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Suffolk Water seeks to sell properties

It is listed as the Suffolk Water Authority's North Fork operations center and commercial office.

But the Southold building the authority bought 11 years ago for $186,000 and spent $300,000 to renovate, also has an office and conference room once used by former authority chairman Michael LoGrande so he could work near his Cutchogue home without commuting 50 miles to the Oakdale headquarters.

Since LoGrande retired in May, the building is empty and the work crew has been reassigned to another location. All that is left is the old wooden desk once used by the late powerful Brookhaven Republican boss Richard D. Zeidler, who was the authority chairman in the 1960s until he was forced out amid land scandals decades ago. And the North Fork Chorale pays $720 a year in rent to store sheet music there.

The building is just one of 31 authority properties - totaling 400 acres and conservatively worth $30 million to $40 million - that officials are now looking to sell. Officials added that they intend to create a land bank where revenue can be used to keep future water rates down.

"The authority owned properties that didn't have a water purpose, or if there once was a purpose, it no longer exists," said James Gaughran, the authority's new chairman. "Our purpose is to provide clean water, not to buy land for land preservation."

In October, the authority's management briefed the five-member board on a list of potential surplus sites and began appraisals to determine each parcel's worth. Jeff Szabo, the authority's new chief executive, said management also reviewed current office space use and identified vacant 35,000 square feet that could be consolidated in the coming year. Water rates, Szabo added, have remained unchanged in the past four years and there's no fiscal crunch that requires speedy sales.

The choicest spot for sale may be 12.5 acres on Old Nichols Road in Islandia, north of the Long Island Expressway, once eyed for a corporate headquarters, an idea later abandoned.

The largest site is 100 acres near Laurel Lake in Mattituck that the authority purchased in 1992.

Gaughran said the authority may not sell the lakeside tract on the open market, but rather try to arrange a deal with the county or state while retaining the development credits which could be sold.The authority is looking to sell off two satellite buildings near its Oakdale headquarters. There are also 21 other sites - ranging from a quarter acre to 90 acres - which at one time were considered for potential well fields, pump stations or tanks that are no longer in use or expected to be needed. At eight of those sites, the authority may keep a small parcel for future wells.

Among those are tony South Fork sites including 90 acres in Quiogue, 70 acres in Wainscott, 15 acres in Sag Harbor, and two parcels totaling nearly an acre on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach.

Even if surplus properties are sold, Szabo said the authority has an inventory of 1,800 acres, 560 wells, and has easements for 35 new five acre well sites on land Suffolk has acquired as part of its watershed protection program.

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