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Nassau Legislature to revisit $326M borrowing

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was damaged

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant was damaged by superstorm Sandy. Millions of gallons of partially treated sewage from the plant are flushing each day into Reynolds Channel north of Long Beach. (Nov. 2, 2012) Credit: Doug Kuntz

Nassau County lawmakers Monday tabled $326 million of borrowing for a new electrical system to run its Bay Park Sewage and Waste Water Treatment plant, which serves more than 500,000 residents and was hard hit by superstorm Sandy.

That unanimous action followed a motion to reconsider the vote that originally failed 11-7, with one Democrat, Dave Denenberg of Merrick, joining the 10-member Republican majority. Borrowing needs 13 yes votes -- two thirds -- of the county legislature's 19 members.

"We will revisit this very soon," promised Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow).

The motion to reconsider came from Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown) after the vote that followed two hours of contentious debate. The successful motion also means that portion of the four-year rebuilding plan can be resubmitted for a vote without the lengthy process that brought it to its first vote.

Democrats have been feuding with the majority since it set new district lines last year that increases the GOP's chance to win more seats. The Democrats, though, can block bonding or borrowing to pay for the project.

The Republican administration of County Executive Edward Mangano on July 15 asked for $722 million to repair Nassau's aged sewage and water treatment system and to begin to protect it against future storms. Mangano's office said 90 percent of that sum was expected to be reimbursed by the federal government.

The Democrats said they, too, want to repair and upgrade the system, but that the $722 million need not be borrowed all at once. They joined with the majority -- but only for $262 million "to start."

They said they wanted more oversight of contracts, as some Sandy-related spending in Nassau now is being looked into by state and federal officials.

They suggested an advisory committee to report to the legislature. Mangano said he already had established a committee to report to him.Just Monday morning, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), with four members of his caucus, held a news conference calling for his advisory board.

"Reckless borrowing, record debt and a poor track record by . . . [the] administration," he said, "make it essential to have strict legislative oversight of the project."

In other action, the legislature unanimously approved extending the county sales tax and the hotel/motel and entertainment tax. It also approved the Nassau Community College budget of $213,879,542, which includes a tuition hike of $98 a year.

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