Tag Archive | "Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor"

Sagg Bridge Stalemate Continues

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Sagg Bridge

 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Village of Sagaponack and Southampton Town remain at a stalemate over Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor’s plan to forge ahead with a controversial plan to replace the Sagg Bridge.

The village has objected to a plan to install modified guardrails offered by Mr. Gregor, and he says he has no intention of allowing the village to annex the bridge, which village officials have raised as a possible solution.

The dispute over the tiny span, from which Bridgehampton derives its name, erupted in December when Mr. Gregor unveiled plans for a new bridge that included larger guardrails that meet the state highway safety code, but which Sagaponack residents say would cut off the view of the pond.

As an alternative, in February, the village offered to reimburse the town $500,000 for the federal grant money Mr. Gregor was planning to use for the project and help pay for future upkeep if the highway superintendent would cancel plans for installing the new guardrails.

But Mr. Gregor has refused. “I’m simply trying to make the bridge safe right now,” Mr. Gregor said on Tuesday.

As a compromise, Mr. Gregor said he offered to use a more historic-looking type of guardrail that he saw on numerous bridges on the Pacific Coast Highway during a recent vacation in California. The new railings would add about $22,000 to the coat of the project, but village officials have rejected his suggestion, he said.

Sagaponack Mayor Donald Louchheim said on Wednesday the village was stumped by the town’s refusal to accept its offer to pay for the bridge work or annex the structure.

“We thought we were giving the town a gift,” he said of the offer to pay for the work. That would free the town to use the grant money on another deserving road project, he added.

He suggested the board was unwilling to move forward with the village’s offer because it did not want to ruffle Mr. Gregor’s feathers.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gregor said he was growing tired of the delays. The highway superintendent said he had informed Sagaponack officials that was going to replace the bridge shortly after he took office in 2010 and delivered a complete set of plans for the new span last summer.

“I didn’t hear boo from them until I had my public information session late last year,” he said.

Mr. Gregor said he was hoping to go out to bid on the project this month, but he cannot do so until the town board votes on a resolution to accept the $500,000 construction grant that was procured by U.S. Representative Tim Bishop but is administered by the state Department of Transportation.

Mr. Gregor added that he had the authority to stop the village from annexing the bridge, which lies partly in the village and partly in town.

“According to the New York State Department of Transportation I own and am responsible to maintain the bridge and approaches to it,” Mr. Gregor said, referring to the town Highway Department.

But Mr. Louchheim rejected that notion. “Mr. Gregor has no authority over it,” he said. “The town owns the bridge. The town board can do it if it wants to do it.”

Even if the village were able to gain control of the bridge, Mr. Gregor said it was unlikely they would be able to get what they wanted.

“They must think they are going to be able to go to the DOT and have them tell them they can put in something that is less than standard,” he said.

Not true, again, said Mr. Louchheim who insisted the state could not force the village to bring the bridge up to code if it was not paying for the work.

Sagaponack and Bridgehampton Residents Criticize Proposed Changes to Bridge Lane Bridge

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By Tessa Raebeck

Some 30 residents of Sagaponack and Bridgehampton came to the Bridgehampton Community Center last Wednesday night to express their concerns over a project they say will change the face of their home — the rehabilitation of the bridge that gives Bridge Lane its name.

Alex Gregor, highway superintendent for Southampton Town, hosted a public forum on the bridge restoration project, a multi-faceted restoration to improve safety. The project, residents say, has unnecessary changes that, in addition to altering the character of the bridge, will pose greater risk to the pedestrians who use it for crabbing, fishing and swimming.

“That bridge is part of our rapidly vanishing hometown,” said Marilee Foster, a Sagaponack farmer who serves on the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

Lisa Duryea Thayer, a Sagaponack Village trustee, called the project “very offensive to the character of our area.”

Built in 1923, the bridge is not new to controversy. When Suffolk County owned the bridge and attempted to demolish it and replace it with a modern steel structure in the 1980s, residents fought a five-year battle to keep it, culminating successfully in 1988.

“This whole battle,” recalled Donald Louchheim, mayor of Sagaponack Village, “was fought out for exactly the same reasons that you are giving today…now in effect, the town is reneging on the commitment that it made 25 years ago.”

Costing between $890,000 and $1 million, the project would widen the two traffic lanes, repave the roadway approaching the bridge on either side, replace the guardrails, put in drainage, replace the seawalls on either side and install leaching pools — pits that absorb liquid into the soil.

“Please believe me,” Gregor told the disgruntled crowd, “I don’t like to spend a million dollars on something unless we have to.”’

The travel lanes, currently at about 8.5 feet, need to be widened to today’s standard of 10 feet, Gregor said, which would leave no room for a sidewalk on the bridge.

“I grew up next to that bridge,” said Sagaponack resident and former mayor Bill Tillotsen. “I’ve swum off of it, I’ve jumped off of it, I’ve fished off it … the sidewalk there is inadequate but without it you’re going to create a real funnel for traffic.”

Town officials began looking into funding for this project back 2005, before Gregor was in office. In 2006, an average of about 1,200 vehicles crossed over the bridge each day, according to the town.

By the time Gregor took office in 2010, he said, the town had already bonded close to half a million dollars for the rehabilitation project.

A federal grant for $500,000 was “one of the last Congressional earmarks that [Congressman] Tim Bishop got out in 2008,” Gregor said.

By accepting the federal aid, the town is required to keep the project consistent with federal and state regulations, which mandate many of the project’s elements which residents are highly critical, such as the widened lanes and new guardrails.

Cathy Gandel, co-chair of the Bridgehampton CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee), told Gregor, “you keep talking about safety — which we all want — but what makes you think that two 10-foot lanes with that guardrail [would improve safety]? People slow down now over that bridge because it’s narrow.”

“Tell the mayor and the trustees to get the cop there and write some tickets on the bridge,” Gregor responded.

Following the forum, Gandel’s husband, Earl Gandel, recalled a time in the late 1940s when international road races were held in Bridgehampton, with racers crossing over the bridge.

“We’re getting ready to change the nature of a bridge that I think a lot of people are really attached to,” Foster said. “I just feel really kicked in the face by this project because people love this place, people love the bridge.”

“I don’t think,” replied Gregor, “a 1923 bridge makes it historic, but I’m not going to insult historians in that.”

Several residents, along with Sagaponack Village’s consulting engineer Drew Brennan, asked Gregor to consider an alternative option that would make the basic repairs to the bridge without taking the federal grants that mandate the most aesthetically altering — and controversial —components of the project.

Brennan estimated that option would cost the town up to $700,000 and those in attendance asked Gregor to commit to looking into it.

“Our boards every month,” said Louchheim, “are struggling mightily to preserve as much as possible the rural and historic and scenic character of the Town of Southampton and quite frankly, the bridge is a vital part of that.”

Gregor said he and his team would consider the residents’ input and “regroup.”

“But,” he said, “I would be wrong in telling you I’m not still leaning forward.”

Linda Franke asked whether the public forum was just hosted as a gesture.

“It’s a condition and a gesture,” Gregor replied.