Below are photos from the
Riverhead Farmers' Market taken in February
July 5, 2014
I’ve now sat through, relatively
quietly for me, two Village Board Meetings, one Village Board Work Session,
and two Community Meetings held by the Village Board regarding the proposed
Bellport Village Sewer System. I’ve read, and published on Bellport.com, the
report H2M prepared for the Village and I’ve read and published the
information that was given out by H2M at the two Community Meetings. I’ve
watched the countless hours that everyone has put into this so far and I’ve
watched the price the Village has paid for all of the work, so far, go from
$20,000, to $25,000, and now, according to Mayor Fell at the last Community
Meeting, we’ve reached $30,000 and this is only the beginning.
What I haven’t heard from Village Hall is a clear statement as to what they
think the problem is that they’re trying to fix. Yes, Village Hall says a
new sewer system would make Bellport Village more attractive to “wet”
businesses, but do we really want an Applebee’s, Waffle House, or car wash
on Main Street? It wasn’t that long ago that the question being debated in
the Village was, “What are we going to do with all these people who want to
shop here? Where are they going to park?” The answer then was to cut the
size of the park in front of the Community Center in order to increase the
size of the Municipal Parking Lot. I think this jumping to the conclusion
that we need a “wetter” Bellport without Village Hall first doing some
serious homework is a waste of time and money and should be stopped
immediately! Don’t spend anymore of OUR money!
In my eyes, the question we should be asking and trying to answer is, “How
can we get the Village’s Economy going?” By Village’s Economy, I mean not
only Main Street, but also the Bellport Village Golf Course which has become
a drain rather than asset for the Village’s Residents. We should be looking
for Occam’s razor, “The simpler solution is usually the better solution” in
all of this. A sewer system that costs us a fortune and that we might not
see for 10 years is not Occam’s razor.
Let me help. From what I’ve heard, Village Hall didn’t spend much time
listening to what the shop keepers, not landlords, on Main Street think the
problem is and what can and should be done to solve it. The thrust of the
Sewer System Project is aimed at the landlords, not the shop keepers. Even
if we go full steam ahead with the new Sewer System, the possible benefits
are many years away, maybe 10 years or more away. Main Street’s economy
needs help NOW, not 10 years from now.
I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but there should be a series of
OPEN meetings held, maybe every week for awhile, to brainstorm the problem.
For starters, how about a Bellport Farmers’ Market like the fantastically
successful one being held in Riverhead? We have three large venues available
on Main Street that would be perfect. We might be able to use any or all of
them. Has anyone asked? I’ll bet a program like that could be pulled
together relatively quickly if everyone pitched in.
How about someone stepping in and saving the Clipper Classic 5K Race? Did
you realize there won’t be a Clipper Classic this year? All those people and
all that business for Main Street are gone. Why didn’t Village Hall or the
Chamber of Commerce step in to save the Clipper Classic? It’s too late now,
but we should be starting the planning for next summer, NOW, not next June!
How about inviting one or more of the Antique Car Clubs on Long Island to
Bellport Village’s Main Street for a Car Show? It’s been done before, why
not do it again and again? For that matter, I’ll bet there are all kinds of
clubs and organizations who would love to show what they’re all about. You
could spread them out among the shops so that foot traffic would stroll from
shop to shop seeing what the group or organization has to offer.
How about a Music Festival located on Main Street, not down at the dock? I
know plenty of musicians who would love to play for next to nothing if you
make it fun for them. I’ll bet MVP Automotive might be willing to make their
parking lot available. What about the grassy area to the south of Basil’s?
What about the grassy area to the east of It’s Only Natural? You could have
three different venues going at the same time and lots of foot traffic
The point I’m trying to make is that there’s plenty we could do that
wouldn’t cost a lot of money and could be implemented in a relatively short
period of time if Village Hall would just stop wasting their time and OUR
money on something that won’t payoff for up to 10 years and will end up
costing every home involved up to $20,000 up front and $2,000 a year for the
next 30 years before the smoke clears.
The key to bringing new businesses into Bellport Village isn’t a “wetter”
Village. If you have an exciting, vibrant Village with lots going on to draw
people to Main Street, the new shops will come all by themselves.
The Bellport Golf Course...
The Bellport Golf Course is an essential part of the Village’s economy, just
as Main Street is. When Mayor Fell was elected for his one term as Trustee
in 2008, one of the first things he voted for was the dismantling of the
marketing program for the Golf Course Mayor Trotta had put in place. This
would have been fine if the incoming administration had implemented a
marketing program of its own, but unfortunately, nothing was ever done. When
Mayor Veitch was elected, several years later, his administration too did
nothing to market the Golf Course so it should be no surprise that
membership declined and along with it, profits from the Golf Course.
One year ago, when Mayor Fell was elected, although it would have made sense
on day one of his administration to get going with a new marketing plan for
the Golf Course, nothing was done. Rather than being a source of revenue for
the Village, the Golf Course is now being supported by the residents and the
current administration is just starting to get around to doing something.
Let’s hope that they are finally going to put a strong marketing plan in
place to not only attract new players, but to also keep the players we
already have. In marketing, it’s always said that it’s far more important
and easier to keep the customers you have rather than find and attract new
ones. A strong marketing plan is essential to turning the Bellport Golf
Course around and with it, the economy of the entire Village.
The following are my thoughts, observations, questions and concerns
regarding the proposed new sewer system.
Let’s have a
“Permissive Referendum,” show of hands, or voice vote.
