Trap & Skeet not bringing enough in
Budget analysis to Parks & Recreation Committee reveals moneypit
THE LONG ISLAND ADVANCE
April 28, 2011

By LINDA LEUZZI

According to a presentation made by Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) to the Parks and Recreation Committee last Wednesday, a budget analysis of the county’s Southaven Park Trap and Skeet facility in South Yaphank, the county has spent $766,374 plus $276,788 in interest on serial bonds for improvements to the facility, totaling $1,033,162. That figure includes environmental and acoustic studies, a large lead cleanup, firing stands, wiring, trenchfooting, insulation of vinyl fencing, two-story bunkers, lighting and electrical upgrades.

Vendor expenses from Mark Wroobel, who owns Hunter Sports, have tallied in at $252,744. Wroobel officially opened in July, 2006. Since it opened, the county has received an average of $46,069 annually from Wroobel, who, according to the report has made $2,230,795 of which he gets a 92 percent revenue share; the county gets 8 percent. “The vendor spent $239,704 in 2006 in infrastructure improvements to open the range,” said Browning aide Josh Slaughter. “In addition, he was supposed to come up with an environmental stewardship plan. That took place last year. It was $15,000, and he had to do an air quality monitoring program, that cost him $8,000. In the end he was supposed to pay $15,000 for the stewardship plan but they allowed $10,000 of his vendor fee to be absorbed in that plan.”

Also, Slaughter pointed out, there is no charge to those non-Suffolk County residents who use the range. County officials were asked about the disparity in their investment, especially since the John J. Foley Nursing Home was such a fiscal target. “She mischaracterized how the operation affects the financial impact on the county revenue,” said Deputy County Executive for Finance and Administration Eric Naughton. “The annual debt service from our investment is roughly $40,000 a year and the revenue we bring in is approximately $46,000. Therefore the revenue is exceeding our expenses.” Naughton said the county had no comment on how much revenue the vendor was making. “The county gets a percentage of the gross revenue. He pays on time and we’re happy with that.” Naughton said there was no mention of how much money the vendor has spent.

Browning has been requesting the vendor’s operating costs for the last six months from the Parks Department, Naughton was told. “She should have reached out to us and we would have tried to help her before she did the report,” Naughton said. When Naughton was asked if he had any corrections to the other figures cited, he answered, “no.” Browning has said the presentation was made to bring attention to the fact that the range isn’t benefiting the county financially; the county opted out of the Foley Nursing Home for just that reason.

Brookhaven Town Assessor Jim Ryan spoke on behalf of the community. “He estimates the area is losing between $60,000-$70,000 a year in property taxes,” Slaughter said. “Since 2006, that’s a lot of money the school districts, fire departments and ambulance companies are losing.”

The presentation was made to Legislators Lynne Nowack, who chairs the committee, Wayne Horsley, Tom Barraga, Rick Montano and Steve Stern. “We got this information from the county’s budget review office and that office works with his office,” Browning said of Naughton. “Our budget review office works with his office. In revenues from 2006 to the present it shows that our revenues average $46,000. However we have debt service and our revenue is paying that debt service. While he’s saying that’s our revenue, yes that’s our revenue, but we have to pay our bills. We’ve asked the parks department for the vendor’s operating costs and the commissioner has not passed that information for six months. I don’t understand why I have to call the county executive’s office.”

Browning said she had also asked for other information; for example how much a Cashin environmental report cost the county as well as costs for a 2002 acoustics evaluation. “Give us the information so we can do a better job,” she said. What the county executive is going to do and what the committee will do depends on Wroobel’s charges and if he’s found guilty, Browning said. Wroobel was among nine gun shop owners in Nassau County arrested in February for allegedly selling illegal assault weapons after a 10- month probe. Out of 16 assault weapons purchased by undercover police, two came from Wroobel’s shop, Hunter Sports in Massapequa. Wroobel, who pled not guilty, was released on his own recognizance and the case is under investigation.

“They talk about a financial crisis,” Browning said. “We have nursing home with sick and infirm people and some have no family. What are we doing? Where are our priorities? The gun range is just not making the money they thought it would make and the reality is what’s good for the county.”