Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (Sept. 14, 2011)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy (Sept. 14, 2011) Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan

Suffolk's public works chief Tuesday warned of "severe" cuts next year, including elimination of up to 15 county bus routes and an end to nearly all dredging of county waterways, if County Executive Steve Levy's proposed $2.7 billion budget is not changed.

"The impact of the proposed budget is draconian," said Levy appointee Gilbert Anderson, testifying before lawmakers in the second day of budget hearings in Hauppauge. "Funding must be found . . . otherwise our ability to provide the current level of service will stop."

In an interview later, Anderson estimated that 10 to 15 of the county's 53 bus routes would have to be dropped and that the county's annual dredging from 10 to 20 waterways a year would dwindle dramatically.

"Forget about dredging," Anderson told lawmakers, adding later in the interview, "We'd be lucky to do one job a year."

Levy's new budget, according to legislative budget analysts, would eliminate 111 positions in the public works department, including 65 layoffs. Gail Vizzini, director of budget review, said those cutbacks come on top of 26 jobs that had been cut earlier. She added that Levy's budget does not even provide enough funding for the 748 public works employees who remain, noting the salary account is $1.5 million short. Levy also cut public works requests for gas and oil by $2.5 million and slashed overtime nearly $5 million, $750,000 less than estimated for this year.

"We've been managing with consultants and overtime," Anderson said. "But without that or staffing, there's no place to go."

A Levy spokesman, Mark Smith, said: "For eight years, every time we have imposed cuts, we would hear that the sky is falling, and yet the snow has been plowed, the parks have remained open and the bus routes have expanded. None of the 450-plus layoffs have to happen if we can get reasonable concessions on health care from the municipal unions."

But Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) called Anderson's testimony "very sobering" and said the dredging is essential because the county is part of an island. "People have to be able to get out their channels," he said.

He added that public works projects are needed to spur the economy. "Public works is an economic driver," Horsley said. "We have to have the infrastructure before we can build the economy."

Anderson also said that cutbacks would affect the department's ability to respond to snowstorms, repair public safety vehicles and develop capital projects.

He also said the department "will be unable to meet mandated levels of oversight" at county sewer plants, which could lead to state fines.

The reductions would also severely impact the department's ability to deal with mosquito problems in more than 3,000 acres of wetlands, Anderson said.

Even routine operations, Anderson added, would be affected -- delivery of interoffice mail would cease, the print shop would be unable to render services and even building maintainance, especially areas like cleaning air conductioning ducts, would be severely curtailed.

"You're already at a skeleton crew," said Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), public works committee chairman. "We have to adopt a budget that doesn't let the county fall apart."

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