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Two finalists for comprehensive plan update present plans featuring substantial price difference

The Riverhead Town Board is hoping to choose by next week the firm it will hire to complete the comprehensive plan update.

The two finalists have presented plans with a difference in price of about $500,000.

At Thursday’s Town Board work session, officials from both firms outlined their proposals again and explained the reasoning behind their prices. Frank Fish, who heads BFJ Planning, said they have proposal to finish the plan for $290,000, while H2M Architects + Engineers proposed to do it for $800,000.

In June, the town fired AKRF Environmental Planning and Engineering Consultants of Holbrook, the company it had hired for the comprehensive plan update in 2019. Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said at the time that the decision was “in the interest of protecting taxpayer dollars and at the behest of the planning director, and on the advice of council.”

The town had hired AKRF to handle the majority of the work and it used LK McLean Associations of Brookhaven as a subcontractor on the portion of the plan dealing with traffic. At the time the board terminated the contract, the town had spent $320,780 on the plan, which cost $675,000 overall. The town had used $200,000 it obtained though a Community Benefit Agreement from a solar farm developer.

Mr. Fish said his firm’s proposal includes some of the work that AKRF and McLean Associates had done in the master plan update. 

“We will need approval from the Town Board, but we are happy to use their work,” Mr. Fish said. ”We think it’s good work.”

He added: “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

Sanyogita Chavan, the project manager for H2M, said their proposal is far more comprehensive.

Patricia DelCol, an assistant vice president with H2M, said: “I believe we’ve put a lot more legwork into it and this is demonstrated in the body of the proposals. We believe that this is what is necessary for the town to achieve your goal of a comprehensive plan that’s really going to help you steer development into the future.”

“We’re talking about more than double the cost of the other company,” Ms. Aguiar said.

Ms. Chavan said their proposed comprehensive plan is justified because “we put in the hours and specify how many hours it will take.”

Ms. Aguiar said they are trying to see how much can be salvaged from AKRF.

“This is taxpayer’s money and we know the critical importance of this document,” she said. “It will be our roadmap for the next 20 years and we are in the midst of gentrifying our town. It’s critical for us to have this working in conjunction with all of the development that’s happening.”

Ms. Chavan said their proposal breaks down what actions they propose and the cost of each. 

H2M questioned the proposed cost of the project under BFJ Planning’s proposal. Ms. Chavan said environmental work alone will cost about $2,000. 

Jefferson Murphree, the town building and planning administrator, said the update will have to undergo a generic environmental impact statement.

“Do you feel you got $300,000 worth of information?” Councilman Tim Hubbard asked. 

“I don’t think we have a lot of information from AKRF,” Ms. DelCol responded. 

She said “they are not certain if there is information we haven’t’ seen.”

“Our expectation was that we would see draft element plans,” she added. “We did not see that.”

The Town Board previously had interviewed three companies to finish the comprehensive plan, and this week, narrowed it down to the two finalists.