North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said Democratic majority Town Board members are “committed to sabotaging” her administration following the second failed vote to allocate $3.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to the second phase of the Manhasset sewer project.
“It’s sad to see a group of elected officials who are so committed to sabotaging my administration that they are willing to sacrifice the future of our Manhasset business district in the process,” DeSena, a Republican, said in a statement Tuesday.
Matthew Donno, co-president of the Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, which has spearheaded the sewer project, said he too believed the proposal was not being considered on its merits.
“There’s a lot of politics in this and I still haven’t gotten to the reason behind it,” Donno said. “Why couldn’t you commit to just putting it into an account? You’re not committing to spending it at this time.”
Council Member Veronica Lurvey, a Democrat, said in a statement she’s committed to the best use of the funds for the town while accusing the supervisor of creating “political noise.”
DeSena and the four town Democrats have frequently clashed since she took office in January 2022 over a wide range of issues including the town Building Department, appointments to a town ethics board and the section of a town comptroller.
During the meeting Tuesday, the Town Board split 3-3 along party lines on a resolution to transfer the federal funds from the town’s general fund to the capital fund. Republicans voted for the funding and Democrats voted against it.
“Our businesses, our residents, our environment, and the future of our Plandome Road Business district deserve this project,” DeSena said. “It’s incredibly sad to see all of these things sacrificed by the majority councilmembers to bolster their own political power, as they’re presumably looking to dole out these federal funds to their own pet projects.”
Town Democrats during the January Town Board meeting voted to postpone the vote on allocating the funds to the March meeting as they awaited a meeting with the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District related to the costs of the project, among other things.
Businesses along Plandome Road in Manhasset have repeatedly complained about the high cost of maintaining private septic tanks with some saying pumps have to be examined on a weekly basis.
Businesses and restaurants along Plandome Road can pay as much as $50,000 to $70,000 annually to pump their septic tanks, they said. Some have also said they pay more than $500,000 a year to maintain their systems.
Connecting new sewers on Plandome Road to the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District’s system would have cost roughly $12 million to serve around 80 Plandome Road businesses and building owners, according to the 2020 feasibility study conducted by Cameron Engineering.
Donno told Blank Slate Media the chamber’s attorney, Babylon-based Matthew McDonough, has been evaluating similar uses of federal funds such as Sea Cliff and Huntington Station for their sewer projects.
He said McDonough has been speaking with town Attorney John Chiara to provide him with the necessary precedent for the town to be able to move forward with committing to the project.
In Sea Cliff, 230 property owners were offered up to $7,500 in county recovery funds to connect to the village’s enlarged sanitary sewer system, according to the inter-municipal agreement that was approved last year.
In Huntington Station, $66 million in state funding was committed to the Huntington Station sewer project, which will allow neighborhoods off New York Avenue in Huntington Station to connect to the expanded sewer system in the business district, according to a release from Suffolk County.
Work is expected to begin in February 2024 and be completed by April 2027.
DeSena said the ARPA money would be used to partially reimburse expenses for businesses on Plandome incurred from connecting to a new sewer line, which is being funded by a $5 million state grant secured by state Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti (D-Port Washington) and then-state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills)
“I believe now is the time for action, as the Town has been presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make this dream a reality. Utilizing these federal funds, coupled with the $5 million grant secured by Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti in furtherance of this project, this project stands to cost local taxpayers next to nothing to complete a project that will benefit so many,” DeSena said.
A previous version of this story was published. It has since been updated.