Originally scheduled to begin this fall, the reconstruction of Westhampton Beach’s Main Street will be pushed back a year due to the village’s decision to bury utility lines along most of the stretch—an endeavor that is expected to run an additional $932,000 and increase the project’s overall cost to an estimated $6.13 million.
The updated work, tentatively scheduled to begin in fall 2018 and conclude in spring 2020—no work will be done during the busy summer months—now calls for the removal of 17 or 18 utility poles and the burial of those attached power lines along the downtown business district, according to Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore. In those areas where the lines will not be buried, utility poles will be moved to the rear of businesses and homes along the stretch, she added.
“It’s really not just aesthetics,” Ms. Moore said in a recent interview. “It’s also safety.
“This will be safer in storms, and currently the lines hinder firefighters from reaching the second stories of homes,” she continued. “It just makes sense to do this when the street will already be opened.”
Jeffrey Weir, spokesperson for PSEG Long Island, estimated that the pole removal would cost $138,000—but that fee would be waived, as the village has agreed to finance the burial of the lines at a cost of $932,000.
“We are good people and we like to do the right thing,” Mr. Weir said, referring to the decision to waive the pole removal fee.
The village must still come up with the $932,000 for the work, and that figure will be tacked on to the projected $5.2 million cost of overhauling Main Street.
The other scheduled work includes: replacing storm drains and pipes, the removal of roughly 40 trees lining Main Street, resurfacing the road and replacing the sidewalks, and installing new street lights. The village also wants to install two roundabouts: one at the troublesome intersection where Library Avenue and Mill Road bisect Main Street, and where Main Street intersects Potunk Lane in front of the Westhampton Country Club.
To date, the village has obtained $825,000 in various grants to help finance the undertaking, and has accumulated an additional $2 million in surplus funds as well, according to the mayor. That leaves the village to come up with little more than $3.3 million to cover the remainder of the work. That amount will most likely be funded by a bond issue and paid back over 20 years, officials have said.
Westhampton Beach Village Attorney Stephen Angel said this week that there could be ways for the village to completely offset the cost of burying the power lines, though it is too early to know for certain if any of those avenues can be pursued. He said that in some cases, utility companies have paid for the burial of the lines if a municipality can make a strong enough case for a community.
“We’re still dealing with the concept—it’s very preliminary,” he said on Monday. “If the village decided to do this, there would be many steps. We may have to pass a local law or do a formal study.”
Mr. Angel noted that he must conduct additional research before reopening talks with utility representatives regarding them possibly picking up the burial costs.
Now, village officials are waiting on PSEG’s conduit design, which they need to put in the bid with H2M Engineers + Architects in Melville to get the firm’s updated design plan. These new delays, in addition to the village’s insistence against working during the busy summer season, should see the two-phase project completed around March 2020.
The first phase calls for the digging up and replacement of antiquated storm drains and old, cracking pipes, as well as the installation of conduits for when the village moves forward with a sewer district—a separate project that is expected to be completed in four phases—with the first estimated to cost $16.75 million and focusing on connecting Main Street shops and businesses.
The first phase will now also include the burial of the utility lines while the road is ripped up, as well as the laying of new piping, drywells and leaching pools. That phase is now expected to run around $2.1 million.
The drains are going to be outfitted with permeable pavers connected to hydrodynamic separators at the edge of the sidewalks to filter rainwater, sifting out road pollution, like silt and oil, while also preventing the drains from clogging. In addition to most of Main Street, the work encompasses the first 200 feet of Sunset Avenue off Main Street.
The second phase, totaling about $4 million, entails most of the aesthetic parts of the project, including the resurfacing, installation of roundabouts, planting of new trees, and the installation of new streetlights.
“It can be a painstakingly slow process,” Ms. Moore said. “But it will be worth it when it’s finished.”
Those with businesses along Main Street said this week that they support the plan to bury the power lines.
Anezka Jureckova, owner of the Peace Love Hamptons clothing shop on Main Street, thinks that burying them is a smart move that should have been done years ago. “It’s worth it,” she said. “The lines are buried around my house and we never have a problem with storms—here, we lose power all the time.
“They should bury the lines all over Long Island,” she added.
Elaine Rigas, an employee at Hampton House, a home goods store on Main Street, is just glad that the construction is being delayed. “It’s hard enough getting people to come here to shop,” she said on Tuesday. “If there’s construction happening, they’re just going to go to Southampton.”
But Alyssa Saccente, an employee at Mint clothing shop on Main Street, said she is appreciative of the efforts to improve the appearance of the village while also bowing to the concerns of shop owners. “It’s a good thing for them to do, and I appreciate that they’ll stop construction during the summer,” she said. “It’s nice that the trustees are keeping us in mind.”