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NIFA unlikely to consider $11 million artificial turf contract Friday

Soccer players gather at Eisenhower Park on July

Soccer players gather at Eisenhower Park on July 15, 2012. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Nassau's financial control board is unlikely Friday night to consider a $10.8 million contract to install artificial turf fields in Eisenhower Park even though county Comptroller George Maragos approved it, a key official said.

Maragos this week pulled the county's contract with Laser Industries from Friday night's agenda of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority because he questioned its cost. But after reviewing the original bids, he found that Laser not only was the lowest of three bidders but had offered a price $11,000 less than calculated by the county.

Maragos notified NIFA Thursday he had no further objections.

But under NIFA rules, the contract is considered rescinded until it is formally resubmitted, and NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said he was unlikely to call it Friday night.

"I suppose we could put it back on an emergency basis, but I think there is sufficient concern among the board members that we hold off for time being," Kaiman said Thursday. NIFA members had "concerns about the propriety of moving forward on a turf field contract considering the financial challenges the county is facing at this time."

Budget concerns led NIFA in 2011 to reject an $8.1 million contract to install artificial turf fields at Cantiague Park in Hicksville and Bay Park in East Rockaway. Despite NIFA's rejection, the county built two artificial turf baseball fields at Cantiague last year.

County officials said Laser built one field using $400,000 in "community revitalization program" funds from the legislature, which borrows money for small projects in county legislators' districts.

They said the other field was built by county workers using artificial turf donated by Laser and another vendor, LandTek Group, to Friends of Nassau County Recreation, a nonprofit group created in 1991 to support the county parks department.

Donations to Friends effectively bypass the County Legislature, which is required by state law to approve all gifts and donations to the county.

Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the county's Civil Service Employees Association, said his members prepped a Cantiague field but did not install the donated turf, which was laid by an outside vendor. County officials estimated the value of the turf itself at about $300,000.

Maragos said he plans another review of the Friends group. In 2013, his auditors found so little documentation that they could not determine whether money was missing. The county requires most park users to make payments to Friends.

Records show that Nassau's agreement with Friends of Nassau County Recreation to provide assistance to the county expired in 2012 and has not been extended.

Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said, "It appears that this is functioning as a shadow, hidden in some cloud somewhere. It's totally unacceptable and embarrassing."

Laser, LandTek and representatives of County Executive Edward Mangano did not return calls for comment.

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