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Jul 5, 2019 4:56 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Takes Steps To Avoid Delays In Upcoming Main Street Construction

Utility lines above Main Street in Westhampton Beach. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Jul 9, 2019 3:02 PM

The Westhampton Beach Village Board has amended a local law in an effort to prevent delays in the burying and relocation of utility lines during the village’s Main Street reconstruction project, which is expected to begin in the fall.

The amendment to Chapter 174 of village code authorizes the board to impose civil penalties of up to $5,000 per day on utility companies if they work past their specified time frame, as well as additional penalties, like a court injunction for damages incurred by the village as a result of the delays.

Village Attorney Stephen Angel said that the board wants to “hold the utilities’ feet to the fire” during the project so that all work is done according to plan. He and the board have been discussing this amendment for months during past work sessions.

“For those of you who have been to other public hearings and public meetings, the board and the community have found that it’s critical to try to get this job done in one season,” Mr. Angel said at the July 1 meeting. “And we want as much power as we can get to force other actors, who are to some extent independent, to play ball to get it done.”

Chapter 174 of village code, titled “Underground Utility Lines,” was enacted last September as village officials moved forward with plans for the Main Street reconstruction project. The law requires utility companies owning existing or proposed utility lines along Main Street between Potunk Lane and Beach Lane to either bury them underground or relocate them to the rear of the properties lining the street.

The board held a public hearing for the local law amendment at the July 1 meeting. No one from the audience offered any comment, so the board proceeded to vote to make the change.

“The hope is that we’ll never have to use it, but when [utility companies] read the provisions, they say, ‘You know, the village is taking this thing seriously—we really don’t want to defend a lawsuit under these circumstances,’” Mr. Angel said at the meeting.

The village attorney also pointed out that a similar provision in New York City has been upheld in court, setting precedent for such a mandate.

In April, the board authorized the project’s general contractor, who has yet to be chosen, to install the underground conduits for the Main Street utility lines. Once that is complete, the utility companies Verizon, PSEG Long Island and Altice, formerly Cablevision, are responsible for running their lines through the conduits and removing the telephone poles, Deputy Mayor Ralph Urban said.

“It’s all to streamline the whole job just to make sure that the delays are avoided as much as possible,” Mr. Urban said.

“They’ve been really cooperative, especially PSEG, but also Altice and Verizon, so I don’t foresee that there would be a problem,” Mayor Maria Moore said.

While the village takes steps to avoid future construction delays, it currently faces delays in the first phase of work for the Main Street project. This phase began in March to improve the village’s stormwater drainage system, and was meant to be done before Memorial Day weekend, but is still getting finishing touches and will be done next week, Mr. Urban said.

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