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Sep 13, 2017 10:22 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

First Phase Of Westhampton Beach Sewer District Project Has $16.75M Price Tag

Sep 13, 2017 10:59 AM

After years of discussion and debate, Westhampton Beach Village Board members now have an estimated price tag for installing a sewer system in the heart of the municipality: $16.75 million.

That projected cost, however, would cover only the first of four phases of anticipated work and specifically focuses on the installation of sewers along Main Street and the southern end of Sunset Avenue, where businesses would be required to connect with the proposed district.

As part of the initial phase, which officials estimate would not begin until December 2021 at the earliest and most likely be completed by the spring of 2022, sewers would also be installed along both Mitchell Road and Library Avenue, and connect with “high-density” residential developments; namely, a pair of condominium complexes—Harbor House and Westhampton Landings—that sit along both sides of the nitrogen-impaired Moniebogue Canal.

That initial startup cost would also cover the installation of a pair of “gravity pumps” on Main Street and Glovers Lane, as well as the installation of approximately 14,000 feet—or more than 2.6 miles—of pressurized piping that would then carry the raw sewage to the treatment plant at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.

Suffolk County, which owns the airport, has agreed to reserve space for up to 60,000 gallons of effluent each day at the plant for the village; in exchange, village officials must agree to pay for an expansion that would allow the plant to increase its capacity by 50 percent, to 150,000 gallons daily. The cost of those upgrades is also included in the first phase of work, and the plans have already received county approval, according to Nick Bono, a senior project engineer with H2M architects + engineers company in Melville, the firm overseeing the project.

The second, third and fourth phases of the sewer project—if they are ultimately pursued by the village—would result in the sewering of all of Westhampton Beach, according to officials. The projected cost of that work is still undetermined and would likely be dependent on the availability of financial incentives for homeowners to connect to the sewer system.

In a village-financed 60-page report shared last week, Dr. Chris Gobler of East Quogue, a marine science professor at Stony Brook Southampton, concluded that the first phase of sewering could potentially reduce the amount of nitrogen leaching from cesspools and into nearby Moniebogue Canal and, ultimately, Moniebogue Bay by roughly 5,000 pounds annually, or by about 24 percent based on his calculations. His study also notes that the complete sewering of the village—a proposal that has only been floated at this point—could help curb the amount of nitrogen entering the bay by closer to 70 percent overall each year.

On Tuesday, Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore said that she and her fellow village trustees are still digesting the information provided by its project architect, H2M, at last Thursday night’s board meeting. Ms. Moore also said it was too early to speculate how much the sewer project would ultimately cost, though she made it clear that the financial burden would be shared by all village residents, and that those directly benefiting from the system—namely, the businesses along Main Street and residents of the condominium complexes that are close to the water—would be expected to pay a higher percentage.

“It’s just that the board is still considering all the various scenarios presented to it by H2M,” Ms. Moore wrote in an email. “We will likely finalize and adopt the map and plan at [our] October meeting. Then we will be in a position to apply for grants and have a better idea of the actual costs.”

She later added that she expects that the village would have to borrow $10 million to finance the first phase of installation, explaining that the remaining funding would be covered by grants, ideally. The debt service created by such a plan, she added, would require an annual payment of $800,000 annually, though Ms. Moore noted that, by that time, the village would no longer be making $300,000 annual payments that financed the construction of Village Hall.

The mayor also explained that all village residents would be asked to pay a sewer tax—which could possibly be set at around $33 per every $500,000 of assessed valuation—as well as a second fee, which could potentially be set at $60 per $500,000 of assessed value, that would be paid to the “Moniebogue Restoration Fund.” The proposed fund would be tapped to help pay down the debt accumulated to finance the sewer installation.

However, only those connected to the sewer district would also have to pay a management fee to cover its day-to-day system operation.

At last week’s meeting, Mr. Bono laid out some examples of how much business owners and residents would pay if they are within the sewer district’s boundaries. For example, the owner of a restaurant with 20 seats and assessed at $500,000 would pay approximately $33 in annual sewer taxes, $60 per annum into the Moniebogue Restoration Fund, and $800 in operational costs—for a grand total of $893 a year.

