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Southold Town holding off on Greenport sewer expansion plan

Southold Town Board

The Southold Town Board isn’t ready to throw out a $6 million proposal to expand Greenport Village’s sewer district. But it’s not ready to get on board either, said Supervisor Scott Russell, who said the town must determine its environmental needs before agreeing to fund the project in Greenport.

“This might have a lot of merit, but how do we know this is top priority?” he asked at Tuesday’s work session. “We need to look at the biggest bang for your buck.”

The proposal has long been discussed at Greenport Village Hall, where previous administrations commissioned studies on whether to expand municipal sewer lines into three neighborhoods near the village border: about 60 homes from Sixth Street to about Ninth Street, about 75 homes north of Main Street toward Route 48 and the area near Sterling Basin, where about 40 homes exist and about 150 boats dock in the summer.

Elected Greenport officials have said the village sewage treatment plant is now operating at about half its maximum capacity and could take on additional sewage flow.

Deputy mayor Jack Martilotta took his pitch to the Southold Town Democrats earlier this month, saying that the town’s Community Preservation Fund money, which is normally used for preservation of land, could be used toward the sewer upgrade.

If passed, a referendum on this fall’s ballot would allow up to 20 percent of a municipality’s CPF money to go toward water quality projects, like the Greenport sewer upgrade.

Mr. Martilotta and fellow Trustee Mary Bess Phillips have met privately with members of the Town Board to discuss the idea, but Mr. Russell said the Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. has informed him that the Village Board as a whole hadn’t yet endorsed the idea.

Mr. Russell and other members of the Town Board also took issue with insinuations that Southold Town has used its CPF money more often in other areas of town than in Greenport.

Town Councilman James Dinizio said the Greenport area has the highest percentage of preserved land in the town. Mr. Russell also noted that the town applies other resources in the area, like law enforcement.

But the largest issues were whether the sewer expansion would benefit the town and whether residents in the designated areas — who have private septic systems — would be forced to connect to Greenport’s system.

Mr. Russell was also skeptical of the idea that the area’s waters were in dire need of protection. Michael Collins, a town engineer, said the town has conducted studies in the area and determined that the waters are not significantly impaired by pollution.

“There’s no science guiding this right now,” Mr. Russell said.

Mr. Dinizio agreed, saying the town should be more prepared before it agrees to spend CPF money on the project.

Elected officials said the Town Board has to set priorities about how its spends CPF funding and noted that the town doesn’t have to commit to the Greenport sewer project before the November referendum.

“It’s not like we’re losing the money,” Mr. Russell said. “We still retain the right to do that … There’s so much we want to get done.”

Mr. Dinizio and Town Board member Robert Ghosio, who were designated as liaisons to the Village Board, said they’ll get more information about the project so the board can later make an educated decision.

“Opening the dialogue is always good,” Mr. Ghosio said.

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Clarification: An earlier version of this story quoted Mr. Russell as saying the town needed to evaluate its needs before discussing the Greenport sewer expansion. Mr. Russell was referring to the environmental needs of both the town and the village in that quote.

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