Former Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko. (June 5, 2012)

Former Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko. (June 5, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

The financial future of cash-strapped Brookhaven was the focus of a wide-ranging debate last night between the two candidates for town supervisor.

The "positive things" of previous Brookhaven supervisor Mark Lesko's administration will continue, Democrat Brian Beedenbender said, if voters pick him Nov. 6.

"I'm proud of what we've done in the last three years," said Beedenbender, who was Lesko's chief of staff. He cited the town's Blight to Light initiative as a key success in improving blighted areas of Brookhaven. "I have the experience to keep moving forward."

Before Lesko resigned to take the helm of nonprofit Accelerate Long Island, he "left a budget on the table that could kindly be described as draconian," said Republican candidate and Suffolk County legislator Edward Romaine.

He criticized Lesko and his hasty departure in September: "I'm running because I want to change a lot of what's not right with Brookhaven."

Romaine criticized Lesko's proposed $247 million 2013 budget, which keeps taxes steady but calls for the closing of the Holtsville ecology center and eliminates some services.

The proposed budget would be balanced only after pulling $6 million from the town's surplus fund.

Both Romaine and Beedenbender pledged to find a way to keep the ecology center open.

The topics that have dominated town policy in the past few years came up in questions submitted by some of the scores of audience members.

In responding to a question about the future of the unpopular town landfill in Yaphank, which generates about $40 million yearly in income, both candidates distanced themselves from Lesko's previous proposal to increase the landfill's height by 50 feet to make more money.

Beedenbender said the town needs to expand its recycling program and find alternative revenue streams. Romaine said the town became too dependent on the landfill's revenues and the landfill is a regional issue, not just Brookhaven's.

In answering questions about protecting the ecologically fragile Carmans River, both candidates said they would fight to save the river's watershed against overdevelopment.

Beedenbender said Lesko's previous proposal to save the river by transferring development credits away from fragile areas into denser areas tried to do too much in one vote. Romaine said while multifamily housing is needed on Long Island, the communities should have more input.