Featured Story

Town Board discusses new options to either expand or build new town offices, justice court and police department

For years, Riverhead Town officials have explored ways to expand Town Hall, the justice and police departments. Each time, they’ve backed off once the cost estimates came into focus.

Once again, town officials are discussing new proposals. At Thursday’s Town Board work session, three new estimates were presented, each which would cost over $30 million.

Officials say the plan is in the early stages, but that the town justice court is crowded and dangerous.

“This is not the first time this topic has arisen,” said Supervisor Yvette Aguiar. “It’s about time we get to some real business in regard dealing with the overcrowding at the that court house.”

On Thursday, architect Martin Sendlewski unveiled several options for the board to consider, including plans calling for a new standalone town hall, a standalone court building, a new police department and combinations of the three. 

Mr. Sendlewski presented a combined summary of the options.

• One option calling for a new standalone court, alterations to the police department and expansion of Town Hall. The estimated cost is $31.8 million for 61,107 square feet.

• A second option called for second floor additions to the police, court and Town Hall. The estimated cost is $34.6 million for 64,040 square feet.

• The third option would put Town Hall in a new building, move the justice court into the current town hall and renovate the current police department to make it handicap accessible. The estimated cost is $30.8 million for 61,197 square feet. 

Mr. Sendlewski called the last option as “the most straight forward” of the three. 

“It’s probably the quickest way to get Justice Court into a new situation, which they so badly need,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said.

The proposal discussed Thursday would make the new Town Hall three floors with a full basement and it would be built toward the north part of the town property, which is currently undeveloped. Once the Town Hall is built, the town could move into that building, while the justice court would move into the current town hall, and the police department could take over the area currently occupied by the justice court.

This work could be done with no interruption of town work, officials said.

The proposal would increase the number of parking spaces from 155 to 241, locating the new parking spaces along Howell Avenue and north to Brook Street. 

Mr. Sendlewski also recommended moving the statue of Medal of Honor recipient Garfield Langhorn closer to Town Hall, so it will be more visible.

The additional space at Town Hall could enable the town to sell some of the buildings it owns, such as the building and planning office on Howell Avenue, the housing authority building on East Street, and the town historian building on East Main Street.  

Mr. Hubbard said the town needs to press the state in regard to the Armory on Route 58. The town was given that building more than a decade ago but it came with a requirement that it could only be used for law enforcement or recreation. The town originally planned to move the police and courts into the Armory, but cost estimates were too high. 

Mr. Hubbard said the building “probably needs to be bulldozed” now. 

The town this year also had considered using the former Kmart building for town offices but backed out of that plan when the property owner wanted the town to lease the site instead of buying it, according to Mr. Hubbard. 

Town officials say they have no plans to move the senior center in Aquebogue. 

Ms. Aguiar said the town should name its new court after the late Justice Allen Smith, who had vigorously pressed the town to improve its courts while he was in office.