The owners of retail properties, meanwhile, would pay fees based on their square footage and assessed value. For example, the owner of a 9,000-square-foot shop valued at $2 million can expect to pay about $132 annually in sewer taxes, $240 per annum to the restoration fund and $360 each year toward operational costs, for a grand total of $732 per annum.

Lastly, Mr. Bono provided an example of how the owners of condominiums would be charged under the system. He noted that the owner of a 36-unit development assessed at $5 million—with each condo expected to generate 225 gallons of sewage daily—could expect to pay $9 per unit per year in sewer taxes, $17 per unit per year to the restoration fund and $300 per unit each year to cover operation and maintenance, for a grand total of $326 per unit, or $11,736 annually for the entire complex.

Reactions to the proposal were varied, with some questioning the order of priority. Bob Trager of Westhampton Beach asked why the village would not start with the proposed fourth phase that would provide sewers to most of the houses in the village. Phase one, as currently outlined, does not call for connecting any individual residences—including those closest to the water—to the sewer system.

Board member Brian Tymann said it was not economically feasible to begin with phase four, explaining that setting up the required infrastructure would be pricey. He also said that starting with individual homeowners would prevent them from taking advantage of various incentive programs that would most likely be offered if the village could point to an established sewer district in its downtown.

Mr. Bono added that the initial infrastructure, including the pumping stations, would have to be in place before they could consider hooking up private residences.

Others asked if the board would put the sewer district proposal up for a public referendum—with Ms. Moore saying she does not think that such an approach is necessary, though she asked Village Attorney Stephen Angel to investigate the option.

“It would be advantageous to this board to have a public vote,” David Reilly of Westhampton Beach said. “No one would have a right to complain.”

Others said they support the project, adding that they don’t think a public referendum is necessary.

“When I elect my officials, I trust them to do their research, particularly around infrastructure, to do the right thing,” said Patti Schaefer, a village resident who also chairs the local chapter of the Conservation Advisory Council. “I’d no more expect Governor [Andrew] Cuomo to put his plans for public infrastructure up for a vote than my local municipality. Not everyone agrees that it should be a public vote.”

Mayor Moore said she expects to have more details to share at the board’s next meeting on Thursday, October 5, at Westhampton Beach Village Hall on Mill Road. The meeting begins at 5 p.m.

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Excellent! Sewer districts, while quite expensive of course, are a great first step towards modernizing and enhancing the East End Villages. This type of improvement will allow for more wet uses including apartments for young people and conversion of empty retail spaces to cafes and restaurants.
By Mouthampton (439), Southampton on Sep 13, 17 12:05 PM
3 members liked this comment
This is movement on cleaning up our waters. The article failed to point out the nitrogen reduction on the 3 WHB bays will only be about 2%. Moniebogue Bay area (and I can point in Dr Gobblers report) will only achieve about 14% reduction not 24 %. So if we as a Village want to spend $16.5 million on a system that will only service 89 condos and 69 businesses can't we focus that spend on achieving more nitrogen reduction? And Ms Schaffers comment on NYS Gov putting all items out to vote- well- ...more
By Bobt (48), WHB on Sep 13, 17 1:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
I commend the WHB Village Board for wanting to clean up our waters. I am certainly pro clean water. I attended the meeting and though I know there is more to be discussed these are just a few of my initial takeaways:

1) You can play with the numbers however you like. But, if you do the math on your own property, you see that it’s a 10% Village tax increase for a negligible Moniebogue Bay nitrogen reduction. Read Gobler’s whole report yourself and look at the tables and ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on Sep 14, 17 3:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
I printed a letter in the SHP and they left out all my references to Dr Goblers report so below is the letter with the specific table references and quotes from his report that is available on the WHB Village Website.

Westhampton Beach Village’s coastal bays have some of the worst water quality on Long Island per Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences professor, Christopher Gobler, PhD. He presented his report to the Village on September 7. The report is ...more
By Bobt (48), WHB on Sep 14, 17 6:06 PM
2 members liked this comment