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Long Beach OKs borrowing $2.1M to fund retiree payouts

The bond covers payouts to more than two

The bond covers payouts to more than two dozen retired Long Beach employees. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Long Beach City Council members unanimously approved more than $2.1 million in bonds for separation payments for 31 union workers, police and firefighters, but vowed to review the city’s payout practices.

The council Tuesday agreed to issue the bond to maintain payments to retirees as city officials questioned the continued practice of paying for accrued vacation and sick time when people leave their jobs.

The bond covers payments to 27 employees who have already received the first installments of their separation payments. Four other employees, including two firefighters, a police officer and city worker, will receive payments for the first time.

City council members had debated whether the payments complied with union contracts and city code. Four council members went into executive session to discuss legal implications of passing the bond or not making owed payments. Council President Anthony Eramo was absent.

The state comptroller and Nassau County district attorney’s office is investigating city payouts made last year to current and former employees.

Councilmembers agreed to pass the bond so city workers would start to receive their payments.

“The council recognizes questions surrounding payouts in the past,” Councilwoman Anissa Moore said in a joint statement with the council. “In a collective effort to move forward and in the spirit of transparency working with our new comptroller and legal counsel, we will review payout practices to address ongoing and systemic issues.”

Long Beach Comptroller Inna Reznik said the calculated payments were correct, but she could not comment on the amount owed in separation agreements or union contracts.

Acting City Manager Rob Agostisi said if the city council wants to budget for separation payments, the city needs to lower expenses or increase revenue through taxes.

The city can work with bargaining units for mandated payouts, but Agostisi said that doesn’t affect the city’s existing obligations. He said not passing the bond could expose the city to legal claims.

The city’s CSEA labor union and the Long Beach paid firefighters union urged the city council to pass the bond to pay retirees.

City council members also unanimously passed an intermunicipal agreement with Nassau County to convert the Long Beach sewer treatment plant into a pump station that will transfer as much as 5 million gallons of raw sewage per day to be treated at the county's Bay Park facility.

The Nassau County Legislature passed a joint resolution to cover $66 million of the project. Bay Park and Long Beach pump a combined 12 million gallons a day of sewage into Reynolds Cannel and are under a state consent decree to reduce ammonia levels.

The joint plan will eventually transfer treated sewage in the next several years through an underground aqueduct under Sunrise Highway to the Cedar Creek plant in Wantagh, where it will be discharged out a 3-mile outflow pipe into the ocean. Sewage will then no longer be dumped into the channel.

City officials have said their portion of the project would cost $18 million to complete. The city has received about $6 million in state grants but still must approve a bond for $6.3 million that was tabled in 2017. A condition of the agreement states the city will not pay more than the proposed bond, which has not yet been authorized. Officials did not comment on how much more funding may be needed.

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