The Supervisor’s request for the new Board to work together produced immediate results. During the re-organizational meeting, which followed the swearing in ceremony, the new Board voted unanimously to approve all resolutions. “Although the Board is politically diverse, I am pleased to see that they are willing to put their differences aside and pull together to work in the best interest of the residents of Brookhaven Town,” said Supervisor Romaine.
The Supervisor opened his inaugural speech by highlighting accomplishments during his first year in office. These included a plan to preserve the Carmans River Watershed, a unanimously approved budget without lay-offs, the elimination of nearly $15 million in pipeline debt, and successfully maintaining the Town’s AA+ bond rating. He also mentioned that the Town was able to start the work of rebuilding after Sandy, which continues to this day.
In addition, he sited the following as examples of the Town Board working together during his first year in office: • To crack down on illegal rooming houses and amend town code to protect our neighborhoods from unscrupulous landlords.
• To create a Green Buildings Committee to reduce energy costs at town facilities and save taxpayer dollars.
• To implement a solar and wind energy program to reduce Brookhaven’s carbon footprint and generate revenue.
• To adopt a first-on-Long Island green energy code to promote the use of solar, wind, and geothermal energy in new and existing construction projects.
• And to establish a Vacant Building Registry to require owners (banks) of vacant buildings and homes to maintain them so they don’t become eyesores.
Supervisor Romaine announced that his first priority in 2014 will be to reduce debt load as the Town slowly emerges from the recession. He specifically targeted pension debt, which rose from $8.1 in 2010 to $13 million in 2013 despite a declining staff. He explained that in 2010, New York State began to allow municipalities to borrow from the State to pay its pension contribution, at which time the Town borrowed the maximum allowed to pay its pension bill - $825,007 in 2010 at 5%, almost $2 million at 3.75% in 2011 and $4.1 million in 2012 at 3%. His solution is to create a Pension Contribution Reserve Fund. As the Town continues to sell and shed non-essential, non-performing assets that are extraneous to the mission of Town government, some of the proceeds from the sale of these assets will go into this Reserve Fund. He expects that by 2015, the Town will not have to borrow to pay its pension contribution and thereafter the entire pension debt would be retired.
Next on the Supervisor’s list of priorities is Solid Waste Management and recycling. Since the landfill is scheduled to close in less than 14 years, the Town as a whole must implement a plan to reduce garbage. His multi-step program starts with reducing the garbage that we produce, recycling as much as possible and reusing what we recycle. His first step was instituting Single Stream Recycling, which started on January 4th of this year. It is estimated that as a result of this initiative, recycling will increase by 25% this year alone, reducing the ash intake at the landfill and generating significantly more revenue for the Town. This “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” initiative will be expanded to include school districts. In addition, the Town will be working hand-in-hand with other municipalities to explore other waste disposal technologies to address what the Supervisor called “this common challenge.”
Supervisor Romaine’s long standing dedication to protect and preserve the environment continues to be a priority. He has vowed to work with all levels of government, including the Suffolk County Health Commissioner, to develop a sustainable water quality protection plan that will keep our surface and ground water clean by reducing contamination by pathogens and nitrogen from septic tanks and cesspools. The Supervisor will also work with the County to accelerate the land preservation programs that are already being implemented to protect our water supply.
Energy conservation is also on the Supervisor’s agenda for 2014 with a goal to establish more non-polluting, alternative energy sources as part of Long Island’s energy portfolio.