The Island Park board of trustees announced on Dec. 14 that it would seek up to $3.4 million in bonds for various village projects, some long-planned.
Village officials voted to pass 15 separate resolutions to embark on what Mayor Michael McGinty described as a “relatively intensive borrowing schedule,” for expenses that include the reconstruction and expansion of Village Hall, the resurfacing of Long Island Rail Road station parking lots and a boatlift for the Fire Department at Masone Beach.
McGinty assured residents that most of the expenditures would be reimbursable, and later told the Herald that he anticipated the village would be responsible for the repayment of around 15 percent, or $517,000, of the bonds. He explained that the timing of the resolutions was in anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s planned raising of interest rates.
Some residents, however, voiced concerns over the proposed borrowing. “I just feel that when times are tough, we should be conserving money,” resident Janet McEntee said. “And it’s unbelievable the amount of money that’s being spent.”
Dominating much of the discussion were multiple bond resolutions for Fire Department equipment, including a proposed three-story training facility. “How much can go into the Fire Department?” McEntee asked.
McGinty said that the training facility was proposed because so many concrete foundations have been raised since Hurricane Sandy, altering firefighting conditions, and because firefighters requested additional training opportunities. Fire Chief James Miotto could not be reached for comment.
Residents also questioned the boatlift. McGinty countered that providing first responders the ability to reach the water quickly was paramount. “Rescue needs to get where they need to be in minutes,” he said. “Not 20 minutes later.”
Deputy Mayor Joseph Annarella echoed the concern, adding that as a 40-year firefighter, traveling to Baldwin or Long Beach to get the department’s inflatable rescue boats into the water took a psychological toll.
“I’ve brought people back from CPR, I’ve lost people with CPR,” he said, becoming emotional. “ … If it saves one person, it’s worth it to me.”
Continuing to run down the list of resolutions, McEntee said she also took issue with one authorizing the bonding of up to $28,000 for computer equipment.
McGinty later told the Herald that while those expenses are probably not reimbursable, he argued that the additional computer systems would increase productivity and save money in the long run.
Among other anticipated expenses are tree replanting, curb and sidewalk improvements, an electric vehicle charging station, Village Hall furniture, bulkhead repair and erosion-prevention infrastructure at the Little Beach, the purchasing of DPW’s garbage truck to make the village eligible for a State Assembly grant, the movement and repurposing of the former Village Hall into archival space, and Department of Public Works equipment, including additional snow removal gear and replacement of Sandy-damaged machinery.
The largest resolution was for a bond of up to $2.1 million for Village Hall reconstruction and flood-proofing. The estimated price, McGinty said, was “in the stratosphere,” but it was necessary to “cover all eventualities.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said, would cover at least part of the expenses through reimbursements.
Nowhere in the resolutions, however, was a provision to address deteriorating road conditions in the village. McEntee, along with other residents, questioned the omission.
With all of the borrowing for other items, she said, “Why are we not able to pave the roads?”
McGinty responded that the repaving of roads was contingent on the completion of a three-part, up to $40 million drainage improvement project administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, with money from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
That project, he said, was entering the engineering phase, but no timeline for completion had been set.
McGinty later acknowledged the risk involved in borrowing. “The administration knows, we know, that we all have to live within our means,” he told the Herald. “Not only do we have guarantees for grants on the table now, but we will continue to aggressively seek funding opportunities to reduce or control property tax impact for residents.”
He added that the village had secured provisions that there would be no penalty for prepayment on the loans saying, “We’re going to get in and get out.”