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Huntington asks LIPA to withdraw reassessment suit

This file photo shows the National Grid power

This file photo shows the National Grid power plant in Northport. (Oct. 28, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Town of Huntington officials sent a scathing letter to the head of the Long Island Power Authority saying if the utility is serious about sitting down to discuss reducing the taxes it pays on the Northport Power plant, it will withdraw a suit that challenges the assessment.

In an Oct. 29 letter, LIPA chief operating officer Michael Hervey offered to sit down with Huntington and Northport Village elected officials to discuss reassessment plans. LIPA filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court Oct. 15 against the towns of Brookhaven and Huntington because it thinks power plants there are incorrectly assessed.

"We sincerely doubt the sincerity of such a statement," the letter, signed by all five Huntington board members and dated Nov. 9, said. "This places us in an adversarial position. Had you given us the opportunity to meet prior to your filing a suit, our discussions could have been far more productive."

The letter to Hervey also says the town is considering "options" including looking into a system that mandates utilities pick up a certain share of real property tax bills; lobbying for new DEC regulations to force existing power plants to comply with water cooling regulations; demanding that the LIPA board be elected and arguing that LIPA submit proposed rate increases to the Public Service Commission.

In his letter to Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, Hervey noted the taxes represent "a significant portion" of the authority's 1.1 million customers' bills - 13 percent. He also noted that LIPA pays a higher percentage of costs in taxes than do other major utilities across the country. In one survey sited, 340 utilities paid a median of 4.7 percent of revenues in taxes, versus LIPA's 13 percent.

And Hervey said tax challenges in the state were "common practice" among New York utilities. Hervey said, "LIPA's trustees recognize their fiduciary obligation to prudently manage and examine all of LIPA's costs, including the property taxes" paid for the plants.

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