(Hauppauge, NY-May 23, 2012) Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced he will introduce a resolution along with a majority of the Suffolk County Legislature to restore 11 water quality positions in the Department of Health Services and reduce the county's operating fund deficit by $1 million through the end of 2013. The resolution will restore 11 positions related to water quality, including a Well Driller, Hydro-geologist, two Public Health Sanitarians and two Public Health Sanitarian Trainees. It will fund those 11 positions as well as six additional water quality staff out of a dedicated quarter-percent county sales tax, known as Fund 477. Because the water quality fund began the year with a $4.5 million balance, there is room to fund these positions for 18 months, provide relief to the operating budget and still be able to fund water quality capital projects. The dedicated quarter-percent Fund 477 is separate from the operating budget which faces an approximately $300 million deficit through the end of 2013.
"I am pleased we found a solution to enhance water quality and protect taxpayer dollars by reducing the deficit," County Executive Bellone said. "I appreciate the support of environmental leaders and legislators who understand that Suffolk County has to make difficult choices and thank them for their willingness to work together."
“Clean water is vital to the health and safety of our families,” Legislator Kara Hahn, Chairwoman of the Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee said. “It is refreshing to have a County Executive like Steve Bellone who is willing to work cooperatively behind the scenes to compromise and find workable solutions.”
“As Chair of the Legislature’s Health Committee, I am pleased that by working together we have been able to preserve these vital positions which are crucial for protecting public health and our water,” stated Legislator William Spencer. “I believe we can be fiscally responsible while providing public health services in an efficient manner and keeping our environment safe.”
“By working together to restore these critical positions, we are able to preserve one of the core missions of county government,” Legislator Ed Romaine said. “Protecting public health and ensuring our groundwater is safe are part of our fundamental responsibilities. We simply cannot afford to turn our backs on the environment and allow toxic plumes and other contamination to go unchecked. I want to thank County Executive Bellone for recognizing the importance of these functions and joining me in their restoration.”
The plan has the support of the majority of the Suffolk County Legislature: Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley, Majority Leader DuWayne Gregory and Legislators Ed Romaine, Jay Schneiderman, Kate Browning, Kara Hahn Sarah Anker, Rob Calarco, Steve Stern, Lou D’Amaro, William Spencer. It also has the support of leading environmental leaders including Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Long Island Pine Barrens Society, The Nature Conservancy of Long Island and Group for the East End.
“In hard economic times, tough choices are made. We are ecstatic that County Executive Bellone made the right choice to save Suffolk County’s drinking water protection program. This is what Long Islanders need, deserve and want. Protecting drinking water is smart, necessary investment for today and for future generations. Protecting drinking water protects our quality of life and our rivers, bays and estuaries. It is an essential component of why we love Long Island. We are thrilled the county is restoring this critical program,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
“Public health and safety is Job Number One for government. The restoration of these public health positions demonstrates that the Bellone Administration understands this critical need and is being selective with respect to county employees being laid off,” said Richard Amper, Executive Director, Long Island Pine Barrens Society
“Water resources in Suffolk County are essential to our region’s ecological health and economic well-being. We now know that excess inputs of nitrogen pollution from a variety of sources threaten our groundwater and surface water safety. Fixing these problems requires dedicated staff and the full attention of the County government. Restoration of these positions keeps Suffolk County on track to continue its landmark work in water quality protection. We applaud Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and the County legislature for finding a creative solution to this critical staffing challenge,” said Kevin McDonald, Public Lands Program Director, The Nature Conservancy on Long Island
"Water quality protection and restoration are the dominant environmental issues facing the region for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, without the adequate staffing of key clean water positions, Suffolk County simply cannot address these complex issues a meaningful way, and the health of our bays, harbors and drinking water will continue to spiral downward. The County Executive's proposed restoration of nearly 20 key environmental and clean water positions is critically important, and makes it clear that environmental protection remains a priority for Suffolk County even in tough economic times,” said Robert DeLuca, President, Group for the East End.