As conditions in the parking lot behind the former Woolworth’s building have continued to deteriorate since a long winter, the town appears poised to approve a swap with a county contractor to fix the rough conditions.
The proposal was welcomed warmly by members of the Town Board on Thursday morning and will likely receive approval at next Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, meaning the work could be complete in about a week.
United Fence & Rail Corporation, based out of Ronkonkoma, will be starting work on repaving Roanoke Avenue “within two weeks,” according to construction supervisor Mark Thornhill. But as the company completes new drainage, sidewalks and paving on the county road connecting downtown with Route 58, the contractor will need somewhere to park all of its equipment.
Enter Riverhead Town.
In exchange for parking for a year in a lot on Roanoke Avenue the town’s parking district bought in 2014 for $175,000, United Fence & Rail will fix all of the potholes in the rear lot. According to Mr. Thornhill, that will end up being somewhere between 50 or 60 patches — though some are bigger than others. While some measure less than two feet by two feet, others measure as long as six-by-four, and plenty deep. In all fixes, the contractor won’t just patch over the existing pothole, but rather cut out around it and fill it with new asphalt.
“It’s a pain in the … car,” said Riverhead resident Al Feit as he walked out of Maximus Fitness on Thursday afternoon. Luckily, neither he nor fellow Riverhead resident Deborah Becker said their cars sustained any damage since the potholes started forming.
A manager at Maximus said she’s received “several” complaints about the conditions in the rear lot, particularly in the past few months.
“It’s been an ongoing thing,” she said. “The winter took its toll back there.”
According to Councilman John Dunleavy, who met with United to work out the deal, the town received estimates of about $25,000 to $30,000 to patch up the entire lot, so the exchange adds up to about $2,500 per month for the parking district. Supervisor Sean Walter noted earlier this month that a similar deal with a previous contractor had been formed, though that contractor never showed up for the job — so the town was nearly on the hook to pay for the work.
The accord comes shortly after Democratic candidates for town board issued statements blasting the town for its use of parking district funds in recent years; Town Board members make decisions on behalf of the town’s parking district, which includes about 130 parcels in the downtown area that pay into a general fund.
Over two years ago, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office audited the town’s use of charges to special taxing districts such as the parking district; other districts include the sewer district, highway department and ambulance district. The office noted that nearly $780,000 in “improper” chargebacks were made in 2012.
Democratic candidates for public office Anthony Coates, Neil Krupnick and Laura Jens-Smith issued joint statements at the end of June calling on the town to stop “taking money from the cookie jar” of special taxing districts.
“It is deeply troubling that our downtown parking lots are more cratered than the moon and yet residents and businesses are being told there is no money in the till to fix and repair them,” said Mr. Coates, who will be running as a Democrat for supervisor while Mr. Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio will face off in a primary for the Republican nod.
The Town Board will vote on the agreement next Tuesday.
Photo credit: Jen Nuzzo