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Plan to improve public parking lots, add new spaces would cost $821K

The Riverhead Town Board is considering borrowing $821,049 for improvements to six parking lots in the town’s Public Parking District, including a proposal that officials say would add 57 new spaces to the First Street lot behind the former Woolworth building. 

“The big one that we’ve been trying to do is the First Street parking lot,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard, the board liaison to the parking district. “We were able to garner some funds from the county, but those funds have just not come. It’s been a couple of years now.”

The Public Parking District is a special taxing jurisdiction and owners of commercial projects within the downtown district pay a tax to create parking. This, in turn, means commercial operations within the district don’t need to provide their own parking, since they can use the public parking. It has a budget of $183,000 in the town’s 2021 tentative budget. About 136 properties within the district currently pay the tax, according to town records.

The First Street plan was first proposed in 2013 by architect Martin Send-lewski, who also heads the parking district’s advisory board. 

It calls for removing many of the landscaped islands and trees from the lot and re-striping the parking spaces.

Town engineer Drew Dillingham said about 20 trees would be removed under the plan. Councilwoman Catherine Kent said she opposes taking down the trees. The project has an estimated price tag of $174,238, according to a priority list of parking projects submitted to the board by Mr. Dillingham. 

The town applied and was approved for about $75,000 in county grants for that project, and also has received $30,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds and a $15,000 donation from the developer of the Riverview Lofts apartments now under construction on East Main Street and McDermott Avenue, according to town Community Development Agency director Dawn Thomas. 

Ms. Thomas said she has spoken with county officials and was told they have had some changes in staffing there and did not have a copy of the signed contract for the grant the town sent in February. She said there also was a delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Thomas said she sent another signed copy of the contract in hopes of getting it finalized. 

Work on the parking lot is not expected to begin until spring, she said. 

Town finance administrator Bill Rothaar said that because the bond is subject to permissive referendum, which could require a public vote, work on the project would have to wait at least 60 days. 

The First Street project is one of six on Mr. Dillingham’s list.

The other five are: 

• $69,735 to repair the entrance to the Tuthill-Mangano Funeral Home lot, which Mr. Dillingham described as a “serious trip hazard.”

• $79,705 to repair the west side of the parking lot behind Griffing Hardware.

• $282,067 to repair the riverfront parking lot.

• $94,744 to repair the parking lot between Roanoke and Griffing avenues.

• $120,570 to install lighting on Third Street, which is being “upgraded for public use.”

The total cost, including the First Street lot, is $821,049, according to officials.

Mr. Rothaar said the parking district has money in its fund balance because it hasn’t been spent anything in the last couple of years. At the end of 2019, he said, the fund balance was $146,000.. He suggested that money be used to pay for some of the improvements in order to reduce the amount the town needs to bond.