Greenport Village Board members will discuss a proposed 5 percent hike in sewer rates at their Aug. 15 work session after listening to complaints from residents Monday night about why they think no increase is necessary.
Former utilities director and village trustee Bill Swiskey led the opposition, arguing that the sewer fund has a surplus of about $750,000 that could be put to use to pay for repairs to the sewer collection system.
“You have a lot of money,” Mr. Swiskey said, urging board members to either abstain or vote against a rate increase. Others joined the chorus, insisting that a previous 16 percent rate increase in 2007 was supposed to be used to fund the repairs.
Mayor David Nyce defended the request, arguing that while there is a surplus, much of that money has already been allocated for other projects in the sewer department that just haven’t yet been started. Once they do start, that money will disappear quickly, he said.
The increase will provide funding for immediate work and then funding needs to be set aside every year for ongoing maintenance, the mayor said.
“We have an aging infrastructure that needs work,” Mr. Nyce said. “Utilities should, if managed properly, be setting aside maintenance funds.”
The mayor further noted that if the village is able to secure some funding through a Community Development Block Grant, that could offset future rate increases.
Residents may submit additional comments in writing for the board’s consideration between now and 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 5.
MARINA, MOORING FIELD MANAGEMENT
Brewer Yacht Yard manager Mike Acebo accused the village of managing its mooring fields and marina badly, allowing boats that aren’t properly registered or insured.
Not the case any more, Mr. Nyce responded, noting that there was a transition period, but that marina manager Jeff Goubeaud is now ensuring that paperwork is completed for all mooring users and for boats that dock at the marina.
Mr. Acebo said one of his customer’s boats was damaged by a boat on one of the village’s moorings and the owner wasn’t insured. The Brewer customer is seeking reimbursement of the $3,000 deductible on his insurance. And because of the situation, Mr. Acebo is no longer able to lease one of his slips, where a boat could be exposed to potential damage done by crafts on village moorings.
“I would really like you to think about how you run your business,” Mr. Acebo said.
The village has struggled with mooring operations, Mr. Nyce said. But work is under way to fix moorings that are damaged and to make sure that all who lease them have properly registered and insured crafts. More than half the damaged moorings will be fixed this year and the balance will be repaired next year, the mayor said.
FERRY RATES NOT ON AGENDA
A proposal to raise rates on the North Ferry that runs between Greenport and Shelter Island will be reviewed by the Suffolk County Legislature at an Aug. 2 meeting in Smithtown. But Trustee Chris Kempner said she was unable to obtain approval from the mayor to include a resolution on Monday night’s agenda for a local hearing to give Greenport residents an opportunity to air their thoughts about the proposed 7.8 percent rate hike without having to travel to Smithtown.
Mr. Nyce said he had discussed the issue with Ms. Kempner and checked with county Legislator Ed Romaine to determine if it would be acceptable to hold a local hearing. But he said Ms. Kempner failed to follow through and submit a resolution for the agenda.
She said she’d asked for a hearing and assumed it would be on the agenda because Greenporters deserved the opportunity to have their views known.
The mayor said he’s drafting a letter to the Legislature and circulating it to board members for their approval.
If the rate hike is approved, the cost of a round-trip between Greenport and Shelter Island would go from $13 to $15. Shelter Island residents would pay $52 for a book of 10 tickets, up from $48. The price of a five-day round-trip pass would increase from $22 to $26. Walk on-rates would remain the same, at $1.50 for island residents and $2 for others.
This would be the ferry company’s first rate hike since 2004. North Ferry has argued that higher operating costs and lagging ridership have it operating in the red for a third successive year.
The Legislature has scheduled the public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 2 in the W.H. Rogers Legislative Building, 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown. The proposed rate hike is also subject to a local hearing before the Shelter Island Ferry Advisory Committee at a date to be announced.