Sale of Second St. firehouse on the table — again

The Second Street firehouse was obtained by Riverhead in 2011 in a land swap with the Riverhead Fire District. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

Forget about moving Town Hall to the Second Street firehouse.

The new plan is to sell that building to Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi. Which, ironically, was the old plan too.

After Town Board members hastily passed a resolution at Thursday’s work session to sell the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi without his knowledge — and at a higher price than what he had previously offered — Mr. Castaldi said Friday that he’s still interested, but he has to determine if it will make sense economically for him to do so.

The resolution passed Thursday would sell the building to Mr. Castaldi for $500,000, whereas his prior proposal — a proposal made in February that the town board seemed to embrace before three council members changed their minds — was to buy it for $375,000.

The Town Board also is planning to apply for grants to turn the firehouse into a Suffolk County Regional Agritourism Visitors Center, although the resolution to sell the building to Mr. Castaldi includes no restrictions on what he could use the building for.

“I’m looking into it to see if it’s a workable situation,” Mr. Castaldi of the agritourism proposal in an interview Friday. He was not present at Thursday’s work session where the issue was discussed, and said he didn’t even know it was being brought up until afterwards, when he got a flood of phone calls.

Town Board members had informally agreed to sell the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi in February for $375,000, which was the highest offer the town got through a request for proposals for the site.

At the time, Mr. Castaldi had proposed to lease the building to “Dino A-Live,” an interactive dinosaur theater company from Japan.

But when an engineering study on the cost of renovating the town-owned Route 58 armory building into a justice court and police headquarters found it would cost $13 million to make that conversion, three Town Board members backed off that plan and some suggested that an alternate plan might be to move Town Hall to the firehouse. In turn, the idea was to use the current Town Hall building as a justice court, with the police taking over the entirety of the building they now share with the court.

That also meant support waned for selling the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi.

During a presentation on the armory project last month, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked that a similar study be done on the cost of moving Town Hall to the firehouse and justice court to Town Hall, rather than the armory proposal. She said on Thursday the cost for such a study would be $175,000, “which we don’t have.”

That being the case, she said at Thursday’s meeting that she would now support selling the building to Mr. Castaldi, although she still thinks the $13 million armory project is too expensive. To fix space woes at the justice court, she suggested putting a modular building behind the current court for use as court space, with a sally port for transporting prisoners.