Supervisor seeks developers to ‘volunteer’ their time

Supervisor Sean Walter is hoping local developers will donate their time and services to help rebuild the town’s building department office, which was badly damaged in an April 16 fire.
The town is planning to issue a request for proposals to design the rebuilt one-story structure on Howell Avenue as a two-story structure, but the supervisor is hoping that the actual construction of that building can be donated.
“Maybe we can get some help from some of the local developers that have made their way in this town and see whether they would be willing to volunteer their time, given the circumstances of the budget,” Mr. Walter said, alluding to the town’s estimated budget deficit of more than $5 million.
“The only thing we would be able to offer would be a bronze plaque that says ‘building department constructed by…’ and list the names of these people,” he said at Thursday’s Town Board work session.
The supervisor said he and building department officials Leroy Barnes and Sharon Klos plan to schedule a meeting with some developers to discuss the idea “and see if there is a sense of community spirit, then maybe we would be able to get some people to donate the labor to build this. We would still have to pay for materials for the second floor.”
To date, the town has received checks totaling $395,723 from its insurance company, which covers restoration of records, the contents of the building and the structure, according to Dave Cullen, an aide to Mr. Walter. The town had to pay a $100,000 deductible on its insurance policy, he added.
The building department has been temporarily relocated to a rented office across the street from Town Hall on 755 East Main Street.
“Nothing comes for free,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said. “Nothing is without a price.”
But Mr. Walter said he doesn’t take a cynical view of the possibility of developers donating their time and service to help the building department.
“If somebody is willing to do something out of the goodness of their heart for this town, I refuse to believe they’re expecting something under the table,” he said. “I refuse to follow that logic. I take people at face value. If they are willing to donate money or donate something, I don’t think they are going to be expecting anything in return. And they should know that they’re not getting anything in return.”
Mr. Walter said he would point it out in public if someone tried to demand something in return for volunteer work.
The supervisor said the town has received volunteer work already. Architect Chuck Thomas donated an architectural design for the new building department, Jack Van de Wetering donates flowers for downtown Riverhead and Pepperidge Farm donates bread to the senior center.
In recent months, he’s also pointed out that Lou Kalogeras has donated his engineering services for the downtown sidewalk restoration and architect Rob Stromski has donated his services on the restoration of the World War II Memorial at the Pulaski Street School.
“You’ve got to believe in the goodness of people,” he said. “Stay positive and things will happen.’
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