Babylon Town will look to reduce the proposed $2,500 yearly bill to build a water system for 56 homeowners in the barrier beach community of Oak Beach, town board members said.
During a Wednesday town board public hearing on Zoom, about a dozen people told the board that the $4.2 million over 30 years that they would be expected to pay for the project would be too much of a "burden" for them, according to the estimated costs of the water bill they would receive from the Suffolk County Water Authority.
"Folks, I tapped out," said Thomas Newman, among residents who said they would be affected by the higher costs. "I live on Social Security."
Three wells the 56 homeowners in Oak Beach connect to are a regulated public water supply system, said Jason Hime, principal public health engineer for Suffolk County, during the hearing. The Suffolk County Department of Health Services oversees the system that serves those homeowners. Four or fewer homes or businesses are not regulated in the same way by the county and state sanitary code.
The other 144 homes in the community are not regulated because they are considered private well owners, Hime said.
If the Babylon Town Board approves the project, a water treatment plant would be built next to the Oak Beach Community Center and connect to almost five dozen homes.
Some residents said they would rather disconnect from the water system and dig their own groundwater wells, which they said would be cheaper to build and maintain. But Hime said disconnecting from a public water system would violate the county’s sanitary code.
The town owns the land for the Oak Beach barrier beach community, and the properties belong to the homeowners, who have long-term land leases.
Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the board will look into the possibility of using the lease payments received from those homeowners to potentially help lower the proposed $2,500 yearly payment.
County health officials notified the town in 2015 that the three wells used by the 56 homeowners did not meet sanitary standards, referring to three incidents of E. coli bacteria in the wells. Officials threatened the town with fines if those wells were not replaced.
If the town board approves the project, a water treatment plant would be located next to the Oak Beach Community Center and connect to the homes, said Joe Guarino, principal environmental analyst for Babylon.
A state grant is expected to cover $1.8 million of the cost of building the water system, with Babylon issuing bonds for the remaining $7 million, which would be paid by town property owners over 30 years. An estimated debt service of 2% on $7 million comes to $4.2 million, which would be covered by the Oak Beach homeowners.
Joe Pokorny, deputy CEO for operations of the water authority, said running a service line from the meter outside to the home would be an additional cost to the property owners.
Guarino said the town debated including that cost in the project but said "we feel like the homeowners could probably get a better price."
Some residents said the project cost will prompt them to consider their options.
"We’ve lived on Long Island our whole lives and this is just undue financial hardship for us to stay here," said Lorraine Greenwald.
A decision on whether to proceed with the project was postponed until the April 28 town board meeting.