Renovations for what Southampton Town officials are hoping will be the area’s flagship beach are coming in at a higher cost than anticipated.
Town Parks Director Kristen Doulos asked the town board at a work session meeting September 20 to approve a resolution to bond additional funds to undergo construction at Ponquogue Beach in Hampton Bays. The total dollar amount needed to complete renovations is now $3.3 million, up from a second-round estimated $2.1 million at the beginning of this year. A plumbing bid was accepted after three offers came in, but bids on general construction and electric came with a larger price tag due to higher cost of materials and just one offer coming in for each.
“Construction is a booming industry on Long Island and companies are being very selective with what they even bid on,” Doulos said. “Bids came in much higher than anticipated, but I’d like to get this passed now because if we shelf the project, costs are only going to go up.”
After deliberation, board members unanimously agreed to add a resolution to next week’s town board meeting to bond the additional $1.2 million. The town will carry the loan in 2020.
“I’d propose we loan the money short-term so we can start the work now, and then we’ll borrow it next spring from the general fund and then reimburse it when we get the proceeds,” Town Comptroller Len Marchese said. “Beaches are in the parks fund, but if there’s a shortfall in the funding of an enterprise fund, we fund it with a transfer from the general fund.”
The plan is to update the entryway with a new attendance booth; repair the parking lot, including adding additional drainage; put in a rain garden; update the roof and siding of the pavilion; and complete bathroom and shower updates.
The town will also be using green materials to use best practices in a marine environment, said board member John Bouvier. “It’s also economic for us too, they’re longer lasting,” he added. “The structure was built in the 1960s and there’s been very little done to it since then. The needs are infrastructure related without a doubt.”
Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera said she thinks investment in facilities is a good thing. “I plan to support this,” she said, “but the town has added a lot of projects over the past two years, and something’s got to give at some point.”
Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni asked if the higher cost will affect other projects, to which Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he doesn’t believe it will, especially with the town retiring what he said is a lot of old debt this year.
“I walked around the pavilion this summer, inspected it, and it’s not a matter of if but when it’s going to be replaced, because it needs to happen,” the councilman said. “So long as we have improvement in our debt service and that this won’t increase it in any significant way or effect other projects we want to do, then I will support it. It’s like buying a new pair of sneakers — once you have them, you realize how bad your old pairs are.”
Councilwoman Julie Lofstad also voiced support for the project. “I think financially it’s doable. There won’t be a huge negative impact on the taxpayers,” she said. “And I think it’s going to be a boon. I think a new beach pavilion will attract more people and it can help us generate more revenue.”
There is an aggressive timeline for the project to be completed between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The town has already increased permit fees residents pay, but Schneiderman also asked the town to look into increasing one-day parking fees for tourists to make sure it’s appropriate. He thinks this and changing prices for purchasing things at the pavilion are other ways to offset the increased costs.
“I think it’s one of the highest-used beaches in the town and the pavilion is in really bad shape. It needs repair,” Schneiderman said. “I think it’s something that will strengthen property values and is a good investment. I don’t think we should abandon it because we know the community members have their hearts in it.”
Doulos also asked for additional funding for repairs at a nearby beach, which she said can be addressed with extra money found in the Community Preservation Fund.
East Quogue’s Hot Dog Beach, which was closed for several years after a restaurant fire affected most of the facilities, was reopened last summer.
“One of the walkovers is in total disrepair and is fenced off,” Doulos said. “It’s become one of our most popular beach facilities in a two-year period. We had a contract with a mobile taco truck this summer and the place was packed. We want to see it improved and be in good shape for families and surfers next summer.”
Doulos added a deck would be built to connect the two access points, with benches for seating, and a handicap railing added to make the area Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. Five handicap parking spaces would also be created.
An extra $70,000 is needed to fund the improvements, with bids coming in $40,000 over budget and the rest being needed for inspection costs. Doulos said CPF and Community Development Block Grant funding is already covering $405,000, and the town is putting in $90,000. The board approved adding a resolution to amend the CPF budget to cover the additional $70,000 to move forward with awarding the work to the contractor. Renovations at Hot Dog Beach would be expected to be completed by the end of this year.