Water Authority considers sale of two Southold properties

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | A Southold building being considered for sale by the Suffolk County Water Authority.

Two Southold properties owned by Suffolk County Water Authority are on a list of excess assets compiled by the authority’s CEO, Jeff Szabo, who undertook an inventory of utility holdings shortly after he took the helm in June.

One hundred acres near Laurel Lake in Laurel and a 5,000-square-foot building on one acre on Boisseau Avenue in Southold are among the properties Mr. Szabo believes SCWA does not need. Whether they will be sold is another story.

“This isn’t a fire sale. There’s nothing pending or that we’re looking to sell quickly,” he said in an interview Monday. “It’s something as an entity that we need to look at in the long term.”

There are currently six active authority water wells on the Laurel Lake property, which the authority bought in 1992 and is now part of a cluster of publicly owned properties totalling 400 acres that make up Laurel Lake Preserve.

If SCWA decides to sell the Laurel Lake property, Mr. Szabo said, it would seek either a governmental entity or a land preservation organization as a buyer. The water authority would retain the portions of the property where its wells are located, he said. The authority also would consider a land swap if it decides to divest itself of the Laurel Lake holding.

“We are not looking to sell it to a private real estate developer,” he said.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he is not concerned by SCWA’s proposal to sell the Southold building, but he believes the Laurel Lake property cannnot be sold without voter approval in a referendum because SCWA bought the land with the county’s 1/4 percent sales tax revenues dedicated to protecting the quality of the county’s underground water.

Mr. Szabo said he thought a public referendum for the Laurel Lake property would not be required. He added that he would be meeting with The Nature Conservancy next week to discuss the implications of all of the authority’s possible land sales.

“We would follow the proper sale procedures if we put it on the market,” he said of the Laurel Lake property. “If that was ever going to happen, we would get input from other government entities.”

The Southold building, which the authority bought for $186,000 in 1999, was frequently used as office space by Michael Logrande of Cutchogue when he was SCWA CEO. He retired last May. Authority work crews were stationed there until two months ago, when they were moved to Westhampton, said Mr. Szabo. He said the Southold building is now rarely used except when workers in the field stop by to use the bathroom.

“It was close to  Mr. Logrande,” he said but added he was sure it had been acquired as a convenience for employees working on the North Fork.

Mr. Szabo said SCWA is considering selling a handful of other properties, too, including several vacant buildings in Coram, a portion of a Hauppauge laboratory and a warehouse at the authority’s main complex in Oakdale, as well as 300 more of the 1,800 acres of vacant land SCWA owns.

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