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Aug 9, 2017 11:13 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Main Street Overhaul Now Expected To Begin In Late Fall In Westhampton Beach

Main Street in Westhampton Beach.
Aug 9, 2017 12:05 PM

Big changes are coming to Westhampton Beach’s Main Street, both above and under the ground, though the massive undertaking now will be completed in two phases, and over two years.

The Village Board has spent the past year planning the estimated $4.7 million project. It will include replacing crumbling storm drains and uneven sidewalks, cutting down—and eventually replacing—several dozen trees lining both sides of the road, ripping up and repaving the street, installing new lighting fixtures, and realigning the poorly designed intersection where Mill Road and Library Avenue intersect Main Street.

Additionally, the village is contemplating burying the power lines along the main business corridor at an estimated additional cost of $800,000 to $900,000.

All of the work was originally slated to begin concurrently this fall, but it has been pushed back.

Phase one calls for the digging up and replacement of troublesome storm drains, and the installation of conduits, in case the Village Board eventually decides to move forward with a sewer district—a separate project that is expected to cost several million dollars, though an actual figure has not yet been offered.

The first phase is now expected to begin in December, and is expected to wrap up in March 2018, according to Mayor Maria Moore. Crews then will take the summer off, as to not interfere with the active tourist season, before resuming in October 2018.

The second phase of the project, which includes most of the aesthetic improvements, is now not expected to wrap up until March 2019.

“It was probably a little unrealistic of us to think that we could do both phases from October 2017 to March or April 2018, and engineers told me that the stars would have to align and we’d have to have perfect weather and all to do that,” Ms. Moore said this week.

The decision was met with great relief from some shop owners this week, many of whom were worried that the renovations would deter customers from visiting the village.

“I’m just glad they’re doing it over winter instead of fall,” said Lynn Stoller, owner of The Lynn Stoller Collection store on Main Street. “That would have definitely taken away fall business.”

Village officials decided to alter the projected timeline for the work after learning of the abysmal state of the storm drainpipes lining Main Street, according to the mayor.

“Our Department of Public Works superintendent, John Kearns, told us that before we worked on the streets we had better find out what was underneath it,” Ms. Moore said. “We hired a company that had a robot with camera on it to go through all of the drains, which start up on Montauk Highway to catch the rain runoff, and go down to Main Street and out to the canal.”

The underground survey revealed that many of the 24-inch-wide clay pipes, which date back nearly a century, had sustained heavy damage, sporting many cracks and fissures where tree roots had grown right through them. While the damage to the storm drains is not a new revelation, the extent of the problem was not truly known until the survey was finished.

“Some drainpipes have been replaced more recently, because they’re on side streets that are easily accessible without creating much of a disturbance,” said Paul Houlihan, the village’s building and zoning administrator. “But on Main Street, it’s different … So I told the mayor [that] a lot of mayors have known about this for a long time and put it off, but it’s really getting critical.”

The $1.2 million drainpipe project entails opening up Main Street and 200 feet of Sunset Avenue, the removal of about a foot of cement that encouraged the shifting and cracking of the roadway, and the laying of new pipes with corresponding leaching pools and drywells to collect the water. The drains will also 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 this stage, builders will also lay a large pipe across Main Street, the first piece to a future sewer system if the village ultimately opts to install one and replace the individual cesspools now serving Main Street businesses.

Next Steps

The first step in the storm drain upgrades calls for replacing the buried and badly cracked large brick culverts that connect the north and south sides of Main Street, near Glovers Lane. Running this distance should be a pipe about 4 feet wide to handle the rainwater. Upon investigation, engineers discovered that the current pipe measures only 15 inches in diameter.

“All of this is causing the backup of the rainwater and the flooding on Main Street, where stores are so low to the ground that it goes right in,” Ms. Moore said. “By fixing it, we’ll mitigate the flooding problem and also put in devices that help filter the water.”

Village Board members expect to get a design of the new drain work in October or November, at which point they can bid the project out to contractors. The plan now is to break ground in December.

