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KP Mayor And Trustees Address Civic Association Questions

Review of budget, ambulance, plume from ExxonMobil, parkland lawsuit

While last year’s Village of Kings Point budget, with over a 9 percent rise in expenditures, prompted a packed house and rambunctious tone at a civic association meeting, this year’s meeting drew fewer, less vocal and upset residents. Mayor Michael Kalnick assured the attendees that every effort has been made to trim the budget as much as possible which has resulted in a total budget of $15,072,650 for the 2012-2013 year. After subtracting the village’s revenues and cash surplus from last year’s budget, the amount to be raised by taxation is $13,496,384 which is $263,000 more than last year’s amount.

Civic Association President Marsha Rotman announced that since there will be a contested election for the position of mayor and trustee, the association will host and the League of Women Voters will conduct a Meet the Candidates night on Monday, June 11 at 7 p.m. at JFK Elementary School. She emphasized that the association is nonpartisan and is only concerned with making sure that voters are informed about the issues.

Kalnick reviewed a matter of concern, the plume of MTBE which has entered the upper glacial aquifer, the level not pumped for drinking water. This contaminant, methyl-t-butyl ether, emanated from a leak at the ExxonMobil station on the corner of Steamboat and Middle Neck Roads. It is traveling underground in a north, northwesterly direction at a rate of about a foot a day. Superintendent of the Great Neck Water Authority of Great Neck North Gregory Graziano explained that the situation is being closely monitored by the authority and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and there is no imminent threat to the drinking water supply wells. Kalnick, who also serves as chairman of the authority, added that if there is ever a need to remove MTBE from a drinking water well, ExxonMobil is the responsible party and will cover all costs.

The Long Island Power Authority is also in the process of dealing with power outages by trimming trees that interfere with power lines and laying underground cable in village streets. LIPA is bearing that cost.

The largest portion of the budget is spent on the police department, 42 percent. Debt service is 17 percent of the budget; fire and ambulance services, 11 percent; public works, 10 percent; administration, 8 percent; garbage collection and tree removal, 5 percent. The categories of the building department, professional services and maintenance are each 2 percent of the budget and the court is 1 percent.

In discussing budgetary items, Kalnick noted that Kings Point, along with two other villages, were looking into the ambulance service offered by North Shore Hospital. When the Record asked if North Shore was promising dedicated ambulances for the peninsula, the mayor replied, “That is being negotiated.” Attendees left the meeting with the impression that serious talks were underway. The next day, Kalnick clarified in a phone call that the village is simply gathering and reviewing written information about North Shore’s ambulance service and that the board has not made any decisions at this point. The village has signed the contract with the Vigilants ambulance service for this coming year.

If one village chose to withdraw from the volunteer ambulance service, it would cause the collapse of the system since the other villages would have to bear a larger share of the cost. Kings Point’s share is $195,000.

Kalnick announced that while the village will continue to repair streets, the capital improvements program will be halted for now. Trustee Sheldon Kwiat interjected that the village has a AAA bond rating which makes their interest rates lower.

There was a lengthy discussion about the outside forces that drive the budget and the problems of unfunded mandates passed down by the state to local units of government. The mayor assured the residents that concerted efforts are being made to stem the tide and to look for innovative ways to cut costs. He mentioned that various villages are exploring the idea of forming a refuse collection district which would consolidate and cut costs for garbage pick-ups. Such a move would require that villages agree on levels of service, such as curbside or backdoor pick-ups and the frequency of service.

Another major point of discussion was the lawsuit that is still in play regarding the village’s plan to construct a maintenance building on a parcel of land in Kings Point Park that had been used by the village for storing highway equipment for over 70 years. Neighbors in the Village of Great Neck that border the land brought a lawsuit to halt the plan in 2009. It was their contention that the erection of the building would violate the Public Trust Doctrine, which states that once land has been acquired as parkland, it cannot be used for anything else without the specific and explicit approval of the New York State Legislature. The New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and the case is on its way to the Court of Appeals. The mayor said, “The ruling was that we would have to remove the current structures from the site...we had to fight it.” Further, he added that the title insurance company has been paying the legal fees to date.

Attorney Steven Limmer said that the village’s deed to the parcel had no restrictions on it. Mayor Kalnick indicated that the state legislature has the right to approve the village’s desire to use the parcel for a maintenance building.

A rumor has circulated that the village paid $95,000 for a computer. According to the mayor, the village is purchasing an interactive, sophisticated computer program that will speed the processing time for building department applications and permits. He said, “We know that time is money.”