Town looks to settle another dispute with engineering firm

Riverhead Town is on the verge of reaching another cash settlement with Young and Young, the Riverhead-based engineering firm that agreed recently to pay the town $1.2 million in settlement of a lawsuit in which the town blamed the engineers for letting the massive landfill reclamation project go millions of dollars over budget.

The Town Board last week voted to authorize its outside legal counsel to effect a settement with Young and Young over a dispute in which the engineers claimed the town owes them $80,000.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the disputed money stems from work on various other projects, including restoration of downtown’s Grangebel Park. The recent settlement calls for the town to pay Young and Young about $37,000, he said.

Asked if the two disputes are separate actions, Mr. Walter said, “It’s tied in because we haven’t seen the $1.2 million, so we’re not going to send them the $37,000 until we have a guarantee that we’re getting that money.”

In the landfill lawsuit, settled earlier this year, Young and Young agreed to pay the town $1.2 million, although the town will only receive $800,000 of that, with the rest going to its outside legal counsel.

The landfill project was begun as a state-of-the-art reclamation job, in which garbage and recyclables from the landfill would be excavated and removed, leaving “virgin sand,” as officials said at the time. But the project quickly exceeded its $40 million budget while it was only about one-third completed, and officials abandoned the job and capped the landfill instead.

Capping, in which a large plastic liner is placed over the landfill, is traditionally the method that the state permits for closing landfills.

The exact amount Riverhead overspent by reclaiming part of the landfill instead of capping right from the beginning is not easily determined since some of the landfill encroached on a neighboring project and would have had to be reclaimed anyway, but former Supervisor Phil Cardinale at one point estimated that the town had spent about $15 million more by launching the complete reclamation job.

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.