A new sewage treatment system may be installed at a public restroom at the edge of Herrick Park in East Hampton Village using money from the community preservation fund, which should give both environmentalists and good government observers pause.
In recommending the Herrick Park site, a town advisory committee considered the ease and timing of installation, among other criteria. Also getting the committee’s support were a public restroom at West Lake Drive in Montauk (okay) and one at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor (questionable). Not making the cut were restrooms at Fresh Pond in Amagansett, which Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc had noted are suspected as a known health risk at that public bathing beach. Officials now seem ready to fast-track the “highly visible” Herrick Park work by withdrawing about $132,000 from the preservation fund before the end of the year.
Improving wastewater treatment at busy village bathrooms is a good idea and officials are also right to be concerned about groundwater and waterways. But tapping the townwide community preservation fund for a low-priority site — at a time when C.P.F. revenue is sharply declining — should not have been seriously considered. Moreover, East Hampton Village is on very solid financial footing and could afford to pay for the project itself while getting a great ribbon-cutting photo-op without taking money away from legitimate preservation objectives.
When the proposal to use the community preservation fund for water quality work was first floated, we opposed it, fearing mission creep and that it would take money away from other important objectives, such as critical watershed land purchases. Based on this round of funding recommendations, our worries were correct. Visibility and ease should rank at the bottom when deciding how crucial public money is spent.