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Grants for septics could be in works; new board working on details to offset costs


There’s promising news in the way of grants for Islanders whose aged septic tanks need replacement.

The newly established Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board, at its June 1 meeting, was leaning toward awarding grants to offset the cost to residents of updating their septic systems. But before funds can leave town coffers, the board has to determine how and when the grants would be given. Members also must establish a way to ensure that after new systems are installed, they are properly maintained by homeowners.

The money for the grants comes from the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) that collects a 2 percent tax from new home buyers to buy and preserve open space. But in line with a resolution approved by voters last November, up to 20 percent of those revenues could be allocated for projects to improve water quality.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty estimated that $440,000 could be allocated for specific water quality projects from CPF revenues that came in last year.

What appears likely, from the discussion at the meeting, is that a sliding scale based on income would be established to determine the size of individual grants. The septic systems are estimated to cost $15,000 to $17,500 and prices are expected to drop, Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. told the committee.

One hurdle the board faces is how to ensure installation is properly completed and how to discover that those receiving grants are maintaining the new systems year to year, said Town Attorney Laury Dowd.

Ms. Dowd suggested hiring a professional sanitarian to handle that job, but questioned whether CPF money could be used for such a hire or it would fall on the Town Board to come up with the money for inspections.

The board needs to determine whether grants should go to those with entirely new construction who generally put in updated septic systems, or just to those with established aged systems in need of replacement. Would grants go to those required by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to upgrade systems because of an addition to a house or just to those who are replacing more than 50 percent of their existing property?

All of that has to be worked out between the board and the Town Board, Ms. Dowd said.

“You have to decide what is within your scope and what isn’t within your scope,” the attorney advised.

Mr. Card told the board he is focused on three projects — installation of the new septic system at Wades Beach, work at Crescent Beach and the possibility of improved septics in the Bridge Street area.

The board’s next meeting is Thursday, June 15 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.