By Kathryn G. Menu
According to a report compiled by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works and sent to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, while Long Wharf has “no structural deficiencies,” short term repairs to the wharf will cost the village about $340,000 should Sag Harbor Village officials decide to take the county up on an offer to buy the pier for $1.
Included in the purchase of Long Wharf is also ownership of Windmill Beach, and the deed to a Hempstead Street property the county has previously offered the village for the development of affordable housing.
However, according to a larger engineer’s report, furnished to the village on Wednesday afternoon, sometime in the next decade the village will need to spend $621,000 to cover repairs to the wharf to ensure no serious structural damage occurs as a result of not keeping up with the maintenance of the facility.
In the initial letter, Suffolk County Department of Public Works Chief Deputy Commissioner James Peterman writes that while Long Wharf was once owned by the Village of Sag Harbor, it was transferred to the county and placed in the county road system, he says, “to take advantage of certain funding opportunities then available under the New York State Highway Law.”
“Today, Long Wharf is a central part of the village’s downtown area and provides parking and recreational opportunities to residents and visitors,” writes Peterman.
While the county has paid the bill for the long-term maintenance of Long Wharf as its owners, the village has taken in revenues from dockage at the site, last year earning $93,000.
At this point in time, continues Peterman, the county would like to transfer the ownership of Long Wharf and Windmill Beach to the village, making the first formal offer by the county to Mayor Gilbride and the board of trustees.
Attached to Peterman’s letter, are the estimated costs to clean, paint and refurbish the wharf area, at a total price tag of $340,000.
According to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, that $340,000 in work would need to be performed in the next few years to ensure the long-term structural health of Long Wharf. The $621,000 costs laid out in the engineer’s report detail long-term maintenance required at the site. Schneiderman said if the county retained ownership of Long Wharf, it would likely seek to bond for the whole of the project rather than parse it out.
Schneiderman said he has been debating with county officials over the Long Wharf issue, trying to get an agreement for $340,000 in funding for the Village of Sag Harbor. While the county cannot bond a project and then sell the subject property without charging the buyer for all costs, Schneiderman suggested that if the county retained a partial ownership for the life of the bond, perhaps a deal could be struck.
However, while he supports that kind of measure, Schneiderman said he has not found similar support within the county.
“The county’s position is to give the wharf to the village, as is, and not to do anything” said Schneiderman. “I am just not sure I will be able to get that approved. The county is strapped for cash and can’t see why it would maintain and own this.”
Schneiderman said he believes it is in Sag Harbor Village’s best interest to retain Long Wharf and Windmill Beach as its own, and that he would hate to see a worse case scenario emerge, where the county sold the properties to a private owner who would then set up a paid parking system, and charge for docking and use of the facility for private events like the Bay Street Theatre Gala.
“It’s in the village’s interest to own Long Wharf so they can have total control over its future,” he said.
Village trustees have discussed taking ownership of Long Wharf in earnest, with a majority of the board appearing in support of the concept. Last month, trustees laid out tentative plans to create a budget line to fund the long-term maintenance of Long Wharf by socking away $100,000 each budget year, ideally funded through dockage at the site. Harbor Master Bob Bori has also discussed expanding the village’s transient docks as a way to increase revenues.
Schneiderman suggested additionally that a “Friends of Long Wharf” organization could be created and suspected many members of the community would be keen to support the long-term costs of maintaining Long Wharf and perhaps making it more pedestrian friendly.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Gilbride said he had received both reports and would discuss them in detail with the village board of trustees before the village makes a formal decision.
The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting is on December 14 at 6 p.m.