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Bellone submits $119 million capital budget

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone gives his State

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone gives his State of the County speech on Thursday, March 26, 2015 in Hauppauge. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Wednesday proposed a $118.8 million capital budget that includes $4 million for bus rapid transit lines on Nicolls Road and $29 million in water-quality projects, county officials said.

"The capital plan is focused on our priorities of reducing debt, growing our economy and protecting water quality," Bellone said in an interview.

While no copy of the plan was available Wednesday, Bellone said the 2016 budget would keep spending flat compared with this year, when $119 million was budgeted for capital programs.

A bipartisan county legislative committee already had reduced the amount of debt by $66 million.

The panel eliminated projects that came in under budget or were deemed unnecessary, including refurbishing a county building for a new district attorney headquarters.

Bellone has pushed for denser residential and commercial development around transportation centers to help keep young people on Long Island. He says projects such as the Nicolls Road bus line would help connect employers and research centers such as Stony Brook University with future population centers such as the Ronkonkoma Hub development. The north-south bus system on Nicolls Road could include dedicated bus lanes and real-time information about buses.

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Islip) said he was pleased that the borrowing level was flat.

However, Cilmi said that "pinning our economic development hopes on connecting a variety of locations with buses is not the best use of the county's economic development dollars. I don't think ultimately it will yield the results an investment of that magnitude should yield."

The capital budget includes $29.4 million for water-quality programs approved by voters in November, when they reauthorized a quarter-percent Suffolk sales tax. The spending includes $20 million for open space purchases, $4.7 million for sewage projects and $4.7 million for other environmental programs.

Other projects include:

* $5 million for infrastructure including sewage treatment plants, landscaping, sidewalks, and road construction related to "workforce housing."

* $5 million for projects near transportation centers that include Wyandanch Rising, the proposed Ronkonkoma Hub and the proposed Heartland project in Islip.

* $100,000 to begin planning hiking and biking trails around Suffolk County.

* $2.5 million to acquire land for workforce housing.

The budget also would provide $10 million for new radios for emergency first responders and $2.5 million to build a new beach hut and restaurant facility at Cupsogue County Park, which burned down last fall.

Administration officials said a copy of the budget is expected to be posted online Thursday.

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