Kings Park downtown sewer project gets $5.4M in COVID-19 relief funds from Suffolk County
Construction of sewers in downtown Kings Park will begin this spring after Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed legislation Friday providing an additional $5.44 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding to the project.
The plan, which involves laying 10,000 feet of pipe, will serve 105 downtown business parcels, a handful of homes and the 144-unit Kings Wood cooperative complex, while potentially allowing for new or expanded commercial uses such as restaurants, cafes, bars and apartments, officials said.
"We know that this infrastructure is critical to our economic future," Bellone said at a bill-signing in Kings Park alongside dozens of Smithtown officials, lawmakers and environmental advocates. "The bottom line is that without investments in sewers and wastewater infrastructure, we cannot have a prosperous future in this region. We cannot reverse the decades of decline that we've seen in water quality or make the investments that are necessary to create the kind of vibrancy that communities have envisioned for their downtowns."
The long-awaited project is funded primarily with $20 million in state grants. But to push the project to the finish line, Suffolk supplemented the state funding with an additional $5.4 million allocated to the county in the American Rescue Plan Act — also known as the COVID-19 stimulus package — signed by President Joe Biden in 2021.
The new piping will connect sewers along the hamlet’s Main Street to the existing Kings Park treatment plant.
In September, Suffolk legislators voted to spend $1.7 million to purchase a 16.7-acre site on the east side of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center that would be used for the disposal of treated wastewater.
Limitations of septics and cesspools have frustrated downtown development for decades, sewer advocates say, depressing commercial rents and discouraging landlords from making improvements to aging buildings.
Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim said the sewers would help to clean up the local environment while driving new businesses to the downtown area.
"The future is bright for the Town of Smithtown," Wehrheim said.
The project is expected to begin in late May and be complete in about two years, officials said.
Once the work is complete, area commercial rents, now around $22 per square foot, could push toward the $35 found in some nearby downtowns, according to local real estate officials.
Business leaders in Kings Park and St. James, where a dry sewer line awaits hookup, have said the sewer connection will spur economic development by freeing businesses from strict wastewater limits in place for septics. Hookup would make it easier to build downtown apartments or add tables to restaurants and cafes, advocates contend.
But some business owners are skeptical of user fees and one-time hookup charges and have said installing sewers offered less obvious benefits for offices, shops and other “dry” users.
Sewer hookup costs, which will be borne by property owners, will vary, county officials said. User charges will amount to about $548 for homes and $1,507 for businesses in 2026, the first year in which all charges can be assessed, officials said.
"Some would say we're at the end of our road. Personally, I think this is the beginning of the road," said Tony Tanzi, president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. "I think this is what's going to put Kings Park on the map … It literally is going to transform our community."