The Island Park Village Board approved $1.5 million in bonds Monday night to build a new village hall, two years after the previous hall was decimated by superstorm Sandy.
During a heated meeting with residents, trustees said a new building also would serve as an emergency operations center and police station.
The village is operating out of modular trailers next to the former village hall on Long Beach Road. Police officers are working out of their radio cars without a station.
The bond measures are not expected to increase taxes for residents, Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty said, because the village plans to pay for the bonds through reduced spending and attrition.
Officials said the village hall was not insured before Sandy, but now is fully insured.
The special meeting was held Monday to meet bond deadlines Tuesday. Board members said they had been working on the bonds for the past 45 days.
"This is the first we're hearing about it. We don't know much about it," Glen Ingoglia, president of the Island Park Chamber of Commerce and former mayoral candidate, said Tuesday. "Bonds are debt and we're borrowing money we have to pay back with interest."
McGinty acknowledged the skepticism, noting: "If I propose a village hall there's going to be criticism. If I don't propose it, I'm going to get criticized." But, he said, a new village hall would be "the focal point of the entire village; this will help make Island Park a destination."
Some residents at the meeting questioned the cost of the project and said the bond measure should be put to a vote as a referendum. Board members said it would only be put to a vote if the village was not authorized to spend the money or the measure was ruled unconstitutional.
The village is operating under a $4.7 million budget approved in May, which raised taxes 1.9 percent. It has tapped all its reserves and has less than $40,000 in its capital projects fund. The village recently used capital funds for street and parking signs. It is also paying a $1.9 million housing discrimination lawsuit that residents worry could lead to a tax increase in 2017.
Trustees were told last week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was going to cut funding for the village hall by 70 percent under new regulations.
Island Park is appealing the cut but is in line for a $300,000 reimbursement specifically designated for the village hall. Officials also are waiting for the approval of more than $40 million in FEMA money for drainage improvements and storm infrastructure repairs.
The village has 18 months to begin repayment for the bonds, but officials plan to begin payments much sooner, McGinty said. Municipal bonds generally have about 3.25 percent interest, but the board expects the bond to have interest of less than 1 percent.
McGinty said architects have given a $1.5 million estimate for building the village hall, based on cost of about $200 per square foot. The new village hall will have an emergency generator, solar panels, a police station, a conference room and records storage.