system so it is better guarded against storm damage and so power can be restored more quickly after a disaster.

PSEG officials did not immediately provide numbers for how much of the funds would be invested in the Huntington area. In a statement on the PSEG website, they said they anticipate some lane closures during the six- to eight-month project, which begins April 6.

PSEG plans to replace existing wire with a more weather-resistant variety, install new and more durable poles and add or replace equipment to cut down on how many people are affected by an outage.

The 3-mile project route will track an electric main line circuit on portions of West Neck Road, West Main Street, Soundview Road, Snowball Drive, Woodchuck Hollow Road, North Street and Kilburn Avenue. The work will take place between 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, excluding major holidays.

For more information visit: - VALERIE BAUMAN


Eyeing steps toward geothermal energy

Smithtown Town Board members may amend the town code to allow for easier implementation of geothermal energy technology to heat and cool residential and commercial buildings in town.

A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday on adopting the new building permitting code.

The code, developed by the Suffolk Planning Commission, was adopted by Suffolk County last fall -- the first New York county to adopt a model building code for high-efficiency cooling and heating systems -- and is partly modeled on one in the Town of Brookhaven, officials have said.

The code sets standards for installing systems and environmental protection. Smithtown Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski said it can also help cut through red tape. "This will create a regulatory framework to provide a more streamlined permitting application process," he said.

Home geothermal systems typically cost around $30,000 but can vary depending on the size of the home and manufacturer, officials said. PSEG offers rebates of about $3,000 on standard systems, and a federal tax credit can cut cost by another $10,000, Voltz said. - LAUREN R. HARRISON



Board OKs loan for capital projects

The Oyster Bay Town Board has approved borrowing $50.5 million for various capital projects. At its meeting last week, town officials OKd selling bonds to finance $30.2 million of roadwork, $8.3 million of park improvements, $5.4 million to purchase construction and maintenance equipment, $6.2 million for miscellaneous purchases including buying passenger vehicles and computer hardware and software, and $370,000 to buy and install tax management software and hardware.

Town Supervisor John Venditto said the town is shifting its focus from parks improvements to roads. "People are demanding roadwork almost everywhere," Venditto said.

The town ended 2014 with $844.3 million of long- and short-term debt, according to a January borrowing prospectus.

Last year, Moody's Investors Service downgraded the town's debt to A3, citing years of imbalanced budgets and negative reserves. Oyster Bay has the lowest Moody's credit rating among Long Island's 13 towns, though it is higher than the cities of Long Beach and Glen Cove. Lower credit ratings translate into higher interest rates when the town borrows.

Oyster Bay officials have not responded to repeated queries about whether the town participated last year in a limited amnesty program initiated by the Securities and Exchange Commission that allowed municipalities to correct material inaccuracies in their bond disclosure. - TED PHILLIPS



Committee to plan athletic fields' future

The Northport-East Northport school board plans to establish a new advisory committee to take on the district's rundown athletic fields.

The board approved a plan Monday night that would create a group of 13 people charged with inspecting the state of the athletic fields at schools around the district and make recommendations on rehabilitation vs. replacement.

The issue was first raised publicly when nearly 30 parents wrote the board calling for members to find a way to fund what they described as dangerous fields and bleachers.

The committee will produce a written report to the board along with a list ranking the district's project needs in order of safety and importance. Its members will also be charged with finding cost estimates for repairs, replacements and any potential outside funding to offset the costs.

Those chosen to be on the committee will develop a five-year plan for the board as it considers funding improvements through the budget or a bond proposal.

The volunteer board will advertise to fill the committee spots, seeking six district residents appointed by the board, two parents appointed by the president of the PTA, one teacher appointed by the union, two support staff selected by their peers, one administrator appointed by the superintendent and one nonvoting board member appointed by the president of the board.

The committee will meet at least once a month. Barring an extension, the committee will expire June 30, 2016. - VALERIE BAUMAN