Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone warned LIPA boss Tom Falcone on Wednesday of the dire consequences for Huntington if the utility insists on settling its tax case during the coronavirus epidemic.
“It is disheartening to hear that LIPA has declined requests,” Bellone wrote, to delay the case, which has been in court and mediation talks for more than 10 years.
“Now is not the time, in the midst of the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 virus, to slam the door shut on reaching a fair and equitable solution,” Bellone said.
“A harsh result in the courts could result in chaos and fiscal ruin,” Bellone warned, citing the extreme financial impact of the economic shutdown related to the epidemic.
Paul Darrigo, who has been leading rallies and other efforts against LIPA, announced the Bellone letter during an anti-LIPA protest Wednesday night in Northport. The Northport school district would be particularly hard hit if the utility wins its demand to drastically reduce the taxes on the Northport power plant but taxpayers throughout Huntington would be affected. Darrigo and others who spoke, including State Sen. Jim Gaughran and Town Councilman Edmund Smyth, who is running against Gaughran, both spoke against LIPA’s demands.
LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan issued a statement Wednesday night that read, ““In the wake of Coronavirus, LIPA is more focused than ever on keeping electric bills affordable while continuing to invest in a clean, reliable electric grid. That is why we have offered a fair settlement that provides $440 million in tax payments over the next seven years, allowing Northport residents to continue pay lower taxes than their neighbors, even while the power plant plummets in usage and value each year. After 10 years of delay, Long Islanders who have been have been paying the bill deserve either a fair settlement or a verdict.”
Michael Marcantonio, who is an anti-LIPA activist and candidate for the State Assembly, said, ““This disgraceful ultimatum demanding that we accept an undisclosed, top-secret settlement offer by July 10th is LIPA’s latest tactic in its decade-long campaign of coercion, deceit and intimidation against the good people of Huntington. The fact that in this midst of a global pandemic—one that has hit Long Island harder than almost anywhere else in the country—this predatory government agency has chosen to persist with this reckless lawsuit tells you everything you need to know about who LIPA truly works for, and it’s not us. Let me be clear: we will never submit to LIPA’s demands, will never accept a settlement, and have only just begun to fight.”
Rumors have swirled that LIPA has demanded that their demand to lower their taxes be accepted by July 10. The Northport school board and the Huntington Town Board met in a joint executive session via Zoom to discuss the litigation but no information has been forthcoming.