Phase two, which includes the resurfacing work, will then start in October 2018 and is expected to cost $3.5 million, not counting the estimated $800,000 to $900,000 needed to possibly bury the power lines, if the board opts to do that. H2M Architects + Engineers of Melville, the village’s contracted firm for the project, will present two different renderings of Main Street with alternative features like street lights, trees and even a traffic circle, that will be available for public viewing and debate at a village meeting to be held sometime in September.

News that the village has altered its timeline for the Main Street overhaul surprised some shop owners, including those who say they had not heard a peep about the status of the improvements.

“This is August and none of us have heard anything about this—cost, impact, anything,” said Liz Lambrecht, owner of the Impulse for Men shop. “We’re on Main Street, so you think we’d be part of the conversation.”

Additionally, the Village Board is considering taking advantage of the upcoming work, which essentially results in the digging up of Main Street, to see if it makes economic sense to bury the power lines running along the street. Such a proposal has been floated for years, with supporters pointing to the improved aesthetics and opponents worried about how the village would pay for the work.

At this point, the mayor said the board is still waiting on cost estimates before making a decision.

“I’ve always wanted to see if we can bury the power lines,” Ms. Moore said. “The trees need to be chopped, and it’s not just aesthetics—there are power outages and firefighters told me that they have trouble getting to the second floor of buildings because of the lines.”

The mayor noted that she recently attended a meeting with representatives from PSEG Long Island, Verizon and Cablevision, all of whom utilize the poles. She is currently waiting on PSEG for designs and cost estimates.

Once those things are decided, contractors will rip up Main Street and nearby sidewalks, put down new asphalt, sidewalks and curb cuts, and also better align the intersection of Mill Road and Library Avenue. The mayor also noted that one possible remedy now being considered is the installation of a traffic circle near the Rite Aid on Main Street.

Officials will also work on more superficial aspects of Main Street. “The lighting down there is inadequate,” Ms. Moore said. “I’ve been down there at night plenty of times and you can barely see the people crossing into the street. So we want to put in additional lighting, and we’ll move the old decorative lights to Sunset and Mill where we don’t have them, so it’ll be a continuation of the Main Street area.”

Also slated for removal are several dozen trees—Callery pears, Japanese zelkovas, oaks and maples—that line Main Street.

“We got a report that most of the trees are diseased and old—they’ve reached their life expectancy,” she said. “[The pear trees] have only a 15- to 20-year life expectancy. And they also have very weak limbs, so they weren’t the best choice.”

She added that the Bartlett Tree Experts of Southampton, the company that surveyed the trees, said they likely would not survive the construction process anyway. The Village Board, meanwhile, still has not decided what type of replacement trees would eventually be planted.

Paying For The Work

As the specifics of the upcoming work solidify, the Village Board has been searching for grants to mitigate the financial burden. So far, members have secured nearly $1 million in grants, according to officials.

That figure includes $150,000 secured last year, and an additional $250,000 this year, by State Senator Kenneth LaValle, and that money came from a State and Municipal Facilities Program, or SAM, Grant. State Assemblyman Fred Thiele secured a $250,000 SAM Grant as well. The Village Board has also received $75,000 for the curb extensions from Suffolk County’s Downtown Revitalization Grant, and sent out another application for an additional $100,000 for the light fixtures which it hopes to receive in September or October.

In addition, the village has set aside about $1 million in surplus funds that are earmarked for the project. They intend to contribute additional surplus funds, assuming there will be some at the end of the current fiscal year.

The remainder of the money, which is expected to total at least $2.5 million but could be more, will have to be financed with a multi-year bond, according to the mayor. “I’m sure that the interest rate will be very low for us since we just had our Moody’s rating upgraded since we were conservative in our spending,” Ms. Moore said. The village’s bond rating was upgraded from Aa2 to Aa1 in December, which should allow the village to borrow money at lower interest rates.

To help offset some of the costs of the drainage work, the mayor said she will ask Southampton Town if the village can tap its Community Preservation Fund revenues because, now, up to 20 percent of the money collected can be earmarked for water quality improvement projects. Specifically, Ms. Moore said she would like the town to return 20 percent of the CPF money collected from the village in 2017, though she was unable to offer an exact figure this week.

