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Legislator objects before Suffolk IDA approves aid to ALI

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta speaks before the

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta speaks before the Suffolk IDA about an applicant for tax breaks on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 in Hauppauge. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

A Suffolk County legislator, in a rare move, asked the county’s Industrial Development Agency on Thursday to delay final approval of tax breaks for a small manufacturer of replacement lights used in private jets.

The IDA’s board of directors listened to the request and then decided unanimously to grant $159,013 in tax breaks over 10 years to Aircraft Lighting International. The West Babylon-based business wants to go from renting a building to owning one.

Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said more should be known about ALI’s finances before a final vote was taken. He said he recently spoke with ALI owner Nicholas Michelinakis, who, according to Trotta, said the company is relying on loans to fund the expansion and has little cash.

Trotta questioned whether the IDA had sufficiently vetted ALI.

“Our responsibility is to the taxpayers, not enough due diligence was done here,” he told the IDA board.

IDA executive director Anthony J. Catapano said the agency had reviewed ALI’s tax return, prepared by a Ronkonkoma-based accountant, and spoke with the company’s lender who approved the expansion plan.

Cornelia Cahill, a transactions attorney for the IDA, said, “The due diligence process has been done here. The bank is comfortable moving forward.”

ALI, begun 18 years ago, manufactures and sells replacement lighting for private and corporate jets. Its products have been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Michelinakis told the IDA last month that he expects to hire 15 permanent staffers by 2018. He is currently the only permanent worker, earning $16,575 per year, according to records.

IDA board member Sondra Cochran said Trotta was asking for a “higher standard” to be applied to ALI than to other companies seeking tax breaks from Suffolk. She said, “I don’t feel comfortable. We haven’t asked this of other firms.”

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