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Water issues on Town Board’s agenda; work session looks at West Neck, septic grants

An official with the West Neck Water District told the Town Board at its Tuesday work session that the district has to drill a new well since one of its public wells has non-potable water.

Councilman Jim Colligan agreed it was urgent, saying, “This well was needed yesterday.”

Engineer Bob Holzmocher outlined a plan to drill on the grounds of the Shelter Island Country Club’s golf course. The application is to drill a single pipe to the aquifer 80 feet below and run another pipe from that to a shed, similar to a garden shed, in the rough of the course. There, the quality and quantity of the water would be monitored and, if it passes muster, the shed would then house meters, valves and electrical equipment.

The board appeared to be unanimous in granting the application.

The subject of water continued before the board with Greg Toner, chairman of the Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board (WQI), discussing new plans to change and clarify the criteria of granting funds to homeowners installing nitrogen-reducing Innovative Alternative (I/A) septic systems.

The WQI was created after the state allowed some funds collected through the Community Preservation Fund to be used for water protection programs. The CPF imposes a 2% tax buyers pay when purchasing East End properties and is used to purchase open space for preservation. Subsequent legislation was passed allowing 20% of the preservation fund money to go to improving water quality. After the legislation was passed, each East End town had to set up committees to discuss how they would use the water protection funds. On the Island, the WQI was created and began granting money to homeowners to replace aged septic systems with nitrogen-reducing ones.

But board members have in past months discussed the idea that water protection funds should not just be for septic systems, and charged the WQI to come up with a criteria to grant funds to install them.

The discussion Tuesday focused on the fact that the purpose of the grants is to offer incentives to put in the state-of-the-art systems. But some I/A systems are mandated, such as for new construction or major re-construction, and board members said that granting money in those cases had nothing to do with incentives, and so those property owners should be ineligible,

Other criteria was laid out to give priority to certain locations, such as the Center, described as “a hot ozone” of soaring nitrate levels. Other criteria for grant money would take into account a homeowner’s income.

The board decided to look at a document outlining the WQI’s plans and return to the issue for further discussion.

In other business: Funding for creating a Comprehensive Plan was on the agenda. The total cost of consultants’ fees and other expenses could be as high as $150,000 over a period of a year. But seed money is needed by August, according to Councilman Mike Bebon, to roll out a Request For Proposals and show prospective consultants that the town is serious.

A municipality’s Comprehensive Plan dictates policy on multiple fronts, including development, land use, transportation and housing.

Supervisor Siller said he could “find” $25,000 to $30,000, and Mr. Bebon thought that would be enough to start. But the rest will have to be budgeted for next year. Councilman Albert Dickson noted that, “None of us is looking forward to the budget season,” which takes place in late summer and early fall. But, he added, “it’s critical to maintain momentum” on getting the Comprehensive Plan off the ground.