The Mastic-Shirley Forge River Sewer project is currently starting the advertising process of going out to bid for three of the project components in Phase 1 and 2.
The entire project, according to Suffolk County Legis. Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic), will include approximately 1,900 homes and over 150 businesses in the hookup.
“What’s good about this project is that one, it’s good for the environment and the Forge River; two, it’s going to be good for the downtown community and for the business development; and three, it’s going to be good for the quality of life of our residents,” Sunderman said, eager to see the project through.
When will the project break ground?
Project construction, Sunderman said, is still in the discussion stage. The bids will be reviewed in March and construction plans will be sorted thereafter with hopes to break ground this year. A timeline for the project, he said, has not been finalized. Most likely, he noted, the treatment plant would be completed first.
Mastic resident John Fillippeli has been waiting for the project to break ground for years. He lives close by the Forge River and when it storms, his block often floods.
“Without a doubt, we want to get the river cleaned up,” he said, noting the cesspool pollution. “This is going to help our community. We are due for a revitalization. There are so many vacant stores, and merchants want to come in but can’t. I have lived here for 27 years and I am tired of it.”
What’s the cost?
The original cost of $167M is still anticipated, though the project has now been separated into several bids, which will affect the final price tag.
The funding is a combination of hazard mitigation money from FEMA and community development grant money from HUD, Sunderman said, explaining that it will cover the entire project cost and has just been approved for an extension.
The project will be done at zero cost to the taxpayer including the hookup. Those who choose to hook-up will be required to make a quarterly fee for maintenance and cleaning equivalent to just under $500 per year.
What about businesses?
Still, one of the main concerns about the project is the cost for businesses. The federal monies are only available to homeowners, so businesses could face construction costs of up to $20,000 for the system.
A $250,000 grant is also available from the county to businesses as well as another $250,000 grant secured by former New York State Sen. Monica Martinez, which would be split up to those who apply, out of the 154 total.
Businesses have the option to not hook up during the main construction period, but would eventually be mandated by the Department of Public Works.
Beth Wahl, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mastics and Shirley, said she is “double” happy to see the project move forward, also living in the portion of Mastic that will be receiving sewers.
“This is going to make such a difference for our community,” she said, though also noting the concern for business hookup funding. “I wish I had an answer; this is going to be a huge expense to our businesses and I just don’t understand why they have to take the brunt of this.”
The minimum cost of $20,000 for businesses to hookup, she said, will be enough to shut some down completely, especially during these trying COVID-19 times.
Sunderman is currently working closely with approximately 400 residents that have not responded to the survey put out last year. Since December, about 100 of those residents have responded.
“We need to have all the information so that we are ready to put that shovel in the ground,” he added, hoping to gain more of those residents that have yet to respond. “It’s also important to note that all levels of government and our community leaders and civic groups and chambers worked together to meet the community’s needs and requests.”
The project will move forward in four phases, and Phases 1 and 2 are expected to begin construction this year. In addition to the proposition to create the sewer district, the project will also create a sewage treatment plant at Calabro Airport in Brookhaven. Construction of the treatment plant would allow the additional phases to be ready for construction.
Meanwhile, Sunderman is working to get the rest of the funds for Phases 3 and 4. Sunderman will also look to include another provision in Phases 1 and 2, which would extend a sewer pipe from Mastic Road through Neighborhood Road.