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Nov 16, 2017 2:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village Board Advances Sewer Plans

Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore, center, addresses a question as Trustee Ralph Urban and Clerk Liz Lindtvit look on. KATE RIGA
Nov 21, 2017 1:35 PM

The Westhampton Beach Village Board has signed off on both the plan and map for the municipality’s proposed sewer district, signifying their decision to move forward with the first phase of work that’s expected to run $16.75 million and connect most of the downtown business district to sewers.

After previously naming themselves as lead agency through the upcoming state-mandated environmental review—Mayor Maria Moore explained that no other agency wanted to assume that responsibility—village trustees on Wednesday, November 15, also established and named themselves to the municipality’s “Board of Sewer Commissioners.” That designation allows them to apply for grants and finalize design plans for the sewer system, which is being pushed to help curb the amount of nitrogen entering the groundwater and nearby Moniebogue Bay.

Mayor Moore will chair the new sewer commission, with the other four board members also serving on the panel. She also specified that the village law uses the terms “Board of Trustees” and “Board of Sewer Commissioners” interchangeably, emphasizing that the Village Board is not unscrupulously giving itself additional powers.

“We’ve been working on this for two years,” Trustee Ralph Urban said after the board announced its intention to move forward with their plans at last week’s meeting. “I’ve heard a lot of supportive comments about the sewer district.”

“This is a critical project,” Trustee Brian Tymann added. “Nitrogen is leaching into our water.”

Westhampton Beach residents will still have the final say, however, as they will eventually be asked—most likely by early 2019, according to the mayor—to sign off on a permissive referendum that would permit the village to borrow an anticipated $11.75 million to finance the work. Board members, who previously said they intend to secure at least $5 million in various grants, would still likely have to bond the remaining funds over 30 years.

Finally, ground is not expected to be broken on the sewer district until December 2021 at its earliest, with an anticipated spring 2022 completion date, according to officials.

If ultimately approved by taxpayers, the first phase would call for the sewering of the entirety of Main Street, portions of Sunset Avenue, Mitchell Road and Library Avenue, and would connect a pair of condominium complexes overlooking Moniebogue Canal to the south. The plan was created by H2M Architects + Engineers in Melville, the firm overseeing the project.

Village officials previously shared that 70 percent of the projected costs for phase one would be borne by those landlords and business owners directly benefiting from the sewers. The rest of the village would pick up the remaining 30 percent.

H2M representatives have produced two cost models for the first phase of sewering—one assumes that the village secures a grant for about $4.2 million, or 25 percent of the initial costs, and one where it secures no grant money. Under the first scenario, engineers estimate that a 20-seat restaurant that falls within the district and is assessed at $500,000 would pay roughly $1,404 in annual sewer taxes, while a 9,000-square-foot store assessed at $2.2 million would pay about $618 annually, and a 36-unit condominium complex assessed at $5 million would pay $14,039 annually.

In the second scenario in which the village secures no grant money, the same restaurant would pay $2,344 annually, a similarly assessed shop would pay $1,031 per annum, and the condominium complex would contribute $23,437 yearly.

Those businesses and shops that fall outside the sewer district would be asked to pay a fraction of those costs in both scenarios, according to H2M’s breakdown.

In both scenarios, village homeowners would be asked to cover the bulk of the 30 percent of the sewer installation costs even though they would not directly benefit from the system. If the village secures $4.2 million in funding, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $700,150 would be asked to pay about $22 in annual sewer district taxes, according to H2M’s estimates. If the village secures no funding, the same homeowner would pay around $37 annually.

The initial $16.5 million cost would cover the installation of two “gravity pumps” on Main Street and Glovers Lane, and the laying of more than 2.6 miles of 4-inch-wide piping that would carry the raw sewage to the treatment plant at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. Suffolk County, which owns the airport, has already agreed to reserve up to 60,000 gallons of effluent each day at the plant for the sewer district, an agreement that allows the village to avoid building its own treatment facility.

In turn, the village has agreed to pay for an expansion of the county’s sewage treatment facility, an estimated $2.6 million undertaking that is included in the $16.75 million startup costs. That work would increase the plant’s capacity by 50 percent, to 150,000 gallons daily.

Phases two and three of the village plan, while still hypothetical, would entail sewering areas north of Main Street and centered on Montauk Highway. The fourth phase encourages village homeowners—who would not be directly connected to sewers—to voluntarily replace their antiquated cesspools with modern containment systems by taking advantage of grants. The fourth phase is planned to proceed concurrently with the first phase, based on the willingness of homeowners to install the new systems.

Village Board members had to take action last week in order to meet Department of State’s guidelines. Those guidelines required that the board make a decision on the sewer district within 20 days of declaring itself the lead agency on the project. That grace period would have expired on November 22.

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My comment below, posted under Tuesday's article "WHB Main Street Construction Delayed a Year to Bury Utility Lines" is appropriate for this article as well--so I'm re-posting.

First--I'm very happy to hear that we WHB taxpayers will get to vote on the sewer project (we didn't vote on the Marina Project and I wonder if we will be granted a vote on the bond for the Main Street Revitalization Project--though these things can be forced with petitions [these two projects alone cost what now? ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on Nov 16, 17 4:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
ST. Do not say WHB is anything Iike MV, C Cod or Nantucket....it’s nothing like any of those places, not even close and it never will be. WHB barely has passable restaurants and barely has a summer season nowadays. It’s not called Worsthampton for no reason... It’s tiny, has the worst traffic and should be designated a real estate office and retirement zone. Have you actually ever been to MV, C Cod or Nantucket? I seriously doubt it.
By G (342), Southampton on Nov 17, 17 9:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
G you sure have all your jabs and criticisms as I read through many of your current and past comments. Sounds like you need to get out behind screen name and see the world a little.
By Bobt (48), WHB on Nov 17, 17 11:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
G from Southampton who is isn’t contributing my already hefty Westhampton Beach Village tax bill, let me first answer your oh so mature question with your little unnecessary and childish dig tacked on. We’ve vacationed eight times in Nantucket; our son’s middle name is a town on Nantucket, as a matter of fact. We’ve also vacationed once on Martha’s Vineyard, and 3 times in Cape Cod.

Those places are similar to WHB in that they are seasonal destinations. ...more
By st (129), westhampton beach on Nov 17, 17 3:26 PM
1 member liked this comment