Damage, complaints follow state DOT work on Riverhead bike path

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Contractors for the Department of Transportation caused about $10,000 in damage to this irrigation system in Calverton, the development manager said.
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Contractors for the Department of Transportation caused thousands of dollars in damage to this irrigation system in Calverton, the development manager said.

John Peck is glad the state Department of Transportation is installing a bike path along the Calverton mobile home park he manages.

“I think it’s fantastic,” he said.

But the $8,000 to $10,000 worth of damage state contractors caused to Lakewood’s irrigation system has him upset, he said.

“I do not respect the fact that they didn’t get a hold of me and let me know that we needed to move the system and get it shut off,” Mr. Peck said. “It’s very unfair what they’ve done.”

Town officials say residents in Jamesport have also complained about state crews pulling up irrigation lines and trimming trees since work on the $3.2 million bike path stretching from Calverton to Northville began in March.

Eileen Peters, a representative for the state Department of Transportation, told a reporter Thursday she had not heard any reports of damage along River Road near the Lakewood development.

“Generally speaking, you’re not allowed to encroach on state property,” she said.

But, she added, River Road is not a state road.

“We really need to examine this situation,” she said, adding the department would be look into the matter.

The bike path is being constructed through a grant by the state DOT as part of a federal stimulus bill.

Meanwhile, the Lakewood development’s attorney is preparing to bring legal action against the DOT to pay for repairs to the irrigation system’s plumbing, which was damaged during path construction about three weeks ago, Mr. Peck said.

State crews removed several feet of the park’s lawn and replaced it with concrete, Mr. Peck said, adding the crews ripped up the 1-1/2-inch rubber pipe along the road, which fed the entire complex. It could not immediately be determined if the plumbing was in a government right-of-way.

“They actually did it from one end of the park to the other,” he said,

The irrigation system is now broken and must be replaced. In the meantime, employees for the development are having to use hoses to water the landscaping, he said.

“Now everything’s dying on me and I’m upset about it,” Mr. Peck said.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said complaints have been coming to the town since work began in March, and he believes the DOT should pay to repair the irrigation systems at Lakewood.

“The bottom line is you’ve destroyed somebody’s private property, you should repair it,” Mr. Walter said. “It’s incumbent on the DOT to replace that property.”

In the meantime, Mr. Peck said he is frustrated he wasn’t given a warning his lines would be removed. Had he gotten a heads-up, he could have taken the lines away from the roadwork area in under 24 hours, he said.

“This is going to be a headache for us,” Mr. Peck said. “Now it’s going to cost us a fortune.”

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report indicated the mobile home park’s irrigation  system was in the state’s right-of-way.

That has yet to be determined.