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Riverhead considers uses for $3.67 million in federal ARPA funding

A new $2 million water storage tower in Wading River is the big-ticket item on Riverhead Town’s wish list for American Recovery Plan Act funding.

The town received $3.67 million in ARPA funding over a two-year period, and a town committee, comprising finance administrator Bill Rothaar, community development director Dawn Thomas and deputy town attorney Anne Marie Prudenti, has submitted its recommendations to the Town Board on how to spend it. 

On March 11, President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package known as ARPA, which included $360 billion in direct financial relief for state and local governments. 

The proposed tower, at $2 million, is the most expensive item on the town’s list. 

Ms. Prudenti said the proposed tank will improve the town’s water system in the Wading River area. 

“I know it’s a large amount,” she said. But, she added, “This move is going to improve the town exponentially.” 

The town and Suffolk County Water Authority sometimes purchase water from each other in the Wading River area, and this will eliminate that need, she said. 

“This Town Board has expressed a commitment to the residents of Manorville, and this storage tank would allow us to have plenty of water for them,” Ms. Prudenti said, referring to the drinking water problems in Manorville and parts of Calverton. 

Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said the town and SCWA have purchased water from each other, but neither did much purchasing from the other this year. The town purchased 5 million gallons from SCWA this year, he said. 

Mr. Mancini is proposing a “ground storage” tank that can hold 2.5 million gallons. The tank, which would likely be under 30 feet tall, would store water from other town wells, rather than drill for it, he said. 

“We need more water than we have right now in Wading River,” Mr. Mancini said in interview. Wading River is in the same zone as Manorville and Calverton, so it will receive water from the tank. 

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town already has the first half of the funds. The Town Board must now officially decide how to spend the money. 

Among other proposed uses for the money are as follows:

• Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton and Stotzky Park also could benefit from ARPA. The town proposal calls for $150,000 to install two lights at the Stotzky Park ballfields. Another $50,000 is proposed for improvements to the Veterans Memorial Park and another $30,000 is allocated to the walking trails at Stotzky Park. 

• One of the bigger proposed allocations is $750,000 for “government loss revenue.” 

The impacts of the pandemic led to a projected $1.8 million decrease in building application fees, state and county aid and justice court revenues, according to Mr. Rothaar. He said other losses in revenue required dramatic cuts in spending, placing promotions on hold and limiting new hires.

The committee recommended the $750,000 in ARPA funds to replace the loss revenues. 

• The town experienced a similar situation with code enforcement. 

“We put code enforcement officers in the 2020 budget, but we never hired them or spent that money,” Mr. Rothaar said. “In 2021, we couldn’t afford them and we only hired them last month,” he said.

In addition, the town was required to limit staffing and code enforcement inspections. 

The committee recommended the town fill one of the code enforcement positions with $110,000 from ARPA. 

• The committee is recommending $210,000 for sewer infrastructure.

The Riverhead Sewer District has several sub-collection systems with convey the wastewater to the treatment plant off Riverside Drive. The Cranberry Street sub-collection system was built in 1937, and takes sewage from three other sub-collection systems serving the Route 58 corridor, Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Riverhead School District. 

The system is deteriorating and suffering from root intrusion, the committee said.