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Long IslandTowns

Riverhead supervisor banks on Enterprise Park at Calverton land deals to plug $1.5M budget gap

Town of Riverhead supervisor Sean Walter.

Town of Riverhead supervisor Sean Walter. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter wants to bet heavily on the town's ability to finally sell or lease land at one of the largest undeveloped properties on Long Island in order to close a $1.5 million budget gap in 2015.

Walter said he wants to add to the budget revenue expected -- but not guaranteed -- from the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, where Grumman Corp. once built and tested military aircraft.

Riverhead is in the middle of a lengthy process to subdivide 2,300 acres of the 2,900-acre property and develop an industrial park on part of it.

Walter proposed the budgetary tactic at a town board work session Thursday, saying it was the only way to balance the budget without busting the state's cap on property tax levy increases, borrowing money or laying off workers. He expects the lease or sale of land to generate millions of dollars in revenue.

But Walter acknowledged it's a gamble and said if the money doesn't come in, the board will face budgetary and electoral fallout in 2015.

"Next year's entire political future is going to be determined really by this budget," he said.

Walter also proposed a 2.7 percent tax levy increase, which is within the state's cap.

Some members of the all-Republican board said they were optimistic EPCAL would start bringing in money next year, but didn't decide either way on the supervisor's proposal. The board is scheduled to discuss the budget again at the next work session on Thursday at 10 a.m.

"Some of these other townships, they have nothing on the horizon," Councilman George Gabrielsen said. "We have the opportunity of EPCAL."

If revenue lags and the town runs short on cash next year, it can borrow from its $3 million insurance reserve fund or defer a $5 million payment to the state's employee retirement system to February 2016, Walter said.

At least one project on the horizon could begin generating money next year. In March, Riverhead greenlighted five companies seeking to develop a 94-acre energy park planned at EPCAL. The Long Island Power Authority could approve one or more companies in December, Gabrielsen said.

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