Questions over who would be responsible for cleaning and maintaining a footbridge proposed to span the Peconic River, as well as the size and design of a the project, are being put on hold — for now.
Southampton Town officials are instead focusing on getting a state grant application filed before the deadline in two weeks.
During a Southampton Town Board work session Thursday morning, board members said they supported the bridge, which would connect county-owned parkland in Riverside to downtown Riverhead, adding that the bridge might help jump-start revitalization efforts for Riverside.
“Action on the part of the municipality is a signal to private industry that this is a place that’s going to get more and more attention,” said Councilwoman Bridget Flemming, “But someone has to take that first step over the bridge, so to speak.”
The support came a day after the Suffolk County Legislature voted unanimously in support of the grant application.
Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association, told Town Board members that there would be several months to iron out the details of the bridge and pitch the idea to residents before any grant money would be accepted.
The bridge is expected to cost $1.145 million, but the state grant being pursued would allow Suffolk County’s purchase of land in Riverside in 2011 to be used as the municipality’s matching portion of the grant, meaning the construction of the bridge would be fully covered by the grant.
“[We would pay] zip for the bridge itself,” Mr. Taldone said.
But if the town missed the deadline, the county’s contribution wouldn’t count towards the grant next year.
“The key here,and the rush, is that three year window in which that money counts,” Mr. Taldone said.
Riverhead and Southampton towns would be responsible for paying to upkeep the bridge, as well as properly patrolling the area, though the agreement over which town would do what would be discussed after the application was filed.
Councilman Christopher Nuzzi said he had concerns over approving the project before the design was finalized, but Mr. Taldone said a portion of the $1.145 million cost of the bridge is set aside for engineering and design.
The town would only need to apply using the concept of a footbridge, he said; the specifics of the type of bridge could be settled and discussed by the community before the grant is accepted.
Mr. Taldone said the bridge would need to be at least 24 feet above the median high tide line — the same height as the County Road 105 bridge — to allow boats to enter the Riverhead town docks.
The bridge would connect to a 5-foot-wide trail Southampton Town plans to create. The trail would start on Route 24 and lead to the river.
Mr. Taldone said that while the bridge would create a “walkable community” connecting Riverhead to downtown Riverside, the town would need to ensure that criminal elements stay out of the area.
FRNCA representatives will go to the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce next week to pitch the footbridge, and then speak before the Riverhead Town Board to get that board’s approval for the grant application.