A Suffolk legislative committee has blocked $1 million for sewer design for the industrial area near MacArthur Airport after lawmakers questioned whether Islip officials knew the money would be moved from another town-backed project — an airport customs facility to bring in new international flights.
The controversy arose Monday after Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone helped fund the sewer plan with cash he obtained last year for a new customs complex near the planned Ronkonkoma Hub. The customs facility is part of Bellone’s Innovation Zone to tie bus, air and rail transit to downtowns and academic centers.
“Where are the Islip officials?” said Public Works Committee chairman Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), asking whether they were on board with the funding switch.
Bellone aides said town officials appeared with Bellone last week backing the sewer plan, but could not say whether they were aware of the funding change.
Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter on Tuesday said she was unaware of the switch and that she wanted Bellone to find another source of funding for the sewer designs.
“As with all these things the devil is in the details,” said Carpenter, a Republican.
Carpenter said the town is preparing the request for proposals to seek a consultant to design the customs facility.
Carpenter said county funding and $1 million from the town industrial development agency has helped leverage $3 million from the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, which helps determine how millions of dollars in state business aid is distributed each year.
Carpenter expressed concern that a change in Suffolk’s commitment could affect others.
Gil Anderson, Suffolk public works commissioner, said the sewer design work was for a pump station that could connect 2,000 industrial acres, including the airport, and pump 1 million gallons of sewage daily to lines for the hub project that will be connected to the Southwest Sewer District.
Initial construction work will cost $45 million and the complete project would cost an additional $150 million.
The legislative committee approved a separate resolution for $4.5 million in capital bonding to draw plans for a sewer pump station to connect the Sayville and Oakdale downtowns as well as surrounding residential areas.
Construction of pump stations and main sewer lines would cost $45 million, while hooking up homes would total $475 million, public works officials said.
Anderson said the county is trying to develop “shovel-ready” sewer plans in case the state moves forward with “transformative” investments in sewer infrastructure to protect water quality and spur economic growth.
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said the county first should complete projects such as the Kings Park sewer district that already are on the drawing board.
In light of the tabling of the sewer design measure, several lawmakers suggested using the $1 million in disputed funding to operate 10 county bus routes — slated for elimination Oct. 10 — until year’s end.
Krupski called the idea “just a Band-Aid” and said a long-term budget solution is needed.