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Supervisor: EPCAL sale will only help us break even

11/14/2016 6:05 AM |

Riverhead Town’s proposed $46 million sale of more than 600 acres at the Enterprise Park at Calverton will help the town pay off its debt. But that’s about all it will do, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“The crazy part of that sale is that all it does it put us at even,” Mr. Walter said during a discussion of the town’s 2015 audit at last Thursday’s Town Board work session. “It’s not even going to be a windfall for the town. It just pays for that debacle at the landfill.”

The town has a tentative agreement to sell 633 acres at EPCAL to Suffolk County Industrial LLC. The company is headed by developers Tod Buckvar and Mark Fischl, who are also involved with current plans to redevelop the former Entenmann’s property in Bay Shore.

The town’s $50 million landfill debt dates back to a 2002 reclamation project that ended up costing far more than town officials budgeted for and was discontinued in 2007. The town is still paying about $3 million per year in debt service on the project and was previously paying about $5 million per year, according to Mr. Walter, who said the landfill has been the town’s biggest budget obstacle in recent years.

The audit shows the town’s general fund and highway fund both underspent on their 2015 budgets, although the general fund gain was offset by a revenue shortfall of slightly more money.

The general fund underspent its budget by $1,865,808 in 2015, but its revenue projections fell short by $1,904,560, according to Jeff Davoli of Albrecht, Viggiano, Zueck and Company, the accounting firm that conducted the audit.

“The bulk of the savings comes from electricity, fuel, personnel and legal costs,” Mr. Walter said in an interview following last week’s meeting. “We saved a lot of lot of money on litigation because we had some favorable rulings and very little litigation over the last couple of years.”

There were also some unfilled positions in the police department and at Town Hall, he said. Many of these positions, the supervisor added, will be filled in 2017.

The highway fund underspent its budget by $689,975 in 2015. Its revenue projections ended up being $44,677 higher than anticipated, Mr. Davoli said.

The Town Board approves the amount of spending in the highway department budget, but Highway Superintendent George Woodson can decide how the money is spent.

“I know what we do in the highway department,” Mr. Walter said. “We build up fund balance and then we use it to buy equipment.”

The supervisor cautioned that the bond rating agency Moody’s looks unfavorably on that practice because it would rather see fund balances increase.

“In the long run, this helps the taxpayer,” Councilman John Dunleavy said of the highway department’s practices.

“He saves us a lot of money buying used equipment rather buying new stuff,” Councilman Tim Hubbard added of Mr. Woodson, who did not attend the meeting.

In 2015, the highway fund balance started the year with $3,072,908 and ended it with $2,798,284, according to the audit. Meanwhile, the general fund had a fund balance of $2,714,292 at the beginning of 2015 and ended the year with $2,225,194.

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