If Riverhead Town Board members don’t agree on much, they at least agrees on this: The town needs a new location for its justice court.
But how to construct it, or where to put it, or how much the town should spend on it have remained topics of constant conversation at Town Hall in recent few months — with little, if any, common ground being established.
Supervisor Sean Walter hopes to put those concerns to rest today, Thursday, when board members are scheduled to hear a presentation by Cashin Associates and EGA Architects, two firms under contract with the town to draw up a plan and analysis for converting the vacant Route 58 armory into a justice court and police station. But, based on interviews with town officials over the past two weeks, it would be surprising to see the Town Board reach quick agreement on how, exactly, to move forward with any plan the consultants may present.
The $11.3 million price tag for the armory project,released two months ago, has some members of the all-Republican Town Board recoiling with sticker shock. Alternate plans have since been pitched by each council person, though none had any cost estimates in hand. Cashin’s presentation today will be the only plan the town has in writing — aside from the consultant’s $22 million estimate for building a completely new justice court and new police station, which doesn’t include the cost of the land.
In a town where developers have made plenty of headlines all on their own in recent years — from those eyeing Route 58 to suitors at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to businesspeople looking to change the landscape of downtown Riverhead — town leaders now find themselves in the interesting position of playing developer themselves as they seek a new space for the outdated justice court.
There are other lingering concerns as well, such as what to do with the little-used Henry Pfeifer building and worry that there is already more space available for town services than is needed.
In addition to Town Hall and the justice court/police station building, Riverhead Town owns several buildings that have been at the heart of an ongoing debate about what town resources to place where.
• The East Lawn Building, also known as 542 East Main St., was built over 160 years ago. Located just east of the aquarium, it currently houses the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, the Community Awareness Program, the town historian’s office and the Riverhead Housing Development Corporation.
• New York State deeded the armory to Riverhead Town in 2011 and the 5.7-acre lot on Route 58 has been vacant ever since. The state had acquired the building from Riverhead in the early 1950s with the stipulation that if it ever stopped being used as an armory, the town could get it back.
• Riverhead Town acquired the Second Street firehouse in 2011 through a land swap with the Riverhead Fire District for a parcel that abuts the armory property.
• Town Hall West, on Pulaski Street, was purchased for $2.8 million in 2009 and currently houses the town’s accounting, engineering and personnel departments