In the case of a yes vote on Phases 1 and 2 of the proposed sewer district in the Mastics and Shirley, businesses would be required to pay for their connection if they decide to hook up. With the referendum upcoming next week, on Jan. 22, the relevant New York State, Suffolk County and Brookhaven Town officials are arranging financial safety nets for small businesses, if the referendum passes.
During a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mastics and Shirley Monday night at the Mastic Ambulance Company, it was announced that any small business would be eligible for $250,000 grant money — which the county acquired through settlement — to be split up among the small-business owners. Additionally, BNB Bank has agreed to give small-interest loans to the businesses to help with funding, if necessary.
Phases 1 and 2 of the sewer district — spanning east of Mastic Road out to the Forge River, north of Riverside Avenue, all the way north to Montauk Highway, and then stretching west along Montauk Highway into Shirley almost to William Floyd Parkway — covers about 1,800 homes and 154 businesses.
Each of the businesses within the parameters of Phases 1 and 2 have the option whether or not to hook up during construction, Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman told the crowd of about 25, mostly business owners. But grant money will not be offered to those that wait. Additionally, when construction is complete, the Department of Public Works will issue a mandate to those businesses that did not connect to do so, which would not be cost-efficient.
“The only thing you will realize is that you won’t have the grant money,” Sunderman said. “This has happened in other districts. [The commissioner of DPW] hasn’t ordered these businesses to hook up there, but shame on you if you don’t hook up, because I don’t know what the cost would be then, at that point.”
Phases 1 and 2 will cost $200 million to construct. Also, $500 million in funding has already been requested from the state for Phases 3 and 4, which span southward to the tip of the peninsula and are much larger in area than phases 1 and 2.
“If this passes, the goal will be to help the Mastic Beach residents who are struggling,” Sunderman said.
“The money was gotten for eradicating and eliminating point-source nitrogen into the Forge River,” Brookhaven Town councilman Dan Panico said at the meeting held by the Chamber of Commerce of the Mastics and Shirley. “That is the single biggest — outside of the duck farms that are now closed — contributor of nitrogen into the Forge River.”
As for the state, Sen. Monica Martinez (D-NY) has plans to supplement the county grant by acquiring funds from Albany, according to a representative present at the chamber meeting. The representative relayed that the sewer district on the peninsula and the project’s attached environmental pertinence is a priority of Martinez’s. The state budget is scheduled to be finalized by the beginning of April, and no targeted amount of funding could be relayed at press time. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget does cite funding in the Environmental Protection Fund at $300 million, with $38 million set aside for solid waste programs, some of which the Forge River sewer plan could be a possible recipient.
The focus is of high priority considering the flooding from the high water table and spreading nitrogen that has contaminated Forge River.
Only those considered permanent residents within the parameters of Phases 1 and 2 are eligible to vote on Jan. 22, from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the Mastic Fire Department.