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Website with information on comprehensive plan update goes dark after town fires company

Just where is Riverhead Town’s comprehensive plan update?

A website unveiled in 2021 to provide updates and information on the progress has gone dark since the Town Board in June fired AKRF Environmental Planning and Engineering Consultants, the company tasked with overseeing the comprehensive update. A link on the town website to the site, townofriverheadcomprehensiveplanupdate.com, now leads to a blank page.

Barbara Blass, a former Riverhead councilwoman, questioned the Town Board at Tuesday’s regular meeting about the site.

“The links are still up there but there is no information posted,” she said. “Why can’t we see at least the information we all participated in, the minutes in all of that?”

A screenshot of the website can still be seen from as recently as April 24 on the Internet Archive website. It shows attachments to links such as “Final Summary of Interviews,” “Outreach Plan,” Community Update Progress Report” and “CAC Presentation,” among others. The earliest available screenshot is from Sept. 25, 2021.

“There’s nothing on the website,” Ms. Blass said of the current status. “And we did pay for something.”

A screenshot from April 24 of the “About” section of the now blank website. (Credit: Internet Archive)

Town officials cited slow progress in completing the plan as the reason for firing AKRF. In October 2019, the board had voted to hire AKRF for up to $675,000.

The agreement with the town required AKRF to perform and meet certain milestones and objectives over the course of the approximately 18-month process, according to officials.

ARRF had been paid $320,780 at the time it was fired. 

“The consultant that was fired by the town has submitted a final invoice,” said Jefferson Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator. “We are reviewing that with the town attorney’s office.”

Mr. Murphree said the fired consultants have told the town the documents are the town’s property. But the town is waiting for instructions on how to make the website live again, he said.

“Why can’t they put it back up?” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Mr. Murphree responded, and added that it’s critical that the town put the information back online. 

“We created a central database so that it would be paperless and 99% of all the information was on that,” Mr. Murphree said. “It should be in the public domain.”

“I would ask a further question, how would they have access to our website to take something like that down?” Ms. Blass asked.

The website was hosted separately from the town servers, Mr. Murphree said. Ms. Blass reiterated that the town is entitled to the information.

“Absolutely,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. 

“I absolutely agree with Barbara on that,” Mr. Murphree said. “We put so much work into getting to the part and there’s so much information on it. It should be in the public domain and that should never be taken down.”

Ms. Aguiar said the town should not make an additional payment until the site is activated and the town has “full control.”

A representative from AKFR did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The Town of Riverhead website includes both the 1973 and 2003 comprehensive plan updates.

Ms. Aguiar said the town has been interviewing candidates to complete the comprehensive plan update. She said the board will likely hire a new company soon.