A tense North Hempstead Town Board meeting Tuesday night saw a vote postponed to allocate $3.1 million from the town’s general fund to the capital fund for the Manhasset Sewer Conversion Project and reappointment of one member to the town’s Board of Ethics.
The four-and-a-half-hour meeting included an hour-long discussion centered around whether or not to wait for more information from the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District or show a commitment to the project and allocate the funds now.
North Hempstead Board of Ethics Chair Joseph Sciame was also reappointed to a four-year term ending on Dec. 31, 2026. Another resolution to appoint Rachel Fox, of Port Washington, was voted down 3-3 in a party-line vote, with Democrat Councilmember Mariann Dalimonte abstaining.
The 4-3 party-line vote to postpone the resolution to the March 14 meeting followed an original vote in which Democrats abstained before motioning to both reconsider the vote and postpone it.
Postponing the resolution keeps it on the agenda and can be voted on again at any meeting, as opposed to tabling it which would need a majority vote to bring it to the floor again.
“Allocating a portion of the town’s remaining ARPA funds to leverage the existing funds that are in place for the Manhasset Sewer Conversion Project will finally push it over the line to completion,” Republican North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena said at the beginning of discussions.
Democrat Councilmember Veronica Lurvey said, along with the three other members of the majority on the board, that she is a longtime supporter of the project and wants to see its completion, but wants more answers to understand the specific amount of money left to complete the project, among other things.
Last year, state Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti (D-Port Washington) and then-state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) secured a $5 million grant for the project.
Lurvey said Tuesday night the district wrote a letter to the board saying after a financial analysis, the grant would likely be sufficient to cover the installation of a low-pressure sewer main for the commercial section of Plandome Road.
“This is a good project and the ARPA funds are uniquely suited for a project like this,” Lurvey said. “But there are still many unanswered questions about the project.”
Lurvey continued that a letter was sent to the district with a list of questions to answer ahead of a Feb. 6 meeting with members of the town board. The questions, she said, relate to the overall cost and funding of the project and the costs of businesses to connect, among other things.
“I really hope we can move forward, but I don’t think we are in the position to allocate the funds right now,” Lurvey said.
Concerns about the cost of maintenance for private septic tanks have been expressed by businesses along Plandome Road, with some claiming pumps have to be examined on a weekly basis.
Manhasset Chamber of Commerce Co-President Matthew Donno previously told Blank Slate Media the project, which has been analyzed for more than five years, will provide economic and environmental benefits to Plandome Road’s business district.
Businesses and restaurants along Plandome Road can pay as much as $50,000 to $70,000 annually to pump their septic tanks. Some have also said they pay more than $500,000 a year to maintain their systems.
The system that Plandome business owners will be converting to will be a pump system that Donno said will connect to each building and essentially pump the water down the line to the district, where it will be treated.
Donno previously said the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District will be doing a design study on what exactly needs to be done to complete the project.
The district’s study along with the physical application of pipes and hookups into businesses was once estimated to cost upwards of $12 million. Now, Donno said, the project should be fully funded by the proposed funds from the town and a $5 million state grant.
Manhasset Chamber of Commerce member Robert Donno said the expected costs projected in the 2020 feasibility study for the project have come down and that businesses can make their own decisions after looking at costs to hook up to the project when all said and done.
Robert Donno added that all businesses would have access to the new system to potentially avoid a business owner coming years later and wanting to opt into it, which would require more development.
“These businesses are taking a beating the last couple of years so it’s a good investment for everything,” Donno said. “The minute that pipe goes in the ground from the Great Neck Water Pollution Control District, the property values will increase.”
The next North Hempstead Town Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 7.