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Suffolk panel backs $79M cut in 'pipeline debt'

A bipartisan Suffolk County Legislature committee agreed to make cuts to reduce the county's "pipeline debt" by $79 million by eliminating some capital projects and recovering leftover money from completed ones.

The committee, in a two-hour meeting, increased earlier agreed-upon cuts by $5.2 million, axing a project to refurbish the former Fourth Precinct building in Hauppauge for use by the district attorney, whose main office is adjacent to the former police station.

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), minority leader, said the district attorney has agreed to move into open space on two floors of the H. Lee Dennison Building located across the street on the south side of Veterans Memorial Highway.

Public Works Commissioner Gilbert Anderson warned that the county will have to spend money in the future to either raze the building or renovate it for alternate use, a move he said would be more costly. Public works officials last year had estimated the cost of demolition at $200,000.

The legislature formed a committee in June to reduce the county's $429 million in "pipeline debt" -- projects for which the legislature had approved funding but which for various reasons had neither begun work nor borrowed money. The committee was launched after the legislature approved capital budget amendments that increase County Executive Steve Bellone's proposed 2015 capital budget by $22.78 million and his three-year capital plan by $58 million. The aim was to offset those increases.

The largest capital projects the committee recommended shelving were $19.5 million in the legacy environmental land acquisition program and $8.3 million in the multifaceted land purchase program. Both programs were not used after the county suffered fiscal woes related to the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. Lawmakers noted that the loss of the programs will be offset because the county recently agreed to fund more than $29 million in new land acquisitions to end a lawsuit with environmentalists.

However, Legis. Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) urged the existing programs not be scrapped until a referendum to authorize the new funding wins approval in November. He said one critical environmental parcel in Riverhead has come on the market and the owners have expressed a willingness to sell to the county. He worried that, if a sale moves ahead quickly, the county might not be able to acquire the tract, which he declined to identify. Other committee members said the lawmakers could authorize funding in a separate resolution if needed.

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