The dissolution of Mastic Beach Village is a cautionary tale about local control. The look forward is more promising.
Six years ago, Mastic Beach residents were fed up with a Brookhaven Town government struggling to provide services at the height of the recession, so they voted to incorporate as a village. That might have been the village’s high-water mark.
Raucous board meetings were the norm. Board members were constantly at loggerheads, some not up to the challenges of governing and not willing to listen to their own experts. Mastic Beach went through six treasurers and five attorneys. Signature issues like code enforcement, abandoned homes and road paving went unaddressed.
After three straight deficits, a shrinking tax base, bonds downgraded to junk status, $400,000 in overspending on a road project, and the prospect of a 400 percent tax increase just to provide basic services, residents voted earlier this month, 1,922 to 1,215, to return to Brookhaven.
The transition could take up to 18 months. Fortunately, the town seems ready to fill the vacuum. By accepting Mastic Beach and its 15,000 people back into its fold, the Town of Brookhaven is eligible for up to $1 million in state aid. Seventy percent must be used for tax relief, but 30 percent is discretionary and Supervisor Edward Romaine, who once represented the hamlet as a Suffolk County legislator, plans to spend the latter all on Mastic Beach. That’s the right move.
Romaine intends to negotiate agreements to let the town quickly take over such functions as checking streetlights, enforcing code, tearing down vacant homes, maintaining registries of vacant buildings and rental properties, filling potholes and paving roads. It’s a terrific idea.
Previous town administrations failed Mastic Beach. So did the village’s own officials. Brookhaven promises to do better now — to rebuild Mastic Beach, as Romaine put it. Following through would be the best end to this long tale of woe.