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Community dock

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Poquott residents are protesting the village board trustees approving a 5-year bond for a community dock. File photo

Plans to build a community dock continue to cause waves in the Village of Poquott.

Approximately two dozen Poquott residents rallied Aug. 25 on Route 25A in East Setauket to protest the village trustees’ decision to rescind a resolution for a 10-year bond to pay for construction of a village dock in favor of a five-year bond.

“Hopefully, we are at a point we can actually build the dock.”

— Jeff Koppelson

The protesters have been against the dock’s construction for nearly a decade.

The mayor and trustees called an emergency meeting Aug. 23 after more than 200 residents signed a petition requesting a referendum vote on the dock plans. In July, the board voted for a 10-year bond instead of their original plan for a five-year note after tabling the decision earlier in the year when bids came in higher than predicted. The original plans were estimated to cost $150,000 but did not include Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps. The new cost of the dock will be approximately $255,000.

In an email to residents after the Aug. 23 vote, Mayor Dee Parrish explained the reasons for the change from a 10-year to a 5-year bond noting the construction of a dock had been “a known work in progress since 2010.” She said residents were first sent a survey in 2010, and the village mailed out two additional surveys in following years. The majority of village residents answered they were in favor of a community dock, according to the mayor, which will be built in California Park at the end of Washington Street and will measure 128 feet by 4 feet. The board of trustees officially began planning efforts in 2015.

“The dock plan was in forward motion since then and the decision we faced was not whether or not to put it to a vote, but rather how to pay for the construction,” Parrish wrote. “The recent petition for referendum was challenged, and the village attorney recommended that the five-year bond would ensure that project move[s] forward as originally planned by the board.”

Trustee Jeff Koppelson said the board had considered a 10-year bond to reduce the annual cost to Poquott residents, but once they became aware of the petition for a referendum, moved forward with the original five-year plan.

John Richardson, a village trustee who ran for mayor this year, said the village attorney informed him the residents would not be able to request a referendum given the five-year bond, and he voted “nay” for the new payment plan. Under New York State law, a request for a referendum would be allowed with a 10-year bond.

“Hopefully, we are at a point we can actually build the dock,” Koppelson said.

“I’m representing what people want. If they’re paying for it, they should have a say in it.”

— John Richardson

Richardson said he is concerned because the bond was not put out for a bid, and he believes residents should be able to vote on whether or not they wanted a dock and how to pay for it. He also said the feedback he has received from residents is that they are worried about maintenance and insurance costs.

“I’m representing what people want,” Richardson said. “If they’re paying for it, they should have a say in it.”

Felicia Chillak, who ran for trustee this year, went door to door with others to collect signatures for the petition requesting a referendum. She said the residents who signed were a mixture of those who wanted a community dock and those who didn’t, but all believe it should be voted on. Chillak said she had 30 days after the July 19 board meeting to turn the signatures into the village clerk, and as of Aug. 16 the petition had 196 names. She was then notified by the state Comptroller’s Office due to Aug. 18 falling on a Saturday, she could submit the paperwork by Aug. 20.

Chillak then presented the village clerk with an amended petition with 207 signatures. She said the petition needed the signatures of more than 20 percent of Poquott voters, and a recent voter registration list from the Suffolk County Board of Election that she obtained lists 802 registered voters reside in the village. However, at the Aug. 23 meeting, Village Attorney Joseph Prokop questioned the validity of some signatures.

Chillak said some people were hesitant to sign the petition or participate in the Aug. 25 rally.

“This is a serious issue in this village,” she said. “Even when we were getting petitions signed, residents were afraid of the mayor seeing their signature in fear of retribution.”

According to Parrish’s email, village officials and residents have organized multiple community events, including the Poquott Community Association’s Lobster Bake, with the intent to raise money for the dock. To date, $20,000 has been raised. The village also acquired three floating docks valued at $16,000 at no cost. Parrish said an average household will see a $123.20 a year increase in their taxes to pay off the five-year bond.

Engineer Charles Voorhis describes the planned community dock in Poquott and answers residents’ questions at a Jan. 5 planning board meeting at Emma Clark Library. YouTube screenshot from Village of Poquott

While the divisiveness over a proposed community dock in the Village of Poquott may be lessening, some are keeping a watchful eye on the plans.

A handful of residents attended a Jan. 5 village planning board meeting at Emma S. Clark Public Library to hear a presentation given by village engineer Charles Voorhis. The managing partner of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis was on hand to discuss the design of the proposed dock, which is planned for California Park at the end of Washington Street.

Voorhis said the proposed fixed dock would be 128-feet long and 4-feet wide, and at the end, would include a landing area measuring 6-feet wide. The engineer said the dock will include water service, solar panel-powered rail lighting for nighttime and an ADA access ramp made of concrete.

During high tide, a beachgoer could walk up the stairs on the north side and down the stairs on the south side, according to Voorhis, and during low tide villagers could walk underneath. There will be a 30-foot gangway that will serve as a transition from the dock to a 30-by-8 foot float which will make it easier to get into boats, especially smaller recreational crafts.

“I will say that this is a very straightforward installation,” he said. “It’s very similar to what you see for recreational piers for residential homes around the harbor.”

“It’s very similar to what you see for recreational piers for residential homes around the harbor.”

— Charles Voorhis

Ted Masters, interim planning board chairman, said the design meets the criteria described in Chapter 64 of the village code. At a Oct. 26 public hearing, the village trustees made amendments to the chapter per suggestions made by the planning board. According to the Oct. 26 meeting’s minutes, the required water depth to build a dock was changed from 4 feet to 3 ½ feet, and the width of the dock was changed from not to exceed 3 ½ feet to 4 feet and may exceed where needed to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Voorhis said the depth of the water is taken into consideration to ensure any floats for the dock will not rest at the bottom of the waterway and 3 ½ feet is adequate.

After the engineer’s presentation, the meeting was open for public comments and questions.

“I’m just concerned about people who have difficulty maneuvering, putting steps in their way,” Cindy Davis said, after asking if there would be railings, which Voorhis said there would be.

Another resident asked what can be done to prevent icing on the dock. Voorhis said the village is addressing whether or not the dock will need bubblers, which circulates water when there are freezing conditions, and the village is looking into options as far as powering them if needed.

Roger Flood, of Poquott, asked how the dock would be moved and stored in the winter. Voorhis said large cranes are used in many areas including Port Jefferson Harbor, and he suggested an upland location for storage either in the parking lot, since its not used as much in the colder seasons, or a grassy area.

After the Jan. 5 meeting, board trustee Jeff Koppelson said in a phone interview there has been less public debate about building a community dock, a topic that disrupted prior meetings as many questioned the financial impact of installing one.

“The board of trustees are very conscious of what we have to do to keep an eye on the money angle,” he said, adding a notice was recently posted on the village’s website regarding costs.

The board is looking into a five-year bond for $150,000, according to the post, and the payments would be $32,475 per year. The first two years could be paid off if the board approves the moving of $50,000 from the fund balance plus the $16,160 from the Poquott Village Community
Association.

In order to pay the remaining balance of the bond, there would be a tax increase for each household of $80 per year for three years. There would also be the maintenance cost of the dock at $2,075 a year for the village, which would include general maintenance, the floats being removed from the water in the winter and additional insurance.

A few in attendance questioned whether enough or proper notice was given regarding the Jan. 5 meeting. Masters said another public planning board meeting regarding the dock is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at Poquott Village Hall. Residents can also send comments to village hall if they are unable to attend. Dock plans and minutes from past meetings are available for viewing at Poquott’s village hall and posted on its website.

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