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Oyster Bay must repay grant if fueling station isn’t moved

The natural gas fueling station for the Town

The natural gas fueling station for the Town of Oyster Bay's Department of Public Works trucks is slated to be moved to another site after the land was sold. Jan. 10, 2017 Credit: Johnny Milano

Oyster Bay has to find a new home for its compressed natural gas fueling station or officials may have to return some of the millions of dollars in federal grant money it used to build it.

From 2009 to 2012, Oyster Bay received at least $5.6 million to convert or purchase more than 40 sanitation trucks to run on compressed natural gas and to build a compressed natural gas fueling station, town records show. The town built the fueling station at the Department of Public Works facility at 150 Miller Place in Syosset, land that has been sold to a private developer.

The town entered into an agreement with the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition (GLICCC) in Stony Brook, which received a $14.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy under President Barack Obama’s stimulus package for natural gas vehicle projects across Long Island.

“When they signed with us, they also signed on with the Department of Energy,” said Rita Ebert, program coordinator at the GLICCC.

As one of the sub-recipients of the grant, Oyster Bay can’t simply get rid of the fueling station and trucks, Ebert said.

Ebert said she reached out to the town after being informed by Newsday last month that the town would vacate the land.

“They do know the repercussions,” Ebert said of her conversations with town officials. “Whether they move the equipment and have it at a parks department or wherever they choose to put it, it has to be up and running or they would pay the face value of it back.”

Oyster Bay special counsel Tom Sabellico said that if the town decides not to relocate the fueling station, it would owe the federal government the depreciated value of the equipment at the fueling station.

“There’s no fear that the town is ever going to have to pay back $5 million or $6 million,” Sabellico said. The town could recoup some of that cost by selling the equipment.

The project began in 2009 when the town board approved the conversion of five diesel trucks to natural gas at $67,995 per truck, with 20 percent of the costs borne by the town and the remainder with the grant money, according to town records.

In March 2012, construction on the facility had been completed at a cost of $3.1 million, town records show. Federal grant funds exceeded $5.6 million, and the town board had approved spending more than $500,000 of its own funds.

A May 2012 report submitted by the GLICCC to the Department of Energy said Oyster Bay had converted 35 trucks, received five new natural gas trucks and was awaiting delivery of six additional trucks.

But by the end of 2012 the town was considering the sale of the property, which ultimately happened after a 2013 referendum. The town is relocating all of its facilities at the site to make way for a mixed-use development called Syosset Park.

Town spokeswoman Marta Kane said last week that the town has 44 sanitation trucks that go out daily, and 27 of them run on natural gas and 17 are diesel. Nine natural gas trucks have been replaced with diesel trucks, Kane said.

Sabellico said the town would not have to repay grant money used for the natural gas trucks if it got rid of them because their useful life had been exceeded.

Ebert said that while that may be true for converted trucks, it wasn’t necessarily true for new trucks purchased with grant money.

Trucking along

$5.6 million — federal grant money awarded

$3.1 million — cost of fueling station

$67,995 — cost to convert diesel truck to natural gas

27 — natural gas trucks in use

44 — trucks that may have been converted

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