Regarding the sewer district proposal, Ms. Moore said board members will refocus their efforts on that project once the Main Street revitalization is under way.

Though many questions still remain, and it remains uncertain if the village will advance the sewer project, several Main Street workers said they support the ongoing revitalization efforts.

“It’s necessary work and it’s long overdue,” said Leslie Kennedy, store manager of Mustique on Main Street. “And it’s going to happen no matter what we think about it.”

“I’m for anything that helps the village,” added Steve Rosmarin, a real estate salesman at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, also on Main Street. “The mayor wants to bring back the vibrancy we were once known for. This will ultimately bring more off-season business, and in the meantime, people here are used to quiet winters.”

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This Mayor just cant tell the truth and lay the facts out. Sewer system costing "several million" yea right. And the employees on Main Street giving their opinion- wonder if they are taxpayers In the Village. As far as revitalizing Main Street for more "year round business" my belief is you need "year round residents" to support that business. Oh well- guess we taxpayers have to bend over again. That's what happens when these elected officials don't go to the community with the facts and a vote.
By realistic (425), westhampton on Aug 9, 17 12:47 PM
Mini-roundabouts are less common in North America, but frequently used in the UK. Their footprint is smaller, making them suitable for retrofit situations with right of way constraints (and lower cost). They are also commonly used where truck U-turns are not needed, so achieve all the safety benefits of compact modern roundabouts at a much lower cost. They are all truck apron, and in the UK are sometimes just paint on the road. Mini-roundabouts examples:

Fayetteville, ...more
By ScottBatson (3), on Aug 10, 17 6:31 PM
The Board of Trustees will be holding an informational meeting on the Main Street project at its work session on August 16th at 5:00 pm in the board room at Village Hall. Our engineers and architects from H2M will be presenting information on the storm drain replacement, and two renditions of the Main Street resurfacing plan. All are welcome to attend and provide input.
By Mayor Moore (7), Westhampton Beach on Aug 11, 17 1:33 PM
Mayor Moore. The biggest question you should be answering is; When will there be a Village vote on this item? You and the Trustees should not be spending such a large amount of taxpayer dollars without community vote. What are you afraid of?
By realistic (425), westhampton on Aug 11, 17 6:07 PM
When you get bids, ask for true bids no cost over runs. Sounds like the SW Sewer district again, pay pay pay...
By knitter (1291), Southampton on Aug 12, 17 6:25 PM
but don't you think Moore and the Trustees should live up to their campaign promise to put this up for Taxpayer vote? I have been told they know the estimated cost but are afraid to let the community know since its so high and they don't want the Village taxpayers to know how much money they have been wasting on this.
By realistic (425), westhampton on Aug 12, 17 7:10 PM
The Mayor and Trustees were elected by the taxpayers. They have done their due diligence for this project and all agree it should be done. Government can't perform if every project is decided by individual voters.And please bury the overhead wires.
By tenn tom (196), remsenburg on Aug 13, 17 7:20 AM
Says the guy who's from Remsenburg and will not get the Village tax bill. And lets not forget when this Mayor was elected she promised a vote for all the taxpayer money spent. Lets also not forget the $1.5 mil Marina project that was added to the tax bill and not voted on, and now the Main Street project thats going to exceed $5 mil and not have a taxpayer vote. And then theres the $50 mil sewer plan thats not going to get a tax vote. Wow were we taxpayers duped. Remember as the taxes go up your ...more
By realistic (425), westhampton on Aug 13, 17 8:11 AM
Not to get in a pissing match, but I have been living in WHB for the past 9 years.
By tenn tom (196), remsenburg on Aug 13, 17 9:24 AM
I belive in taxes for upgrades and maintenance, within reason. I commend the board for securing grants, though I tally $725,000 in hand, not $1 million, but perhaps they're hopeful more $ is on the way. The mayor and WHB Village board have already spent/will be spending $6.5 million this year alone on the marina and main street revitalization projects--major capital expenditures that did not go out for taxpayer vote. If we are to spend one more penny on our Village, especially on a multi-million ...more
By st (103), westhampton beach on Aug 13, 17 11:46 PM