Town adds $162k to EPCAL study

Calverton EPCAL sign
MICHAEL WHITE FILE PHOTO | One of two signs marking the EPCAL entrance along Route 25 in Calverton.

The Riverhead Town Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to pay an additional $162,390 to Hauppauge-based planning firm Vanasse, Hangen, Brustlin for work on the environmental study and subdivision at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio cast the lone vote against the measure.

The board hired VHB in February of 2011 for about $460,000.

The town in 2011 also signed separate contracts with RKG Associates for $47,500, for an EPCAL marketing study, and with LK McLean Associates for$74,900, for a boundary and topographic study of EPCAL.  The costs will come from the nearly $1.9 million the town received from leasing EPCAL runways to park junked cars owned by insurance companies after Hurricane Sandy, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“After reviewing the documents and after careful consideration, I can’t support this,” Ms. Giglio said in casting her vote, adding later that she thinks the contract will end up costing even more.

Councilman John Dunleavy voted against the original contract, but voted for the additions Tuesday night.

“I voted no for spending the $465,000 when we first started this, but I don’t want to derail this project,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “The Town Board did vote for it, I don’t want to say forget about it, let’s go back to zero again.”

Mr.  Walter said the additional payment is due to the fact that VHB has to complete additional tasks that were not anticipated when the contract was signed in 2011. Those additional tasks were outlined in a four-page letter to the town from Kevin Walsh, VHB’s Long Island managing director of operations.

Mr. Walsh said in his letter “negotiations with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have consumed the better part of the last 15 months, requiring extensive work in negotiating the configuration of the subdivision.”

This, in turn, resulted in additional meetings between DEC staff and VHB.

“The DEC added about $75,000 to the cost,” Mr. Walter said. “We never anticipated the number of meetings we’d need with the DEC. And every meeting, they redesigned the subdivision … It was meeting after meeting after meeting.”

But Mr. Walter said the plan would not be as far along as it is without those meetings. The town cannot begin selling smaller individual lots at EPCAL until the proposed 50-lot subdivision is complete and approved, he said.

And once that happens, he said, the town will be able to derive revenue from the property.

“It’s not a big price to pay to get to where we are going,” he added.

Other costs included the town’s hiring of former Congressman George Hochbrueckner as a consultant on the EPCAL plans.

“VHB brought him up to speed on issues,” Mr. Walter said.

In addition, the town’s proposal to try and lure a new Federal Aviation Administration facility to EPCAL, the inclusion of the bike path in the plans, and a presentation at the Long Island Regional Planning Council also were unanticipated when the contract was approved in February 2011, Mr. Walter said.

The scoping document, which outlines what issues should be studied in the environmental impact study of the project, also ended up covering far more issues than expected, the supervisor said.

The EPCAL studies are about 90 percent done and VHB has indicated that a public hearing on the draft environmental impact study for EPCAL could take place in March, Mr. Walter said. The environmental study must be completed before the subdivision can be approved.

Mr. Walter said in an interview that the town has known for more than a year that the EPCAL study would take longer than anticipated and would cost more than anticipated. And while he admitted to being unhappy that more costs are necessary, he said he does not anticipate further spending increases, and he said the end result would be worthwhile.

“We’re over two years into this,” he said in an interview. “This could potentially be a billion dollar buildout. It’s the largest commercial subdivision in New York State, as far as I’ve found.”

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