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Officials, groups protest proposed sewer budget cut

Officials and leaders from 15 civic and environmental groups Monday protested Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's axing of $1.9 million from the proposed capital budget to design a new sewer district they said is crucial to boosting Shirley's downtown and saving the Forge River.

Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) assailed the cut as "foolish" and "a poor policy decision." She added she will propose amending the capital budget to restore the funding, especially since the county has already spent $2.4 million on a sewer feasibility study of 10 downtown areas, including Shirley, due to be finished within months.

"We have come too far and spent too much to kill this project now," said Browning, noting Bellone supported the project in the past.

Bellone later said he continues to favor the project, but added, "I don't believe this step is ripe at this time."

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said Bellone wants the community of 45,000 residents to know the project's potential cost, which could be as high as $500 million, and understand its tax impact before moving ahead with a design phase. Residents have to vote on whether to create a sewer district.

Thirteen capital projects in all were cut from Bellone's 2014-16 capital program.

GOP Minority Leader John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) has said cuts were aimed at lawmakers like himself and Browning who opposed the county nursing home sale, a claim Bellone aides deny."The lack of sewers is one of the main reasons why the Forge River is dead and the surrounding bays are dying," said Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine. He said property at Calabro Airport in Shirley would be available for a sewer plant and that state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has won $2 million for the project.

"Our community has been treated as a stepchild and we're tired of it," said Beth Wahl, president of the William Floyd Community Summit.

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