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Business

Concrete slabs sit in the open lot on Main Street in Smithtown. Photo by Phil Corso

A vacant lot that used to be home to a lumberyard, across the street from Town Hall in Smithtown, is in the Town Board’s crosshairs.

A recent waiver request from the applicant in charge of the 102 W. Main Street property set off a somewhat heated debate at Town Hall, when Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) called out VEA 181st Realty Corp. for what he referred to as a lack of good faith in bettering the space. In the application, developer Salvatore DiCarlo requested the gigantic pile of concrete slabs at the site be ground on the premises in a move that Smithtown Planning Director David Flynn said could reduce truck traffic in the area.

At a work session earlier this month, Flynn told the board that DiCarlo needed to remove the concrete slabs from the property in order to grind them down and install a roughly 5-foot mound of vegetation in its place, as the property moves forward into development. Flynn said there was likely more material than necessary for future building on the property, thus making it difficult for the developer to have to truck materials back and forth between the property and an off-site location.

“Reducing truck traffic is in the public good,” Flynn said, while discussing the waiver request with the Town Board. “The applicant already agreed to abide to conditions beyond what the town code requires. He’s volunteering to slightly more stringent requirements as it is.”

Vecchio, however, was not impressed by the suggestion, and contended that the request to grind concrete on-site was nothing more than an attempt to save money.

“When is he going to build? What is his endeavor here?” Vecchio said. “When does he show some good faith?”

Vecchio said he would not vote in favor of a waiver request for DiCarlo, and instead said it was time for him “to put the pedal to the metal.”

DiCarlo could not be reached for comment.

Flynn said the applicant had received approval to build three-story apartments at the site, with retail space on the ground floors. He also said he was unaware of any specific target date in terms of construction at the property.

DiCarlo, who Flynn said took on the property about 10 years ago, was granted a special exception back in 2013 that allowed him to build apartments on the site, but he has yet to file an updated site plan for construction. The town approved a site plan for demolition in July 2014 and two vacant buildings on the site have been razed over the last several months.

Town Councilman Bob Creighton (R) said the applicant has been trying to build on the site for years, but has encountered countless obstacles preventing him from doing so on the town level. Vecchio, however, fired back that the town’s hands were clean when it came to the inactivity at the spot.

“He hasn’t done anything in good faith,” he said. “I find it horrible. I think that’s a no-no.”

The discussion was tabled upon request from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) pending a meeting with the property owner, with Creighton ending the debate by calling on his fellow board members to give DiCarlo a chance.

Incident shut down part of Main Street on Friday afternoon

Firefighters exit Renarts, where there was a heavy smoke condition on the second floor on Friday afternoon. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Fire Department responded to a call of heavy smoke at Renarts that shut down a part of Main Street on Friday afternoon.

An employee of the shoe store near Wall Street called the fire department at about 12:45 p.m. after going upstairs to grab a pair of shoes for a customer and discovering smoke on the second floor. There was a little bit of smoke in the first room and a lot of smoke in the second room, he recalled at the scene on Friday.

“I was coughing a lot,” Paul Rodriguez said. “I couldn’t even stand up for a minute.”

He ran down to place the call to the fire department, which responded in five minutes, he said. The chief got to the scene in less than two minutes.

Rodriguez said fire officials told him there was an “electrical problem” that was being handled.

Chief Robert Berry told reporters at the scene there was no fire, but a “heavy smoke condition” on the second floor. Officials are still investigating what caused the smoke condition but by about 2 p.m., it was safe to go back into the store.

There were no injuries.

Solar shingles shine on the roof of a Long Island home. Photo from Division 7

The idea of installing solar panels to a roof as a source of electricity for a home is not exactly prehistoric.

Reducing the use of electricity or gas to power and heat homes undoubtedly has a positive effect on the environment. Despite being fairly new to the market, solar panels may be supplanted soon by a less expensive, more effective alternative.

Solar shingles have been available in the United States for about five years, according to an estimate by Richard Ciota, a Stony Brook resident who owns Division 7 Inc. Ciota’s 21-year-old roofing company is located in Lake Grove. Its residential division is the only one in the Suffolk County, Nassau County and New York City areas permitted to sell Dow Powerhouse solar shingles.

Solar panels have been available for decades, Ciota said in an interview at Division 7’s main office. They are at this point more efficient in generating electricity than shingles in terms of kilowatts per-square-foot of roof space, though there are problems associated with panels that contribute to the higher cost Ciota said.

