On August 21, Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci was the guest speaker at LIMBA (Long Island Metro Business Action). The main topics included the town’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the proposed settlement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).
Mr. Lupinacci said Huntington Station was a “hotspot” at the time of the pandemic and so he had to make sure the town continued to provide essential services. He was in constant communication with Huntington Hospital for guidance and kept in touch with county officials and the village mayors within the town.
Town Hall closed down after a couple of employees tested positive for the virus. After a few months, after consulting with medical officials, it reopened, but Mr. Lupinacci emphasized it was a slow reopening.
Mr. Lupinacci talked about the precipitous drop in coronavirus cases in the state and on Long Island. However, he said, people should be ready for a second wave of the virus and urged everyone to continue wearing a mask.
He acknowledged that the virus impacted the government’s revenue collection efforts. Because construction projects were put on hold, there was a drop in revenue from building permits. The town also suspended paid parking to boost the local economy, but the town never received any money from the parking meters. The biggest hit, he said, was the sales tax collections. To make up the shortfall, he is implementing a hiring freeze within the town.
Two months ago, in an effort to revitalize the town’s economy, Mr. Lupinacci formed a Small Business Task Force. He worked with local Chambers of Commerce to help restaurants plan for outdoor dining. Indoor dining is also allowed, he said, but only at 50% capacity.
Another effect from the coronavirus was food insecurity. Mr. Lupinacci noted how people have lost their jobs and are unable to buy groceries. He has worked with local nonprofits, churches and religious institutions to get grant money to help those in need. Seniors receive five frozen meals a week. In addition, HART, the town’s bus system, assists in delivering meals to those financially affected by the virus.
Mr. Lupinacci addressed the controversy with LIPA. According to the supervisor, LIPA sued the town claiming the property where the utility’s Northport power plant is located was overassessed. As part of the lawsuit, LIPA sought a 90% reduction of its property taxes. He said a public forum was held on the proposed settlement and another one will take place on September 3.
He also discussed some of the latest developments in Huntington. This include an 80-unit apartment building north of the LIRR station in Huntington Station which, he said, is in the final stages. There is also work on a sewage line south of the train station that runs along the Route 110 corridor and ends at Bergen Point in Babylon Town. Mr. Lupinacci added that he is working to attract local businesses on Route 110, where there is available office space.
During Tropical Storm Isaias, Mr. Lupinacci said, more than 1,200 trees came down and, of the 80,000 residents and businesses who were PSEG customers, half of them lost power. For those people, it took them seven to nine days to get their electricity back. He urged residents and businesses to contact the Public Service Commission and their local state Senator if they had a bad experience with PSEG in getting their power back. If a tree falls on their property, they should call the town, and the town will reach out to the proper agency.