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Mar 13, 2013 9:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Refuses To Let Noyac Road Work Move Forward

Mar 13, 2013 10:29 AM

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday afternoon took a rare legislative step to effectively thwart the plans of Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor to redesign a dangerous stretch of roadway in Noyac near Cromer’s Market.

After hearing a new litany of complaints about the highway superintendent’s plans from Noyac residents, and voicing their own frustrations with the Highway Department’s approach to the roadway problems, the board killed a resolution that would have requested bids from contractors to conduct the highway work.

“We cannot compel an independently elected superintendent of highways to draft a project one way or another,” Councilman Jim Malone told the crowd of two dozen Noyac residents at the Town Board meeting on Tuesday. “The people of Southampton elected Alex Gregor. We can ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ these projects—that’s the extent of our authority. What we can do is wait for the appropriate project and support it.”

The proposal the Highway Department had planned to embark on this spring would curb off a parking lot at the popular Cromer’s Market and Whalebone General Store and make two adjacent streets one-way to reduce the amount of traffic trying to pull out onto Noyac Road.

The town and residents have been wrestling with ways to address the dangerous conditions along the sweeping curve in the roadway for more than a decade. Mr. Gregor, who took over the Highway Department in 2010, has defended the current plan as the only way to address what he says is the primary safety issue in the area: cars pulling out of the parking lot directly into the lanes of traffic. He has claimed that residents have objected to every design he and his predecessors have proposed. The current plan is the seventh such design proposal.

Residents and members of the Town Board have urged him to try employing less drastic traffic-calming measures first, including warning lights and signs, and rumble-strips in the roadway approaching the busy stretch, before embarking on re-routing roadways and building curbs and medians in the road, as the plan proposes.

“We want something done, no doubt, but not something that is that giant, colossal plan,” said Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council. “If you compare this to a patient who is sick … the doctor would try certain things first—they wouldn’t automatically give you a transplant. They would give you a pacemaker … before the whole heart transplant. Let’s not do this heart transplant-size project.”

Mr. Gregor has said such measures will not solve the problem and has pointed out that the design at issue now was drafted before he came into office with the support of the Town Board. He’s accused board members of pandering to curry political favor rather than considering public safety.

Mr. Gregor said that since the Town Board failed to approve the bidding resolution—the motion was not seconded and, therefore, failed—he would consider other options for addressing the problem as he sees fit, including trying to undertake some of the planned roadwork using Highway Department crews.

“We have a greater responsibility to the public—my job is to make the roads safer for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists,” he said. “I did not pull this out of my ass and say this is the cat’s meow. The Town Board is uncaring, inept and incompetent. They have been no help to me since I walked in the door.”

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