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Port Jefferson Village election centers on future of power plant

The Long Island Power Authority plans to demolish

The Long Island Power Authority plans to demolish and rebuild the Port Jefferson power station starting in 2018 if the project is economically feasible, according to LIPA's top official. Credit: Randee Daddona

The future of the Port Jefferson power plant is a central issue in the race for two seats on the village board.

Incumbent Bruce D'Abramo and challengers Jill Nees-Russell and Bruce Miller are competing for the two open trustee seats, which carry two-year terms and pay $7,000 annually.

The top two vote-getters will win the seats.

D'Abramo, 66, a retired buildings and grounds superintendent for the Westhampton Beach and Hampton Bays school districts, is seeking his second full term on the board. He was appointed to the board in 2011 and won a full term the following year.

Nees-Russell, 44, is president of Russell Relations, which provides marketing and public relations services to the village. If elected, she said she would relinquish the public relations job.

Miller, 69, is a former teacher and Port Jefferson school board trustee.

Long Island Power Authority officials have said they plan to upgrade the Port Jefferson plant, which is owned by National Grid, after completing the proposed Caithness II power plant in Yaphank.

But many residents have voiced concerns that the Port Jefferson plant -- which accounts for about 30 percent of the village's property tax revenue -- may be shuttered.

Miller, co-chairman of the Grassroots Committee to Re-power Port Jefferson, said village officials have not done enough to try to save the plant.

"It is a giant issue here," he said. "For some reason, the people in government have been hushing this and ignoring it."

D'Abramo and Nees-Russell defended the village, saying trustees and Mayor Margot Garant had lobbied LIPA and state and federal energy officials. D'Abramo said he was "cautiously optimistic" that LIPA would repower the plant.

"Every step of the way, we are following very closely what's going on with LIPA," D'Abramo said. "We want to make certain that this plant continues to stay open."

Nees-Russell said village officials "are completely poised to take action" to save the plant.

"Nobody wants to see the power plant go," she said. "We all need to stand in unison."

In addition to the power plant, Miller said he was concerned about village spending and taxes.

"Is the money being well spent? I don't know," he said. "We need to see that the services we pay for are the services we're getting."

D'Abramo said he supported plans to rezone the village's Upper Port commercial district in hopes of attracting new businesses.

Nees-Russell, who has two children in elementary school, said she would advocate for young families if she is elected.

"There's not really representation of my demographic in village government," she said.

Voting is 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 17 at Port Jefferson Village Center, 101 E. Broadway. The Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce plans to host a meet the candidates night at 7 tonight at the Village Center.

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