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FRNCA to do battle over use of federal funds

The Flanders, Riverhead and Northampton Community Association is planning to show up in force at the Southampton Town Board meeting Tuesday to protest the board’s decision to use federal Community Development Block Grants on Town Hall, rather than to pave a road in Flanders that leads to a town park and is used for emergency airlifts.

But a town official said FRNCA is misunderstanding the regulations for the funding.

Specifically, FRNCA says, the Town Board did not allocate money FRNCA requested to pave the remainder of Woodroad Trail, the road leading to the Flanders Little League Field. That job amounted to about $40,000, they said.

Instead, the town allocated CDBG funds to put in a new handicapped access ramp at Town Hall, which is located in Southampton Village.

“The question is, can you take money meant to fight blight and poverty and spend it in one of the wealthiest communities on earth?” FRNCA member Vince Taldone said at Monday’s FRNCA meeting, referring to Southampton Village.

Mr. Taldone said half of Woodroad Trail was paved earlier this year, up to its intersection with Priscilla Avenue.

But north of that, “It’s a dirt road with potholes, and is not handicapped accessible,” Mr. Taldone added.

While the road is privately owned, the field is owned by the town, which has a right to access the road, he said. In addition, since the field is used as a landing spot for medevac helicopters,  Mr. Taldone said.

But Diane Weir, the town’s director of housing and community development, said in an interview that while  CDBG money is intended to be used to help people in census tracts that have low income levels and high levels of poverty, an exception is made for Americans with Disabilities Act improvements.

“The town can spend CDBG money for ADA improvements or upgrades anywhere in the town,” Ms. Weir said.

Mr. Taldone acknowledged that FRNCA has received more than $1 million in grant money in 2018. But he cited other projects in the past that has received CDGB funding that were in areas that had much higher median income levels.

“Flanders and Riverside would be in the most need of the funds because of their demographics,” Ms. Weir said. “However, they are not the only areas that qualify. We would still get CDBG funds for other areas.”

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Photo caption: Flanders Little League Field. (Tim Gannon photo)