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Long IslandTowns

Smithtown postpones membership in lake-saving group

Smithtown officials voted unanimously Tuesday to postpone joining a group with Suffolk County and two other towns dedicated to preserving and protecting Lake Ronkonkoma.

Brookhaven and Islip have joined the Lake Ronkonkoma Watershed Intermunicipal Organization with the county to address the lake's environmental problems, including sewage discharges, stormwater and fertilizer runoff.

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said he tabled a vote on the matter due to concerns expressed recently by a civic leader, whom he declined to name. He said the civic leader believes the county plans to put a road through the area. Attempts to reach county officials for comment were unsuccessful due to a legislature meeting.

"It would put Smithtown at a disadvantage . . .," said Vecchio. "I don't think it was silly to table it, because I think the town board ought to review it and ask questions of Mr. [Russell] Barnett, our environmental director."

Barnett plans to find out more about the county's concerns and advise the board, Vecchio said, adding that he hasn't discussed the memorandum of understanding on the watershed intermunicipal organization with the other towns.

A copy of the memorandum, obtained by Newsday, says the members of the group "shall use best efforts" to submit items impacting the Lake Ronkonkoma watershed such as changes in zoning, public acquisition of lands, new or amended land use plans, roadway improvements, among others.

The memo states that it is "neither a fiscal nor funding obligation document" and any action involving reimbursement or contribution of funding between members "will be addressed in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and procedures."

Suffolk and the towns will be eligible to apply for state grants for preserving inland waterways through the group, Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) has said.

It was not immediately clear whether Smithtown's postponement will affect any deadlines for state aid.

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