The North Hempstead Town Board Tuesday night unanimously voted to allocate $3.1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Manhasset sewer project and appointed Kristen Schwaner as the town’s comptroller for the remainder of the year.
The vote on the sewer funds comes after months of delays in which town Democrats called for answers about the project, including the legality of using the federal money for the sewers.
“Never in my lifetime did I think I would see this happen,” said Lynn King, a property owner on Plandome. “It’s not the miracle on 34th Street, but I’m calling it the miracle on Plandome Road.”
The $3.1 million allocation is based on cost estimates of $1.76 allocated for up to 88 property owners at approximately $20,000 per connection, $1 million for town facilities to connect to the sewer line and $334,000 for miscellaneous expenses, according to a press release from Democrat Council Member Veronica Lurvey.
State Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti (D-Port Washington) secured a grant in April 2022 of $5 million to help fund the project.
“The approval of these ARPA funds has gone on long enough,” said Barbara Donno, mayor of Plandome Manor.
Donno read a letter of support for the project signed by 13 North Shore mayors, including herself.
The villages include Baxter Estates, East Hills, Flower Hill, Kensington, Kings Point, Manorhaven, Munsey Park, North Hills, Plandome, Plandome Manor, Saddle Rock, Sands Point and Thomaston.
“Allocating these funds will send a strong message to our businesses in downtown Manhasset that we actually care about their future and their livelihoods,” DeSema, a Republican, said. “We’re prepared to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to complete this project.”
DeSena was critical of Town Democrats, saying their decisions to block or postpone the vote since January was just to stall out the project.
Lurvey responded that allocating the funds would have been reckless without proper due diligence, which was echoed by fellow Democrats Peter Zuckerman and Mariann Dalimonte.
“We simply had some unanswered questions and the bulk of those questions have now been answered,” Lurvey said. “We can move forward knowing that the allocation is legal and as this process progresses, we will remain focused on how we can best assist the Manhasset community on this initiative. Let me be clear, the ultimate goal is to help everyone get hooked up to the sewers on Plandome.”
Talks over funding for the project have come up often during often-tense Town Board meetings this year.
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.
North Hempstead received $10,114,021.27 total in ARPA money, which was received in two installments in the summers of 2021 and 2022.
Since then the Town Board voted to allocate $2 million for sidewalks on Westbury Avenue in Westbury and $446,000 for the Port Washington Public Parking District, after it was found that the district lost revenue in 2021 due to decreased commuter activity from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Town Democrats also voted to authorize the town’s director of purchasing to issue a request for a proposal of a grant program for the project, which would provide a consultant to create and administer the grant program.
No costs are associated with authorizing the request, otherwise known as an RFP, but town board members agreed to meet with the chamber at their request to discuss the proper mechanisms on how to move forward with the money.
DeSena and Republican board members advocated for keeping the operation within the town, not with a third-party.
Schwaner’s appointment fills a position that has been left vacant since January 2021. Paul Wood, director of finance for Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s office, had been serving as the acting comptroller over the past nine months.
Lurvey said in a statement Schwaner is a great fit for the role and was the candidate she and DeSena both agreed on after a long bipartisan selection process.
“We believe we are hiring the right candidate for the job,” Lurvey said. “Kristen Schwaner is a great fit for this role and I am confident she will excel in her duties.”
The new comptroller will serve until at least Dec. 31 of this year, when the original two-year term ends, and will earn a salary of $160,000.
Schwaner, a Hofstra University graduate, has over 15 years in finance and accounting and currently works as a V.P. of finance with Hauppauge-based SightGrowthPartners. She previously worked for New York-Presbyterian and Ernst & Young, among others.