Wyandanch, NY – A new law introduced by Legislator Jason Richberg waiving sewer connection fees for financially stressed public school districts with failing on-site sewage systems was approved by the Suffolk County Legislature at its general meeting on December 15.
IR1867-2020 amends chapter 740 of the Suffolk County Code to waive sewer hookup fees for school districts that are under a state fiscal monitor. Under the amendment, the Martin Luther King Jr. and Lafrancis Hardiman elementary schools in Wyandanch, as well as the nearby administration building and bus depot, will be able to connect to the county’s Southwest Sewer District. Aging cesspools and septic systems at those locations have become an issue in recent years, with heavy rains and rapid snow melt overwhelming the septic systems and causing sewage backups through floor drains in bathrooms. An area between MLK Elementary and Lafrancis Hardiman Elementary that was used as a playground was closed due to sewage leaking through the ground and up onto the field.
“This is not just a financial issue, this is a public health issue,” said Legislator Richberg. “Studies have shown that the absence of adequate sewer service in the County is a leading factor in negative environmental issues. Allowing a distressed school district like Wyandanch the opportunity to hook up to sewers without placing a burden on the district’s taxpayers will give them a boost towards becoming the district we all know they can. Over the past year under new leadership and with the assistance of a fiscal monitor, I’ve seen Wyandanch improve exponentially, and I am confident this legislation will help the district continue on that path.”
In recent years, the Suffolk County Legislature has authorized numerous sewer studies, designs and construction appropriations to expand sewer service to unsewered or inadequately sewered parts of the county. Typically, the one-time connection fee for out-of-district connections to Suffolk County Sewer Districts is $30 per gallon of sewage per day, which represents a purchase of capacity based on both hydraulics and loading criteria. Any waiver or reduction of this fee requires the enactment of a local law.
“The cesspool situation at the Wyandanch School District needs to be addressed as quickly as possible,” said New York State Senator John E. Brooks. “I applaud Legislator Jason Richberg and the rest of the Suffolk County Legislature for enabling this much-needed project to move forward without any additional financial burden. Waiving the sewer connection fees for the Wyandanch School District is the best way the county can ensure the project is completed as quickly and efficiently as possible, and that the children of Wyandanch have a safe and reliable plumbing situation at their schools.”
Wyandanch is currently the only school district in the county under a state monitor, and its estimated fees for hooking up are $531,240. The district’s state permit to connect to the system was set to expire in 2019. Their new permit expires in October of 2021.
“Working in conjunction with state and local officials, the Wyandanch School District has made tremendous progress in supporting and addressing the needs of its schoolchildren and families, and ensuring the District can connect to the Suffolk County Sewer System is a crucial next step in continuing to move Wyandanch forward,” said New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre. “I thank Legislator Richberg for his leadership on this critical issue as well as the Suffolk County Legislature for ensuring its passage.”
"As a State Senator representing a large part of Wyandanch, I know the vital importance of Suffolk County waiving the sewer connection fees for this financially stressed school district,” said New York State Senator Phil Boyle. “For the students of Wyandanch, allowing these schools to connect to the sewer system and ending the reliance on old cesspools is a matter of health and safety."
“On behalf of the Wyandanch School District and community, I would like to express our appreciation to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Legislator Jason Richberg, the Suffolk County legislators, Western Suffolk BOCES Chief Operating Officer Michael Flynn, and Laurie Farber of Earth Rangers of Wyandanch for all of their efforts on our behalf,” said Wyandanch Superintendent Dr. Gina Talbert. “Their efforts will allow us to continue to improve our schools and provide a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff.”
“We are all very appreciative of the support the Suffolk County Legislature and County Executive Steve Bellone and his staff have shown the Wyandanch School District community,” said Western Suffolk BOCES Chief Operating Officer Michael Flynn. “This resolution will allow the school district to move forward with much needed health and safety improvements which will ensure the well-being of the children who attend the Wyandanch schools.”
“The Wyandanch Union Free School District is grateful for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the Suffolk County Legislature’s actions to waive the sewer connection fee,” said James Crawford, Wyandanch School Board President. “We are grateful for the efforts of Legislator Jason Richberg to champion this endeavor on our behalf. We would like to give a heart-felt thank you to all that have been involved in this process to have our sewer connection fee waived.”