Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell delivered the annual State of the Town address last Thursday. Russell discussed “pertinent topics” listing what the town accomplished in 2017 and plans to achieve this year.
The most notable points of the address are twofold. Southold ended the 2017 fiscal year with $1 million more in the fund balance than anticipated, and is currently in the process of acquiring the former Capital One/Southold Savings Bank building to serve as the new location for Justice Court.
The acquisition would offer the court a permanent and exclusive home. It’s been sharing a meeting room in town hall with the town board. The building, located on the corner of Main Street and Youngs Avenue, will cost approximately $5.5 million to purchase and renovate. But that’s a number Russell says is the least costly of all the options the town explored for the court, including alternative properties for sale, for rent and for lease, or constructing a new building.
According to Russell, the sale is expected to close within the next few months.
“We’ve worked so hard to develop a good credit rating and we still maintain the highest credit rating we’ve had in the history of this town. Why do that if we’re not going to take advantage of it and buy when the opportunity presents itself?” he said.
Russell said the cons of buying the building include new debt and the additional work and maintenance the building will require, because it’s an older structure. He added that the Southold Town Annex, which the town rents for approximately $64,000 a year, will remain in its current location in the bank building and Justice Court will occupy the front area Capital One called home.
“The estimated debt service for $5.5 million is about $380,000. That means we’re going to be adding about $315,000 of new spending in budget for next year. It’s a substantial amount to offset, but we think we can,” Russell said.
The building comes with 93 parking spaces that will remain in municipal control and the purchase will require an increase in staff for the Department of Public Works.
Russell moved on to identify affordable housing as “a key critical issue in Southold town.”
“It’s an ongoing crisis. It has been for years and probably will continue to be. There’s no simple solution and the town board recognizes that,” he said.
In 2017, building code changes were made in hopes of finding solutions. With the zoning board of appeals approval, a maximum of six apartments are now allowed in commercial zones, while previous codes allowed just three apartments.
When it comes to environmental preservation, the town is currently making an effort to acquire 113 acres of farm land. Russell said an estimated $7.36 million will be spent on the property.
“But, there’s a lot of property out there we want to acquire,” he said. In an effort to expand community recreational property inventory, there’s a 10-acre parcel of land that Russell says may be the future site of Life Sports East, an indoor sports center.
“It’s a great location for an indoor sports facility,” said Russell.
Also at the meeting, town engineers secured a $611,000 grant to offer financial assistance to replace water service lines that may leak lead. In addition, Russell noted that 52 percent of all refuse taken to the transfer station was recyclable material, with 82 tons of electronic waste collected. In 2017, Southold was designated as a clean energy community by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.