Nassau County would be required to notify representatives of towns, villages, cities, and school districts if housing shelters are to be placed in their communities, under a proposed bill in the county legislature.
Republican county lawmakers filed the bill Thursday, citing Nassau's scuttled plan last fall to issue a contract to convert a former Hampton Inn hotel on Jericho Turnpike into a homeless shelter in the Jericho School District.
Nassau would have to provide elected officials and representatives with written notification of their plan at least 10 days before executing a contract with the shelter's operator, the bill says.
Late last summer, the county had planned to contract with a vendor to build the Jericho Family Support Center. It would have provided temporary housing for 80 families as well as meals, job training, and day care.
The plan was put on hold after the Town of Oyster Bay filed a lawsuit against the owner of the former Hampton Inn.
Republican town and county officials, as well as Jericho residents who live near the now-vacant hotel, said the administration of County Executive Laura Curran failed to give the community a heads up about the plan for transitional housing.
Advocates defended the shelter's placement. They said the housing arrangement would help the county's homeless, upgrading conditions for many students who live with their families in subpar arrangements throughout Nassau.
The result was a community fracas last fall that embroiled town, county, and school officials.
Legis. Rose Marie Walker (R-Hicksville) said during a news conference Thursday: "If there was communication ahead of time, and all the stakeholders knew about this project, and worked together on this project, hopefully we wouldn't be in the situation where we are now, with a closed building, a homeless shelter that is nowhere in sight at the moment, lawsuits in progress … Just a mess."
County spokesman Mike Fricchione said in a statement that most of the families who joined the center would have stayed in their school district of origin and would not have added to the Jericho district's enrollment.
"The few students who would attend Jericho schools will do so at no cost to the Jericho School District taxpayers, as the student’s current school district will fund those costs," Fricchione said, adding that Nassau "followed all State laws and requirements regarding procedure and notification."
Nassau contracts with vendors to operate 44 shelters that house about 1,300 homeless families and individuals, officials have said. Most of the shelters are in Uniondale, Freeport and Hempstead.
The county is required by law to place those who qualify for the shelters in temporary housing.
There is no state requirement to hold public hearings about the placement of local shelters, a spokesman for the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
The state's mental hygiene law does allow municipalities to approve of or object to housing sites for the disabled.