Despite its being labeled a “Band Aid” approach by one official, the Riverhead Town Board on Tuesday agreed to allocate another $27,000 to fix its long-shuttered skate park at Stotzky Park, which has been closed for more than a year because it’s considered unsafe.
The town had previously allocated $55,000 to fix the skate park in April in hopes of getting it open this summer but later discovered that wouldn’t be enough.
The Town Board received a report on the status of the project at its work session last Thursday.
“I’m upset,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “It was supposed to be open this summer and it’s still not open.”
“The situation is this,” said Ray Coyne, the town’s parks and recreation director. “We got a new assessment and they can’t complete it without more money.”
Mr. Coyne had obtained two estimates for the additional repairs from a New Jersey-based company called Whirl Construction.
For $70,000, the town could replace all the bad panels at the skate park; for $27,000, it could replace only the really bad ones, but that would get the park open before summer ends, he said.
“There are 41 panels there in really bad shape and another 64 panels that are in marginal condition, and will last another year or two,” said assistant town engineer Drew Dillingham.
He estimated the park could be open within a week under the $27,000 plan.
“These parks are falling apart and I don’t have enough money to fix them,” Mr. Coyne said.
At last Thursday’s work session, Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Tim Hubbard were absent, but at a discussion earlier this year, Mr. Walter had told Mr. Coyne that the town cannot bond projects until its bond rating is improved.
At Tuesday’s regular Town Board meeting, Mr. Walter and Mr. Hubbard were present, and Mr. Hubbard opposed the additional $27,000, questioning how the cost could have been so much higher than originally thought.
“Can somebody explain to me how this happened?” Mr. Hubbard asked. “We had approved $55,000 for this park, which is used mostly by out-of-towners. It’s not a money maker. Now, all of a sudden they need another $27,000?”
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio abstained from voting on the motion Tuesday to allocate the $27,000, saying she wanted more information on how the cost had increased. Mr. Hubbard opposed the motion while the remaining three board members voted in favor.
The $55,000 allocated earlier this year came from park and recreation fees that are paid by developers in the subdivision process. The money for the additional fix would have to come from that fund as well, according to Mr. Coyne, who said there is $120,000 left in recreation fees.
He recommended the $27,000 solution because if the board were to spend $70,000 on the skate park, a lot of other recreation projects planned throughout town would be stalled.
Mr. Coyne said the skate park is not among his top priority projects because only one percent of the town’s residents use it, and many people who do use it are from out of town.
“That’s what I’m saying for years,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “We don’t fix our infrastructure as we should. Now everything collapses and it cost us double the money and we have to do it. We can’t wait another two years.”
“So, in two years, the other boards fail, and we have to shut down the whole park?” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked.
“Not exactly, because they will have repaired most of the park,” Mr. Coyne said. He said the panels replaced by the $27,000 should last about 10 years.
“Still, it’s a Band-Aid,” Councilman Jim Wooten said.
Editor’s note: This story was replaced July 21 with an updated version published in the Riverhead News-Review newspaper.