Featured Letter: Moving courts is a sound move

The state Armory building on Route 58. (Credit: file)
The state Armory building on Route 58. (Credit: file)

I write to correct your July 3 editorial. You write, “The price tag for moving the court to the Route 58 Armory remains high.”

This is not true. 

The property on Route 58 was deeded free to the town to be used for a public safety building (police and courts). If not used for this purpose, it must be returned to the state. The land is worth approximately $5 million. The building is sound and may be reused. As such, the structure is worth approximately $10 million. That is $10 million the taxpayers will not have to spend on another site.

The site is within the sewer and water districts, thereby saving additional costs for septic systems, etc. The site has ample areas for parking.

In short, the cost per square foot for redoing the Armory is $292-plus. New construction would be $516-plus per square foot. Keep in mind that this is specialty construction, with radio towers, holding cells, radio rooms, a firearms armory, etc. This facility is not a mom-and-pop corner store.

Municipal bond rates have never been this low. If the Town Board does not take advantage of these rates, the taxpayer will pay higher rates in the future.

You state the costs of the proposed facility are increasing. For instance, we have included approximately $800,000 for radio equipment for the police. The existing radio equipment is obsolete. When it fails there are no replacement parts. In today’s environment the police need the latest and best radio equipment. This “increased cost” will be paid either as an operating expense (in one year’s budget) or a capital expense over time. I suggest paying over time at today’s municipal bond rates is the better choice.

You characterize our proposal as moving the court to Route 58. Again this is not true. The proposal is for a public safety building including both the police and courts. A majority of the site and building will be used by the Riverhead Police Department.

This past week, the janitor found a knife in the ladies’ restroom. The Office of Court Administration has found the current facilities dangerous. In the past the town’s insurance underwriter has found fault with conditions in our courtroom. I guess you can say the existing facilities are not as dangerous as some might say, but you do not have to work there.

Justice Allen Smith, Riverhead