Southampton Village seeking federal economic stimulus funds

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Southampton Village officials are hoping as much as $3 million will come the village’s way via President-elect Barack Obama’s infrastructure improvement plan, designed to stimulate the economy through federal spending on municipal projects.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer recently put a request out on his website seeking a list of “shovel-ready” infrastructure work that Long Island municipalities have planned, and Southampton Village responded with a list of 11 projects officials have been itching to get done, if only the money could be found.

About half of the projects focus on storm water drainage and retention, installing devices to stop runoff from flooding village streets and polluting bodies of water. The total cost of the six proposed drainage projects amounts to $2.3 million, the biggest project being a $1.9 million plan to install runoff retention and recharge on Windmill Lane, a major watershed area that drains into Lake Agawam.

Village grant writer Jennifer Mesiano, who prepared the list to send to the senator, noted that the village already has a pending grant request with the federal Transportation Enhancement Program for the Windmill Lane project, but warned that the village cannot count on the money. She said the TEP grants are highly competitive—New York received 80 applications from the downstate metro area alone, and only 20 percent of the applications received will be funded.

The village was supposed to learn in December if it would get the grant or not, but it did not receive word from the state either way.

“I think with the state’s fiscal situation, it was pushed back a bit,” she said.

Ms. Mesiano said that in preparing a list for Mr. Schumer, the village emphasized projects that include environmental sustainability, one goal of Mr. Obama’s stimulus plan.

“The stimulus package isn’t just a way to prime our economic pump,” Mr. Schumer stated in a release. “It will also jump-start long neglected sewer and water projects on Long Island and across the country that have been starved of funding for a generation.”

Mr. Schumer said the new funding would only go to projects that could start within 90 days after the money is awarded, “so the benefits can be reaped immediately.”

Village Board member Richard Yastrzemski said the projects Southampton sent to the senator meet that criterion because they would have been completed already if the village had the money. Mr. Yastrzemski admitted he could not gauge Southampton’s chances of receiving any funds, though he said the village needs to try anyway. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” he said.

“We do have that stigma that people look at that name Southampton and figure we’re rich enough and don’t need any of it,” Superintendent of Public Works Gary Goleski said of the federal help. But the politicians know better and recognize Southampton needs help like any other municipality to get big projects done, he said.

The village’s list for Mr. Schumer also includes $202,500 for three 10-kilowatt solar systems to power the public works yard with renewable energy. The village has already purchased one 10-kilowatt system with 50 solar panels that is being installed. It should provide 25 percent of the public works yard’s power, Mr. Goleski said.

Village Board member Paul Robinson said the public works yard offices’ and garages’ roofs have great southern exposure, making them ideal locations for solar panels. Eventually, the village would like to install reverse metering, so it can earn money by selling electricity back to the Long Island Power Authority, he said.

The roof of the police department on Windmill Lane is another possible location for solar panels, Mayor Mark Epley said Monday.

The mayor said the solar-energy system being installed now at the public works yard cost the village about $24,000, after $40,000 worth of LIPA rebates.

On Magee Street, the village also wants $60,000 to plant 300 trees in the greenbelt to increase wildlife habitat, and $380,000 for installing new sidewalks and replacing deteriorating curbs and walkways, particularly the ones around schools.

In September, the New York State Department of Transportation announced the village would receive a $421,000 “Safe Routes to School” grant to improve sidewalks and other pedestrian infrastructure around Southampton Elementary School. Ms. Mesiano said the new $380,000 request does not duplicate any of the sidewalk improvements the “Safe Routes to School” grant will pay for.

Many of the projects stemmed from the village’s new master plan, which is still in the draft stage, and the Lake Agawam Comprehensive Management Plan, which was presented in July after environmental consultants studied the ailing lake for months.

“The projects for which funding is requested are essential to achieving the goals of our vision and comprehensive management plans; however, due to local funding constraints the village has been unable to advance these projects,” the village wrote to Mr. Schumer. “We actively pursue federal, state and local funding, but opportunities are severely limited.”

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