Transparency requested on LIPA settlement

Legislators, mayor are left in the dark


Residents and at least one Nassau County official are calling on County Executive Bruce Blakeman to provide more details on the settlement of the Long Island Power Authority’s longstanding lawsuit against the county.

“A deal is imminent,” Chris Boyle, the county executive’s communications officer, said in a statement.

LIPA asserts that the county has been over-assessing its plant in Glenwood Landing. It is calling for substantial refunds in addition to a reduction of $21.5 million in its taxes over the next seven years.

That could mean an increase in property taxes for Nassau residents — and an especially hard hit for those who live in the North Shore School District, because the taxes LIPA pays on the Glenwood Landing plant help fund district budgets.

The district’s interim superintendent, Dr. Thomas Dolan, and Board of Education president David Ludmar both declined to comment on the case. They did, however, release a joint statement indicating that they had not seen the settlement agreement, but were looking forward to reviewing it.

As litigation that has dragged on for years apparently nears an end, what has many residents concerned is the lack of information on the settlement coming from Blakeman’s office. “It’s the lack of transparency has a lot of people worried, 100 percent,” County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said. “What happens in the settlement is going to have a major effect on many different areas.”

DeRiggi-Whitton, a Glen Cove resident, is serving her third term as a legislator. She wrote a letter to the editor of the Herald calling on Blakeman to divulge the details of the settlement (see Page 18).

Sea Cliff Mayor Elena Villafane said that in these difficult economic times, many village and school boards are attempting to balance their budgets. According to Villafane, who wrote a similar letter to Blakeman on March 17, it is essential for these organizations to understand the settlement’s details.

“It’s very difficult for anyone to plan against immediate problems,” Villafane said, “especially in this current climate, with inflation being what it is … it’s something you have to be incredibly mindful of when crafting a budget.”

Bruce Kennedy, Sea Cliff’s village administrator and a former mayor, agreed that Blakeman’s lack of transparency is a major problem. He also emphasized that the tax increases citizens may face would be serious.

“A refund from the county [to LIPA] is very significant,” Kennedy said. “Especially since 70 percent of the county’s revenue goes to school districts, this can be devastating.”

In addition, according to DeRiggi-Whitton, the county’s current contract with the Glenwood Landing plant is seriously flawed, because LIPA isn’t financially responsible for environmental issues. “If there’s a clean up, it’s the residents who’ll be responsible for that,” DeRiggi-Whitton explained.

Agatha Nadler, a Glen Head resident and a founder of the activist group North Shore Concerned Citizens, is also concerned about the county’s lack of transparency. Nadler said she was also worried that LIPA might become a private company, rather than remaining a hybrid public-private enterprise.

“The community can literally be held hostage by these private partnerships,” Nadler said. “They have very little accountability to the public.”

On March 8, Blakeman dispatched county administrators to explain the settlement’s progress to legislators. According to DeRiggi-Whitton, the administrators were unable or unwilling to answer virtually any of the legislators’ questions. “To me it shows a lack of courtesy,” DeRiggi-Whitton said, “to the Legislature and the county.”