The Town of East Hampton will borrow $210,000 for tank cleaning at the Scavenger Waste Plant, following a 4-to-1 vote approving the bond at a meeting on Thursday night.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overy sponsored the resolution to finance the improvements at the wastewater plant, which the Department of Environmental Conservation ordered. Councilmen Peter Van Scoyoc Supervisor and Dominic Stanzione and Supervisor Bill Wilkinson supported the resolution for the one-time cleaning.
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley voted against it.
Two-thirds of the board had to approve the resolution in order for it to pass.
Wilkinson said that while he remains steadfast that he could have negotiated a deal to privatize the plant that was satisfactory to the town last winter, he voted in favor of putting the money into the plant because the cleaning simply has to get done. There was no alternative, he said — the state mandated the cleaning.
The Scavenger Waste Plant has been a divisive issue for the board since early 2012. Wilkinson hoped to privatize the plant after the first quarter in 2012, based on an unanimous vote of the board in December, before van Scoyoc and Overby took office. Negotiations ended with the potential lessee when the newly elected members of the board took office and Republican Councilman Dominick Stanzione changed his vote.
"We have a responsibility to respond to the DEC," Van Scoyoc said a meeting two weeks ago when Republican Committee secretary Carole Campolo, who had a career in municipal finance, that it would be "fiscal malfeasance" for the board to float a bond for such maintenance.
Overby has said the tanks are "full of drying septic bed sludge" that smells during the summer and drips down in the system. Blowers are therefore on continuously, running the town $8,000 to $9,000 a month in electricity. "We will be able to save at least that amount of the electric bill," she said.
Len Bernard, the town finance officer, said the bond will be stretched over five years and he estimates the town will end up paying about $45,000 a year including the interest. "I anticipate a very, very minimal interest rate," he said on Friday.
The bond, he said, was the best move under the circumstances. It takes the pressure off the tax levy cap the town needs to stay under in 2013 and in subsequent years, as well as avoids hitting tax payers with a $200,000 tax levy increase in 2013, he said.
The bond approval allows for the money to be advanced from the general fund to get the work done sooner than later, Bernard said. "We won't actually borrow the money until 2013 . . . the interest won't be due to the following year."
"The fact of the matter is because of denial of the former board's plans we're left in the position of cleaning the tanks regardless. Under the former proposal, the acquirer of the lease or sale, we would have negotiated an obligation to clean those tanks," Wilkinson said.
"This new board of Dominick Stanzione, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, obligated tax payers to pay for something that I still believe could have been negotiated," he said.
Because there was no funding for the plant included past the first quarter of the 2012 budget, Wilkinson projected a deficit of at least $700,000 by the end of the year, according to his tenative 2013 budget, which was made public on Monday.
Funding for the Scavenger Waste Plant accounts for $731,150, or 22.1 percent, of the overall increase in the tentative $69 million budget, a $3.3 million increase over last year.
Wilkinson's plan includes to return at least $500,000 to the Refuse and Recycling Fund. His proposal funds the plant as a transfer station for the first three months of 2013, "by which time a final decision on the matter will hopefully be made by the Town Board."
Privatization is not off the table, Overby has said. She said she felt the amount bid by the only vendor to respond was far too low.