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Nassau pols vote to spend $6.4M on Morrelly Homeland Security building in Bethpage

The building housing the Morrelly Homeland Security Center

The building housing the Morrelly Homeland Security Center at 510 Grumman Road West in Bethpage, is shown on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau lawmakers voted Wednesday to authorize spending more than $6.4 million to purchase the Morrelly Homeland Security building in Bethpage, where the county’s Office of Emergency Management and police department lease space.

Nassau won a public auction last month to buy the building, which was in foreclosure after the property owner, Applied Science Center of Innovation and Excellence in Homeland Security Research, defaulted on its mortgage.

The legislature voted unanimously to spend $4.6 million in police asset-forfeiture funds and an additional $1.8 million in unused capital funds for the three-story building on Grumman Road West.

Last month, D & B Engineers and Architects P.C. of Westbury, a county contractor, tested the indoor and outdoor air quality at the property — which was built in 2010 using a $20 million state grant — and found the site safe, according to a report by the firm.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano plans to move several unidentified police special units to Morrelly’s vacant third floor. The department already occupies 1,900 square feet there, while OEM has 5,200 square feet on the first floor.

Nassau will negotiate potential new leases with several private-sector tenants that occupy 40 percent of the second floor, Mangano said. Their leases expired with the sale.

Also on Wednesday, Democratic legislators held a news conference in Mineola to announce plans to reintroduce a 2015 bill that would create an independent inspector general to oversee county contracting.

“Our message is clear: reform and restore transparency and independence to this process,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), who asked majority Republicans for a hearing on the bill.

Frank Moroney, a spokesman for presiding officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), called the bill “a political ploy in an election year.”

In a Dec. 7, 2016 memo, County Attorney Carnell Foskey said the inspector general proposal was unconstitutional and “disenfranchises the public” by moving contract reviews to an unelected individual.

Democrats last year submitted petitions to put the inspector general position before voters during the November election. But the deadline to get the issue on the ballot expired while Foskey was reviewing the measure.

As they did last year, Democrats plan to block any capital borrowing needed to fund the county’s $275 million capital budget until the GOP approves their inspector general bill. Bonding requires 13 votes; the GOP has 12 members to the Democrats’ seven.

Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) broke with Democrats twice last year and voted with Republicans to approve roughly $74 million in capital borrowing for bus, road and environmental projects. Curran, now a candidate for Nassau County executive, said Wednesday she will not back any additional borrowing until the GOP agrees to create the post.

Moroney said there is “no justification” to withhold funding” for the capital projects.

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