Why won’t Mayor Fell allow residents and landlords to at least
informally express their feelings as to whether or not they want the
Village Board to proceed with spending their time and OUR money on the
sewer project based on the information we already have? About 177
residences were sent written notices about the June 28th sewer meeting
for residents. The Community Center was filled to capacity so about 175
people were there. Out of all those people, only one, and maybe another,
were in favor of going forward with the proposed sewer system. The rest
seemed to be clearly against it. Over and over again members of the
audience asked for the Mayor to request an indication from the audience
as to whether they were for or against the sewer system and should it go
forward, but he refused. Over and over again they requested a
“Permissive Referendum” take place so that the people could vote on
whether they want Village Hall to go forward with the plan, but Mayor
Fell refused. Instead, Mayor Fell wants to wait until the final exact
costs are known. I understand that would be ideal, but the problem with
that plan is that by then, a year or more from now, we will have spent a
lot more money on engineering studies and a lot more money on securing
grants. The time to stop is NOW.
What’s it going to
No one seems to know or is willing to say. From what I’ve heard so far,
it looks like it’s going to cost a typical residence about $20,000 up
front plus about $2,000 per year, for 30 years, to hook up to the
system. On top of that, there will be an annual service contract that
will cost an additional $850 or so a year. If you refuse to hook up, it
will still cost you about $850 per year for 30 years. But, there’s a
catch! If lots of people don’t hook up, the grants the Mayor hopes to
secure may go away, in which case the Village would be on the hook for
an additional $17 million. On top of these costs, you’ll have the cost
of changing all the plumbing in your home as the pipes will have to come
out the front of your house instead of the rear. You’ll also have the
costs of putting your front lawn back together after they are done
digging it up for the new pipes to the street. I have no idea what that
The cost of the system for a business is murky at best. It sounds like
the costs might triple or quadruple compared to the typical residential
property, but it really hasn’t been made clear at any of the meetings. I
think if you assume it will be EXPENSIVE, you won’t be far off.
By the way, I’ve been told that if enough people don’t hook up
voluntarily, Village Hall has the power to make it mandatory. Again,
I’ll let the lawyers argue it out.
Now, maybe my numbers aren’t
right. They’re the best I could gather from the meetings, but most of the
time things were so vague that it’s hard to tell. If my numbers aren’t
right, I’ll be glad to change them if Village Hall simply makes a statement,
that everyone can understand, as to what the costs involved are. Every time
the simple question, “What is it going to cost?” was asked, Village Hall
side stepped it. Their answer was usually about the cost of one part or
another, but never a simple list of all of the costs involved and what the
total might be.
I could go on and on...
I could go on and on, but this Editorial is already way too long. I’ll just
mention some of the highlights and ideas I’ve come up with from attending
the sewer district meetings.
No grants are available for a
businesses only system. Village Hall has said that it’s only considering
ecological factors and areas in order to get grants. I don’t think the
people who issue these grants are stupid. If only the businesses, or
worse yet a small number of the businesses sign up, they’ll take the
grant away leaving us on the hook for $17 million.
Why are we spending all this
money now? Why not wait until the Village is on firmer financial ground.
What does it matter if we aren’t at the head of the “cue?” What’s the
down tick to being a year or two behind the leaders? Who is going to be
ahead of us anyway?
When asked if the Village
Board had contacted businesses to see if they are for or against the
project, the answer is NO. The Mayor said he’s waiting for the
businesses to contact him. He’s not contacting them.
The Mayor said there are
University Studies that indicate $1 spent on a sewer could return $1.50
or even $3.50 in economic development. OK, from where? From what source?
Give us examples of how this program might return $46,740,000 to our
community. 177 homes x $20,000 = $3,540,000... 177 homes x $2,000 x
30yrs = $10,620,000... $10,620,00 + $14,160,000 = $31,160,000...
$31,160,000 x $1.50 = $46,740,000 in economic development. But wait! The
Mayor also adds that there are no guarantees. Again, if my numbers are
wrong, I hope Village Hall provides us with what they feel are the
If the power goes out or there
are any other problems with your system, everything stops. You’ll need a
separate maintenance contract to make sure you’ll be able to flush your
Lower lying homes will pay
more for hookup because this is a low pressure system and needs an
electrical pumping system in order to work.
Because this is a low
pressure, small diameter pipe system, what happens to properties if
there’s a backup in the pipe?
There seems to be only
benefits to the business community. Why should residences pay for and
Cost of restoration of your
property after it’s all dug up is your responsibility, but it’s
financeable, currently at 1.5% from the Village. There’s no telling what
the finance rate will be when they actually get around to doing this. If
the Village, meaning the residents of the Village, are financing this,
what happens if there’s a default on the loan? Everyone in the Village
would pay for the loss, not just those in the sewer district.
What would another Sandy do to
What alternatives has the
Village Board looked into? What about Pine Barrens Tax Credits?
If you try to sell your home,
do you have to tell the buyer about the coming sewer system costs?
The Board has no idea of how
Phase Two for the sewer district will impact Phase One. There’s no
Master Plan that we’re implementing one step at a time. They’re starting
with Phase One and they’ll worry about the other Phases when they get to
Are landlords going to raise
the rents for shop owners to pay for this new system? How will that
impact which shops will stay and which will leave Main Street?
Patchogue will get a huge
payment from Bellport Village each year.
Where did the $30k for H2M
come from? Was it in the budget?
Landlords and residents will
ultimately vote. Shop owners will have no say.
Can the 51% of the vote to
approve the sewer system be increased to 80% or 90%?
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