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Riverhead to sue Suffolk to retrieve $2M in sewer district funds

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said Suffolk County

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said Suffolk County hasn't "acknowledged that the Town of Riverhead is entitled to this money." Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Several months after threatening to sue Suffolk County over $2 million in funding aimed at preventing tax hikes for sewer district users, the Riverhead Town Board is moving forward with the lawsuit.

The board voted 4-0 Wednesday at its regular meeting to allow the town attorney to start legal proceedings against Suffolk County seeking payment of more than $2 million in sewer stabilization money aimed at preventing tax hikes for sewer district users.

The funds, which were tied to the costs of upgrading the town’s advanced wastewater treatment facility to protect the Peconic River from increased nitrogen pollution, total $2,003,852 — $537,140 for 2016 and $1,466,712 for 2017.

The town asked the county to pay $681,828 in 2016 and $1,466,712 this year from the stabilization fund to help with the plant upgrade costs.

To date, Suffolk has paid the Riverhead Sewer District $144,688 of that funding, according to town officials.

“The county has always made a strong effort to support every town in our region,” said Jason Elan, a spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on Wednesday. “We have provided Riverhead Town with over $8 million in grant funding for sewage treatment plant upgrades, and the town continues to receive $146,000 annually, which the county gives to all towns with sewer districts. We need to review the complaint, and we’ll address the concerns accordingly.”

Town officials filed a notice of claim on Dec. 22 asking for the funds, which they said are necessary to keep taxes in the sewer district from going up.

“We’re entitled to it, as are all the sewer districts that are municipally owned in Suffolk County, and the county refuses to acknowledge that,” Walter said.

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