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Suffolk panel backs $1.2 million in park fee hikes

Suffolk park fees would go up an average of 11 percent next year to raise an additional $1.2 million under a proposal by County Executive Steve Bellone.

The proposal, passed Wednesday by the county legislature’s parks committee, would affect boat launching, camping, canoeing and even raccoon hunting. The full legislature, which raised park fees by 10 percent at the start of 2016, will consider the measure Tuesday.

A three-year Green Key pass, which gives residents access to discounts at the county’s 28 parks, would increase from $26 to $30.

Nonresident parking at beaches with lifeguards, as well as parking for residents without a Green Key pass, would go from $16 to $18, and increase by a dollar at parks without lifeguards. Parking rates for county residents with a Green Key would not increase.

Replacement stickers for outer beach recreational vehicle permits would go from $25 to $35, while boat launching fees for residents will rise from $33 to $40.

In-season weekend marina fees for residents would go to $66 per day from $60; nonresident weekend rates would increase from $92 to $102. The raccoon hunting fee will go from $30 to $35.

Parks Commissioner Philip Berdolt said the county is trying to make its fees comparable with those of Suffolk towns and the state.

“It keeps us in line with other municipalities,” he said.

Republicans on the committee complained about the increases, but ultimately voted for them.

“Why are we increasing them again?” Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) asked.

Berdolt said the fees hadn’t changed since 2011 before last year’s increase.

Legis. Kevin McCaffrey, (R-Lindenhurst) noted that the county faces budget deficits of nearly $100 million a year.

“You don’t want to raise any fees,” said McCaffrey, the minority leader. “Our goal is to make sure we’re not charging any more than surrounding municipalities and make sure they’re being done fairly.”

Parks committee members also considered a plan to spend $1.25 million for wheelchair ramps, a storage facility and a changing room at the temporary trailers serving Cupsogue Beach County Park, in Westhampton Beach, and to divert $1 million to restore bulkheads at its Shinnecock Marina, in Hampton Bays.

In other action Wednesday, the economic development committee approved $7.5 million in economic development projects for downtowns and transit-oriented developments.

Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) voted against the projects, saying the county couldn’t afford the projects while so deeply in debt.

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