Home and business owners whose property was damaged or destroyed during Superstorm Sandy will not pay application or permit fees to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, officials announced on Monday.
County Executive Steve Bellone and Health Commissioner Dr. James Tomarken said the fee waiver will save business owners across Suffolk thousands in out-of-pocket expenses as they wait for payment from insurance companies to cover storm related damages. The health services department is also streamlining its review process in order to approve applications within three to five days.
"We have to expedite and do everything we can to help businesses to get back online as quickly as possible," Bellone said. "So many residents and businesses have costs that go well beyond what they may be receiving in insurance payouts or from FEMA, so the fee waivers, we need to do that."
Without the waiver, local business owners such as Thomas Morse, who runs the Lighthouse Restaurant in Lindenhurst, would have to pay upwards of $5,000 for Wastewater Management and commercial construction application fees. Pollution Control plan review fees, which can run up to $770 and the Board of Review fee, which is typically $900, will also be waived.
"The Health Department waiving all these fees, for companies like me, it’s a lot," Morse said. "To get up and running, it's a lot of money to get it going. To save some money right up front and get the paperwork going, there’s no words for that, it’s something I can’t describe. It’s what we need."
In addition to the fee waivers, the Town of Babylon Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is excluding sales tax on materials that business owners are buying during the rebuilding process.
When the storm hit, the Lighthouse restaurant had about 2-feet of water in it, which caused the floors to buckle, fried the electrical and the refrigeration systems, and destroyed the walls and furniture. The rebuilding process will cost Morse hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. The cost is especially burdensome, as the financing is coming out-of-pocket until insurance money is received.
"The IDA sent us all the paperwork for the sales tax for when we buy any materials to try to put this place together," Morse said. "That money adds up when you start buying thousands and thousands of dollars worth of materials. We’re basically using our own money to get things up and running."
The Lighthouse Restaurant is expected to reopen in about a month, Morse said.
"Everybody around this neighborhood has helped. People have come to my door that I don’t even know and asked to help clean up. To me, that is the most wonderful feeling that you can get from a community. I want to do my part to get up and running so we can help them," the restaurateur said.
Bellone said that local building departments will primarily determine the need for approval of plans for replacement of sewage disposal systems, and that referrals from local building departments will be given special priority.
"Helping people like Tom to get his business back online means that we’re getting our economy back up and running and that is critical for our future," Bellone said.
Applicants who wish to make an appointment with technical staff to discuss their situation may call the Office of Wastewater Management at 631-852-5700 and the Office of Pollution Control at 631-854-2501.