“When you’re putting a solar panel onto a roof surface, you’re mounting that solar panel to the rafters through the existing roof,” Ciota said about the older technology, which his company offered prior to the availability of shingles. “So the waterproof technology has got to be perfect because you could be putting 40, 50, 60 penetrations through a perfectly good roof.”

Solar shingles are installed onto the roof of a Long Island residence. Photo from Division 7
Solar shingles are installed onto the roof of a Long Island residence. Photo from Division 7

Wind, shade from trees, excessive heat and animals are other factors that Ciota said are enemies to solar panels, which are installed on top of asphalt shingles and leave wiring exposed to the elements. Wind can cause the panels to pull the asphalt shingles away from the roof, which is an annoying and costly problem to have to fix after panels are installed.

Solar shingles replace asphalt shingles. They are waterproof and work in the same way that any conventional asphalt shingle would along with the added benefit of a reduced electric bill and a more environmentally friendly home than one that runs on electricity or gas heating.

Despite availability and the obvious benefits, solar panels only currently exist on about 5 percent of Long Island homes, according to Ciota. The number of homes with solar shingles is exponentially smaller.

John Petroski, Division 7’s director of solar and residential operations, estimated that the company has done about 70 shingle installations on Long Island since 2012 when Dow partnered with Division 7 Inc. Petroski said they have about 35 booked jobs left to complete, as part of Dow’s pilot program, which offered leasing or purchasing options to consumers.

“The way [Dow] is moving forward with the technology of the shingles, the improvements they’re making — they’re covering their bases,” Petroski said in reference to the notion that unanticipated issues have arisen as solar panels have gotten older, which could also happen to the shingles.

“I personally think the solar shingle will take over the marketplace,” Ciota said about the future as the technology continues to be upgraded. “There are new generations of solar shingles that will be coming out that will increase its efficiency and eventually they’ll probably tie up and meet [the efficiency of panels].”

Other companies sell solar shingles on Long Island, though Dow’s are widely considered to be on the cutting edge. In 2012 Dow received a Breakthrough Award from the magazine Popular Mechanics for pioneering an integrated solar roofing system, according to a press release on Dow’s website.

Note: John Petroski, director of solar and residential operations, is this writer’s brother.

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Town Board changes decision-making process when granting contracts based on ‘best value’

Town Board members mull over the proposal to add a chapter to the town code changing the ways contracts are bidded out at a previous public hearing. Photo by Phil Corso

Smithtown’s Town Board unanimously green-lighted the adding of a chapter to the town code that awards bids based on best value rather than simply giving contracts to the lowest bidder.

The change came pursuant to a state general municipal law that allowed towns to authorize the awarding of certain purchase contracts, including contracts for services exceeding $20,000, based on best value, which Assistant Town Attorney Janice Hansen described as more cost efficient in the long term, as opposed to the cheapest option in the short term.

“The best value option may be used if, for example, it is more cost efficient over time to award the good or service to other than the lowest bidder or offerer, if factors such as lower cost of maintenance, durability, higher quality and longer product life can be documented,” she said at an April 7 public hearing on the matter.

Contracts for public works projects, however, were not included under the new chapter, Hansen said.
The state law described the standards for best value as projects that “optimize quality, cost and efficiency among responsive and responsible bidders or offerers.”

But Charlie Gardner, director of government affairs for the Long Island chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, spoke on behalf of his group’s 47 different electrical contractors in Nassau and Suffolk counties in saying there were concerns over the wording of the measure. By awarding contracts based on best value and not just price, Gardner said he was worried about the level of subjectivity that might arise in the decision-making process and was simply looking for reassurance from the board.

“If you read the standards for best value, it does cite where possible determinants should be based on objective and quantifiable analysis of clearly described and documented criteria, which is fine,” he said. “But why does it say, ‘Where possible?’ Shouldn’t it always be the determination based on that? We’re not quibbling with the intent of the law and we certainly have faith in the current Town Board, but down the road, when subjectivity enters into it, that’s the concern of my members.”

Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the board would take Gardner’s concerns into consideration in making future decisions on contracts and also ensure any awards are justified as they are rolled out.

The state law requires that entities must document their reasoning for awarding a contract based on best value instead of to the lowest responsible bidder.

Smithtown’s Town Board voted 5-0 in support of the measure at its April 23 meeting, making the new chapter supersede any inconsistent provisions of the town’s procurement policy enacted before the unanimous vote.