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Riverhead Town to hire BFJ Planning to complete comprehensive plan update

The Riverhead Town Board has informally decided to hire BFJ Planning of Manhattan to finish the town’s comprehensive plan update, which has been stalled since the town terminated a contract with an earlier company.

The board plans to formally vote to hire BFJ Planning at an upcoming meeting. The next meeting is Oct. 18, although officials discussed expediting the vote.

BFJ was one of three companies that had publicly interviewed for the job. Last week, the town narrowed the list to two, and on Thursday, the board discussed which company it favored. 

The two remaining companies, which included H2M Architects + Engineers of Melville, had a wide difference in price; BJF’s proposal came in at $280,000, compared to H2M’s $800,000.

Four of the five board members said Thursday that they prefer BFJ Planning. Councilman Ken Rothwell favored H2M since its proposal was more thorough, whereas BFJ Planning said it would incorporate the work done by the prior consulting firm, AKRF.

“I think [AFRF’s] community involvement was a failure,” Mr. Rothwell said. “We never reached out to the western side of the town.”

He said he attended some of the forums for the update and “it was the same 20 individuals at every single one” of the public meetings, regardless of where the forum was held.  

“I didn’t get a consensus of how people felt” across the town, he said.

The Board had hired AKRF in October 2019 and the company subcontracted with LK McLean Associations of Brookhaven to complete the traffic component.

The town terminated the contract with AKRF in June, citing the “slow pace” of the company’s work. A week ago, the board met with the two finalists.  

Jefferson Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator, said he was impressed that BJF has experience working with Downtown Revitalization grants, since the Town was awarded a $10 million DRI grant this year.

He said he also was impressed with their plan to do the required State Environmental Quality Review Act work concurrently with their update of the entire plan. 

“To me, that gave them the edge,” said Councilman Frank Beyrodt. “We really need to get this going, and get it completed.”

Mr. Murphree said that was a problem with AFRF.

“They wanted to do things sequentially,” he said. “You can’t do it that way. It adds to the cost.” 

Mr. Murphree also asked if board members favored using LK McLean Associations as the transportation and traffic consultant. He recommended continuing to use them.

“Their traffic knowledge is second to none,” he said, adding that it would cost an additional $109,000.

There was no opposition to that plan. 

Mr. Murphree said AKRF failed to use the Central Advisory Committee’s input — a committee put together by the town to gather input from various community leaders. AKRF also lacked input from various town boards, like planning and zoning boards, and from various advisory boards.