Supervisor gives state of the town address
In his annual State of the Town address, supervisor Ed Romaine touted the successes of 2018 and promised that a “united board” would continue to make the town a better place moving forward. He delivered remarks in a speech at town hall on Monday, March 11.
In his opening remarks, councilman Dan Panico said the supervisor’s speech would be a story of the town, and of “hard work and real results.” Officials from Suffolk County were in attendance, including several legislators, the county clerk, union leaders, the town board, and town hall staff.
One of the top achievements Romaine cited in his speech was a balanced budget without using reserve funds. He also was proud of the AAA bond rating given to the town by S&P last year, which financial advisors have estimated will save “millions” of taxpayer dollars. Romaine said he aims to preserve that rating and keep balanced budgets.
“You’ve got to live within your means,” he said.
Romaine added that while the town is the lowest portion of the tax bill, he would remain dedicated to preventing tax increases, and remaining under the tax cap mandated by the state. He added that the town is working to reverse policies that have been sending people off Long Island.
“Our residents cannot pay more in taxes,” he said.
Romaine also spoke about the consolidation efforts in the town, and the $20 million grant awarded from New York to implement over five years to make government smaller and more efficient. Estimates say the consolidation effort will save $61 million.
The supervisor took on development, saying the Brookhaven IDA closed on 15 projects in 2018, and expects to close on 19 in 2019. He added that he is still concerned with overdevelopment, adding that “smart growth” was necessary to make the right commercial decisions. Romaine also touted the project in North Bellport that would place 69 units of affordable housing next to the Boys & Girls Club.
Romaine also mentioned the quality-of-life improvements that have ocurred in the past year, including the cleaning of 500 properties, and demolition of over 60 zombie homes. A spray park was built at Shirley Beach and facilities were renovated at Corey Beach in Blue Point.
“No one should live in a neighborhood that is neglected,” he said.
For town employees, the supervisor hopes to achieve a fair contract when negotiations happen this year. He also said that due to the rise of the #MeToo movement, the town took additional steps in 2018 to combat workplace sexual harassment, including a new interactive training program mandatory for all town employees and elected officials.
“I am committed to ensuring that our employees receive a fair contract that will not jeopardize services to our residents,” Romaine said.
The environment is a favorite topic of Romaine’s, and he used the speech to advocate for more steps in combating climate change, including moving more resources toward renewable energy. His goal is to have more solar panels, in addition to those at town hall and in Manorville, at the Brookhaven Amphitheater, Calabro Airport in Brookhaven hamlet, and on the roof of town hall. He also mentioned a new policy that would convert demolished homes to open space in an effort to alleviate flooding around marshland, which he said acts like a “sponge.”
He also was pleased to announce that sewers would “finally” be coming to the Mastics and Shirley area, after the referendum for Phases 1 and 2 passed in January. He added that his administration has protected over 1,100 acres of open space since he entered office. The supervisor reiterated his commitment to recycling, and said the new dual-stream system allows the town to compete in the global market, after they switched in November.
“The global recycling market absolutely collapsed,” he said.
Romaine also discussed the landfill, which he said would close in 2024, five years earlier than originally planned under a previous administration. According to the supervisor, 75 percent of the landfill is capped and he hopes that it will become an energy park once it is closed. He said there is expected to be around $20 million in the reserve fund once the landfill closes.
The supervisor also announced a $150 million project with the highway department to repair town roads, saying he was tired of waiting for money from the state or federal government. More information on the project will be released in the coming days.
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