June 21, 2006
Scopaz To Scope Traffic Study?
Town Supervisor Scott Russell is reaching out to former town planning director Valerie Scopaz for guidance on a pricey traffic study that has sparked controversy in Southold recently.
Russell has stressed that the scope of any town-wide traffic study needs to be determined before work begins. The supervisor was scheduled to speak with the town board at yesterday's work session about hiring Scopaz to develop a comprehensive outline and scope for a traffic study at a cost of $1500.
Russell, who contacted Scopaz last Wednesday and asked her for a proposal, said he is concerned about the scope of the study, and "even the ability of the town board members to make suggestions as to how to change the scope. What keen insight can any one of us claim into traffic knowledge?"
Russell vetoed the hiring of Steven Schneider, of the Coram-based firm Schneider Engineering. He was to conduct a "corridor transportation study" analyzing the impacts of traffic growth town-wide.
Before the vote to hire Schneider, The Independent Traveler Watchman revealed that the engineer has worked for Southold Citizens for Safe Roads, an organization that has rallied against Cross Sound Ferry-generated traffic on area roads. At the time, Russell said that the perceived conflict of interest would make Schneider "ineligible for hire by the town." The board approved the hiring nonetheless, and Russell, who cast the lone nay vote, predicted that putting Schneider on the payroll would be a "huge mistake."
The supervisor pointed out that there was little difference in cost savings between Schneider and the first proposal for a study by Patrick Cleary of Northport-based Cleary Consulting, whose estimate nearing $100,000 was deemed too high. Although Schneider's proposal estimates costs at $80,000, he emphasized that there could be additional expenses. Russell said that the study "could realistically cost much more when all is said and done."
After a subsequent work session with Schneider was held to "shape" the study, Russell felt that Schneider's concept regarding the scope of the study was "nebulous at best." He added: "I simply cannot rely on the 'professional' traffic engineer to tell the town board what it needs. He has an $80,000 proposal on the table and has an obviously good reason to convince us that his scope is what we need."
After the meeting, the board decided to e-mail suggestions to acting planning department head Mark Terry, as well as assistant town attorney Kieran Corcoran, who would forward them to Schneider.
Russell has decided to support the traffic study as long as it is broad enough to encompass issues town-wide: "The fact is, it is a new day in Southold and traffic is a real issue that needs to be dealt with." The supervisor reminds that he voted against hiring Schneider because he believes the town should know what it wants in a study before determining who is best equipped to perform the work.
When he expressed his views to the board, Councilman Tom Wickham told Russell that there was a need for expediency, as it was crucial to gather traffic data on the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.
But so far, Russell feels that the scope of what's been presented is not sufficient: "I believe this focus is too narrow and does not view the entire picture."