Sandy’s costs to town estimated at $1.2 million

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A gazebo in downtown Riverhead lies knocked over by Sandy’s storm surge on Oct. 29

Riverhead Town will have to pay about $1.2 million in overtime, repairs and reconstruction costs in the wake of superstorm Sandy, Supervisor Sean Walter  said Monday.

That figure is more than double the town’s initial estimate of $500,000, he said.

The town is hoping to be reimbursed for damages from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but even if it does get FEMA aid, the town will still have to pay 25 percent of those costs, Mr. Walter said.

Sandy brought destruction to homes along the Peconic Bay, flooded downtown Riverhead and knocked out power for thousands of residents across town.

The damage was mostly concentrated in bulkheads around town, docks, boat ramps and bluffs around town, he said.

Despite flooding that caused the Peconic River to rise nearly nine feet and flood the parking lot along the river front, Mr. Walter said there was minor damage to town property including the town’s gazebos which were tossed by the storm surge.

Downtown business owners reported flooding issues caused by Sandy, and at least one business — Pieceful Quilting — was forced to relocate because of flooding damage.

Widespread power outages — which do not fall under the town’s jurisdiction — were the worst problem, Mr. Walter said.

“This was a LIPA storm,” he said. “[It was] the power problem more than anything else.”

Tropical Storm Irene, which knocked down trees with high winds last summer  but was otherwise less serious than originally forecasted, cost the town about $450,000, said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller in a previously published report.

The town will seek to dredge Wading River Creek to “shore up the houses on Creek Road,” Mr. Walter added. Unlike the South Shore, Riverhead Town does not normally replenish beaches that erode during major storms.

“It costs a lot of money to have an engineered beach,” he said, adding the town will try to secure funding to repair bluffs in Wading River.

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Additional reporting by Tim Gannon