Doctor Was Approved for Town's Septic Rebate but Later Told He's Ineligible, After I/A System Was Installed - 27 East

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Doctor Was Approved for Town's Septic Rebate but Later Told He's Ineligible, After I/A System Was Installed

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Jay Hawkins learned he was ineligible for a septic rebate grant only after his application was approved and he obtained a loan based the assumption the grant was forthcoming.

Jay Hawkins learned he was ineligible for a septic rebate grant only after his application was approved and he obtained a loan based the assumption the grant was forthcoming.

Brendan J. O’Reilly on May 11, 2023

A doctor who had a house built for himself on vacant land in Water Mill was approved for a $20,000 rebate from Southampton Town for half the cost of an advanced septic system on the property, but when he turned in his receipts to be reimbursed, he was told that he was, in fact, not eligible.

Dr. Jay Hawkins learned that the town’s rebates for innovative/alternative septic systems are reserved for the replacement of existing septic systems. Because his system was installed for new construction, he will not receive the grant — even though his grant application was approved and extended multiple times without raising any red flags.

He now finds himself in a tough spot and with no recourse.

Hawkins is a medical doctor who did his residency at Stony Brook Hospital. He now works for the health insurance company Fidelis and CityMD urgent care, working in both New York City and Riverhead.

“I bought a piece of land back in 2019, and then I built the house on the land,” he explained. “Well, the house took an extended amount of time to build because of COVID and construction restrictions on Long Island and stuff like that.”

He said he originally received approval from the town for a septic grant in 2020, and each year since, the town renewed its approval. Then, this January, he turned in his receipts to be reimbursed.

“That’s when I was told they made a mistake all three years in row,” he recalled. “I’m not approved for this because it’s new construction — and the approval does not apply toward the new construction.”

He went on the town website to review the application form he had filled out, but he found a new form in its place. The new form noted that new construction is excluded. When he compared the new form to the version he had filled out in prior years, he found the old form never noted such an exclusion. “It never said that before,” he said.

Hawkins said he asked town officials what he should do and told them he already had a loan for the construction at a certain amount and his builder wants to be paid. He said officials suggested he take out a new loan, but he doesn’t see why, with interest rates 3 percent higher than they had been, he should have to refinance because of a mistake the town made.

The grant was for up to $20,000 to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of a septic system. He planned to pay the other half, but not the whole cost of the I/A system, which was required.

“The reason I qualified for the program is because I made below a certain income level,” Hawkins said. “I’m not some rich financier person or whatever, trying to build some mansion or something. It’s a small home, and I qualified financially by showing my tax returns for this program, and now they’re just saying, ‘Well, too bad.’”

He said he was told that even though the town had made an error in approving his application, the town, as a municipality, is allowed to make mistakes and cannot be forced to pay out the rebate.

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