When the Huntington Town Board convenes remotely Thursday night, the scheduled vote on the proposed settlement of the tax assessment on the Northport power plant will bring to a head a years-long battle that turned uglier as the finale neared.
In recent weeks, community debate surrounding the settlement devolved into highly personal attacks, with accusations of lying, flipflopping, secretly working in league with LIPA, suspicion that the children of certain figures had bought up all the copies of a weekly newspaper to limit the reach of a story, accusations of possible violations of federal law, ignorance or misrepresentation of legal issues and more.
When Paul Darrigo, who founded the group Concerned Taxpayers Against LIPA, expressed his support for the proposed deal, some who continued to oppose a settlement attempted to bully him, he said, by making allegations about CTAL’s fundraising efforts, suggesting they were politically motivated and ran afoul of regulations in his industry, and by trying to tie him to LIPA through a bank he worked for almost 8 years ago that also business with tdid hem. He completely denies those allegations.
Others questioned whether the correct amount of property taxes had been paid by various figures in the lengthy fight, argued over the math of the tax impact, property assessments, the viability of fossil-fuel power plants, school district spending and over legal minutiae as if arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Leading voices in opposition to settlement, including Town Councilman Gene Cook and 12th Assembly District candidate Michael Marcantonio, argued along several legal avenues, with the former proposing that the town take over the plant by eminent domain, and Marcantoniio laying out reasons that he believed Suffolk County, not Huntington, would have to front the money owed if back taxes were owed.
After years in court and in mediation, and as a LIPA-imposed deadline to agree to a settlement neared, the Northport-East Northport school board voted, 6-1, in July to accept a deal that will reduce annual taxes on the Northport plant from $86 million to $46 million over seven years. School board president David Badanes was the only vote against the settlement, though vice president Allison Noonan later changed her vote to no.
And Town Board members, including Cook, Joan Cergol, Ed Smyth and Mark Cuthbertson, are feeling the heat as partisans on both sides of the fight prod others to contact them to vote the way they want.
The 8 p.m. Town Board meeting to vote on the settlement will be preceded by a 6 p.m. public forum. Both will be conducted remotely.
The virtual public forum will live-stream on TV Channels Optimum 18 and FIOS 38 and online at huntingtonny.gov/featured-programs
Residents can sign up to speak and participate from home.
After the forum, watch the Town Board meeting at Optimum 18, FIOS 38 or at huntingtonny.gov/meetings