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Mar 22, 2016 10:36 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trying To Secure $3 Million Grant To Raise Dune Road

Suffolk County may secure a $3 million state grant for Southampton Town to put towards a project to elevate Dune Road.
Mar 23, 2016 8:32 AM

Southampton Town officials might have found a major source of funding that, if secured, could pave the way for the long-awaited raising of a significant section of Dune Road by this fall.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this week that he has been working with Suffolk County officials to secure a $3 million matching grant through the state’s Community Development Block Grant program to reduce flooding of the road along the ocean beaches. Grant money has already been allocated to the county for hazard mitigation efforts and, if some of that funding can be secured for the town, it would clear the way for a fall start date on work that calls for raising the nearly seven-mile stretch of Dune Road, from the Shinnecock Inlet in Hampton Bays to Quogue Village’s western border, by approximately 24 inches.

The grant is a matching fund, meaning that town officials are now looking for ways to come up with funding for the project, which is now expected to cost about $6.8 million to complete, or $2.2 million less than previously estimated.

“We agree with the town that it’s a critical project, that we think it would be a good use of hazard mitigation funding,” Suffolk County Deputy Executive Jon Schneider said on Monday, noting that even “an average rainstorm” can create flooding conditions.

“It’s certainly not a done deal by any stretch,” he continued, “but it’s something we’re working with Southampton Town on, and coordinating with the appropriate officials in state and federal government.”

At last Thursday’s Town Board work session Mr. Schneiderman announced that the overall cost of the project, which has been discussed for several years—and every time a major storm threatens to breach Dune Road—has been slashed by more than $2 million. He explained that the savings will be achieved by securing asphalt at a significantly cheaper price and through the scrapping of plans that originally called for the installation of a $1 million plastic mesh that would have helped stabilize the asphalt. That component was dropped after engineers commissioned by the town determined that its installation was unnecessary.

The town will also be getting significant financial assistance from Quogue Village as about 1.7 miles of the portion of Dune Road targeted for raising falls within that municipality. Quogue Village, Mr. Schneiderman said, has agreed to cover its portion of the work, which he said is expected to run around $1.7 million—or $1 million per mile—and the county would count that contribution as part of the $3 million matching grant, leaving the town to make up the difference.

Quogue Mayor Peter Sartorius said on Tuesday that his village has not calculated the cost of the its portion of the project since it applied for, and was denied, a Local Waterfront Revitalization grant through the town last summer. Still, the mayor said he has no reason not to trust Mr. Schneiderman’s figures since the overall cost of the work has gone down. “We’re still discussing,” Mr. Sartorius said.

The town, which has already allocated $1 million for the project, still needs to come up with about $1.1 million to fully fund the work as it is responsible for maintaining the estimated five-mile stretch of Dune Road in East Quogue and Hampton Bays. To do so, Mr. Schneiderman said he is looking at both public and private funding, noting that some homeowners along Dune Road in East Quogue have expressed a willingness to pitch in. Additionally, the supervisor said he might consider asking his colleagues to allocate another $500,000 toward the work.

Mr. Schneiderman added that he is exploring the possibility of the private contributions coming from the Tiana Erosion Control District tax, which was established to help fund costs related to erosion control. That way, instead of relying on solicited donations, “it would spread the burden in the fairest possible way,” he said.

“Rather than going and asking each of those people for the money voluntarily, this would be better because it would spread it out and make sure it’s evenly proportioned,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “If we don’t use the [Tiana] Erosion Control District for some reason, we can still try to privately fundraise that piece.”

Prior to Mr. Schneiderman reaching out to county officials for help, U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin attempted to get the project included in the Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Study, a move that attempted to qualify the raising of Dune Road for federal funding. At last week’s work session, Mr. Schneiderman said the long-awaited report is expected to come out in June, but the town would not necessarily know by then if the project qualifies.

And even if it did, the town should not expect any federal funding for several years. “It would probably mean a couple of years before we can start work on it,” he said.

As for Mr. Schneider, he said the county should find out in a few weeks if the town has secured the $3 million matching grant.

“Right now, it’s just making sure … we have all the information we need to make the best case,” he said.

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