Hardy Plumbing
April 26, 2006

Suggest Sliver Giving

"For the greater good," County Executive Steve Levy has suggested asking business owners with property along County Road 39 in Southampton to consider giving slivers of the land that's needed for a major road improvement to the effort. Purchasing all the properties required to do the job amounts to almost half of the total project cost, he explained on Monday. Merchants' generosity could mean more actual construction could be completed sooner. "Every dollar we save in land acquisition is another dollar we can put into construction," Levy declared.

There simply isn't enough money to undertake the wholesale reworking of CR39, a project which had been the hope for many who traverse the congested thoroughfare running between the Sunrise Highway merge and the Princess Diner. Releasing his capital budget earlier this month, Levy listed funding over the next three years that demonstrates a shift away from the major project and towards smaller phased improvements.

Creating a special district where property owners cede land to the county could ultimately benefit business owners along the road. It's in their "best interest" the CE said, for business owners to pitch in. They suffer professionally when their own trucks are stalled on the often-impassable road.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele reported that he'd spoken with a representative of the Southampton Business Alliance about the notion over the weekend. "I think it would be hard to get everybody to give their land, but I do think the business owners want to be cooperative," he said.

"It's important for them to have this project done, so there could be some give and take," Thiele continued. He thought a deal that included property owners accepting less than the market value for the land might work. The design phase is not complete, but Levy noted that the county would probably need strips just five to eight feet deep in front of most parcels.

Last Friday, Levy and Thiele were joined by Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney, Congressman Tim Bishop and Legislator Jay Schneiderman in a discussion of the project. Bishop, whose office brainstormed the confab, characterized the discussion as " very productive." Elected officials left the meeting agreeing that improving the road is a "very high priority," Bishop said. Each lawmaker recognized the amount of money that's available now, some $15 million, and made a commitment to find additional sources of funding. In the meantime, experts from the county's Department of Public Works have been challenged with developing plans for smaller scale projects that place an emphasis on traffic flow and safety within the allotted funding.

Heaney, who has sparred with Levy over the project, said Monday that he derived most benefit from having the opportunity to sit down with engineering professionals. The supervisor said he wasn't sure everyone involved in the discussion was aware of vital and tragic statistics relating to CR 39. There have been 1000 accidents on the road in the last five years. In the last two years, five people have died and 60 have been injured in crashes on what some people call Paseo De Muerte (translation: road of death). Heaney said he thought the figures "resonated" with some of those present at the meeting.

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