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$5.15M OK'd to repair public property damaged by Sandy

Updated 12:08 pm, Thursday, January 31, 2013
  • Damage to the pavilion at Penfield Beach included undermining of the pilings that support the structure. The pavilion was completed only 16 months ago. Photo: File Photo
    Damage to the pavilion at Penfield Beach included undermining of the pilings that support the structure. The pavilion was completed only 16 months ago. Photo: File Photo

 

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More than $5 million to repair damage caused to public property by the onslaught of Superstorm Sandy last October has been approved by the Representative Town Meeting.

The $5.15 million approved Monday will cover items like the elevation and repair of Penfield Pavilion, improved road drainage, re-establishment of boat channels and replenishing town beaches with sand.

The legislative body's vote was unanimous, but three members -- Kathy Braun, R-8; Mary McCullough, R-3, and Matthew Ambrose, D-5 -- abstained from voting.

Lalley Boulevard resident Ian Bass told the RTM, however, that perhaps the waterfront pavilion shouldn't be rebuilt, or should be smaller. He said the newly rebuilt pavilion cost $5 million and now the town is thinking of spending another million to fix it. "When do we stop?" he said.

Bass said one wing of the Penfield Pavilion houses 180 lockers for a town of 60,000 people. "I have to question whether or not that building needs to be there," he said.

As a homeowner who is "diligently battling with FEMA since the flood," Bass questioned estimates and expectations that the town would receive 75 percent reimbursement from the federal agency on eligible expenses. He suggested spending $500,000 on the pavilion repairs and using $500,000 to provide grants to homeowners in the beach area.

Heather Dean, D-4, asked if the sand dredged from Southport Harbor will be clean enough to use for replenishing town beaches. The Department of Public Works plan is to use sand dredged from Southport Harbor and the South Benson marina channel to restore sand lost during the storm.

"How much contamination from Exide is in the harbor?" Dean asked, referring the to former battery plant whose industrial runoff polluted part of the Mill River -- upstream from Southport Harbor -- with lead contamoination.

The dredging, explained Harbor Management Commission Chairwoman Mary von Conta, will consist of bringing up sand from a sand bar that has formed. "It is sand," she said, "pure, clean sand. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection "has no concern whatsoever about this sand. We are not digging up the bottom of the channel," she said.

Nick Mirabile, R-9, echoing concerns raised by Ed Bateson, R-3, said he thinks the town needs to make sure that accepting FEMA reimbursement, particularly in the case of beach replenishment, doesn't mean the town will have to open the town's beaches to non-residents. "We do want to save some of the beaches for the taxpayers," he said.

First Selectman Michael Tetreau agreed that "If that information is anything different than what we understand, we would put a hold on these projects," he said.

The beaches themselves are open to residents and non-residents alike, but parking is restricted to residents only at Sasco, South Pine Creek and Southport beaches.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http://twitter.com/GreillyPost