Riverhead Town to sue Suffolk County over sewer funds

Sean Walter

Riverhead Town plans to take Suffolk County to court for failure to pay what officials say is the proper amount of county sewer stabilization funds the town is owed.

The sewer stabilization fund is designed to reimburse municipalities for the excess in years when sewer district taxes are increased by more than 3 percent, according to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

The Town Board voted Tuesday to file a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, against the county on the grounds that it owes Riverhead $681,828 for 2016 and just over $1.4 million for 2017.

In August, the town completed construction of a $24 million upgrade at the Riverhead sewage treatment plant.

The town did receive an $8 million grant from the county for the sewer upgrade, which was required in order to meet new federal and state requirements for sewage treatment. Without grants to offset that cost, the sewer district tax would increase by about 400 percent, officials said.

“We want the town sewer district to be treated the same way the Suffolk County sewer districts are treated in western Suffolk, and we even service a county sewer district in the jail,” Mr. Walter said.

He said Riverhead receives sewer stabilization money in “dribs and drabs” from the county, but it doesn’t add up to what the town should be receiving.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in an email to the News-Review last May: “The county is very supportive of Riverhead’s efforts and has already saved Riverhead ratepayers one third of the cost of the plant upgrade with an $8 million grant from its Sewer Infrastructure Fund. We are waiting for additional information from the supervisor regarding his request, and look forward to continuing the county’s financial support of the town’s efforts to improve water quality.”

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File photo: Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.