Sandy repairs broached in budget discussions

Story By: LOREN CHRISTIE
1/24/2013


Bellport Village’s budget workshop weighed the costs of fixing its waterfront amenities — the areas most impacted by Superstorm Sandy — during their budget workshop Tuesday night.

Mayor Will Veitch and village trustees discussed the repairs and general upkeep of the marina and dock. In addition, officials discussed whether or not the ferry could make it through another season without new engines.

Trustees suggested the refurbishing of bathrooms at the marina beach house be put off this year.  Veitch said he does not anticipate getting Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for some repairs, such as replacing the screened-in area at the marina, and suggested putting money toward that and other related projects. In addition to rebuilding a staircase extending down to the beach, a handicapped-accessible ramp will have to be added by law. Lifeguards could also use an additional storage shed, however, whatever is put in place has to withstand storms. The group pointed out that some repairs were needed for permit and licensing reasons, while others were to improve the aesthetic qualities.  Veitch suggested allotting some savings for both expenses, since it is not clear as of yet what would be covered by FEMA.

“The last thing we want is to be stuck not having the money to do the things that are necessary,” he said.

The board discussed the need for a head ferry captain, an idea that many in the community have suggested. After some testing, officials fear that the ferry’s two engines may be reaching the end of their useful life. An aluminum hose busted at the start of last season and one engine ran hot for the duration of the summer. 

“I am not an expert on engines,”  Veitch told the board.  “I’ve looked into this thing nine ways from Sunday,” he added, explaining that he’s researched buying new engines, installing rebuilt engines, etc., jobs that could cost the village $6,000.

“It’s not cheap, but are we willing to risk another season?”  Veitch asked the board.

Currently, the board estimates having approximately $13,000 in reserve for ferry upkeep. The mayor anticipates using all of the reserve to get the boat ready for the upcoming season. He told the board that the captains have asked to get the boat retrofitted with trim tabs.

According to trustee Ken Budny, it would cost about $2,800 to add trim tabs. “It will save on fuel and it will be less wear and tear on the engines,” Budny said, adding, “It would be foolish not to do it.” Budny believes that this fix, along with other regular maintenance that includes changing filters and tightening gaskets, will get the ferry through another season.

Funds will be allotted to repair the dock and surrounding marina property. The mayor suggested that rather than replace the fence on the east side of the park on Shore Road, one alternative is to plant hedges. The cost to put in hedges would be about $10,000.

“It makes it uniform on both sides. Why are we going to put up another fence that is going to fall down again?” he argued.

Trustee Dorothy Terwilliger said to hold off on hedges or a new fence until the flooding issue in that area is resolved. “Anything you put in there could end up going again,” she said.

This year, upgrades to the electric at the dock have been mandated by the state. The board estimates the cost to redo the electric service at about $50,000.

“We have no choice but to do this,”  Veitch told the board. “If we want electric service there we have to tear up all the old stuff and put brand new lines in there according to [state] guidelines.”

While FEMA may cover some of this electric work, the mayor is not certain how much the village will be reimbursed, because the requirements are not just replacing storm-damaged wiring, but bringing the area up to new state code, which would have to happen regardless of whether or not the electric service was affected by a hurricane.

“That’s at least a 3-percent tax hike right there,” remarked Budny.

Terwilliger added that expenditures like this hurt property values within the village because of tax hikes.

“Dorothy, I couldn’t agree with you more,”  Veitch said, adding, “I just don’t know what else to do about this expenditure.”

The board is holding their regular business meeting Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. inside the Community Center.