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Mastic Beach mayor, residents at odds

Mastic Beach's new mayor, Paul Breschard.

Mastic Beach's new mayor, Paul Breschard. Photo Credit: Handout

One day after Tropical Storm Irene lashed Mastic Beach, contractors hired by the village had cleared debris from 99 percent of its battered roads, said Mayor Paul Breschard.

It was the week of the anniversary of Long Island's youngest village, and the new government's first significant emergency proved incorporation was the right move, he said.

"The village was able to take this direct hit from the storm and function like a well-oiled machine," Breschard said.

Not everyone in Mastic Beach shares Breschard's enthusiasm -- about the response to the storm or the village's success in its first year.

Critics say the village has fallen short of its goal of cracking down on housing violations and complain that officials are considering taking on unnecessary, costly projects.

"Their whole story is to take care of building and code enforcement," said Bob DeBona, president of a local property owners association. DeBona says he rarely sees the code enforcement officers Breschard promised. "I don't know what's happening there," DeBona said.

The drive to incorporate Mastic Beach was led by Breschard and allies, who said the new layer of government would crack down on absentee landlords and quality-of-life problems, and that incorporation would not result in a tax increase.

Village officials respond to critics by saying they have hired more than a dozen code officers who wrote 28 tickets on one recent day alone, and by setting up a court in the Mastic Beach Fire Department. But for many residents, the real referendum on the village's success will be the first wave of tax bills, set to go out in December.

The average homeowner is likely to pay about $575 per year in property taxes and garbage collection fees under the $4.1 million budget approved in April, village officials said. What remains to be seen -- and what will be determined in the next budget cycle -- is to what degree those taxes are offset by a decrease in taxes paid to Brookhaven Town for services the village now provides.

Some residents worry about the price tag of several proposed projects. Bruce Summa says plans to draw tourism with a new trolley service will be costly. He and others also complain about a proposed tourism center and a new village hall to replace the current facility, a cramped storefront.

Village trustees risk "taking on a lot of debt," Summa said.

Village officials defend the projects -- in very early stages, with no cost estimates -- as economic generators.

The village is working with private investors on the trolley, which would run between the Mastic-Shirley Long Island Rail Road station and such sites as the historic William Floyd Estate and Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Deputy Mayor Gary Stiriz said. The village is looking for ways to develop the new hall and visitors center at minimal cost, he said.

The outcome of March's election -- in which two of four trustees face re-election for the first time -- could depend on the village's first tax bill.

"The first bill is what we're waiting for," Summa said.

Mastic Beach timeline

 

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