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Northport Village hires engineering firm for master plan, after trustees criticize process


by Chrissy Ruggeri | Wed, Jun 14 2023

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On Tuesday, June 6, the Northport Village Board of Trustees debated a resolution to enter into an agreement with engineering firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis for professional environmental and planning services in the development of the Village’s master plan. The resolution passed 4-1, with Trustee Dave Weber voting against it for reasons related to the process – a sentiment that all other trustees agreed with and vocalized publicly at the meeting.

The resolution to hire the firm first appeared on the April 18 agenda, but the trustees asked Mayor Donna Koch to pull it and provide more time to review the proposal. Since then, the board met for a workshop, where the trustees received the proposal documents and more information from the Master Plan Committee, a group with members including Mayor Koch and her assistant Donald Tesoriero, Planning Board Chairperson Richard Boziwick, Zoning Board Chairperson Andy Cangemi, and Village Attorney Edward Gathman.

The committee has met frequently in the last year and in that time, viewed three presentations by engineering firms on their service proposals for the master plan, a layout and guide for future development and growth in commercial, marina and residential areas that hasn’t been updated by the Village in fifty years. The trustees voiced their concerns about transparency and communication by the committee, and asked to be more involved in the process.

The resolution authorizes services at a cost of $162,000, which includes the proposal for the master plan, along with other projects. The services for the master plan will cost $90,000, which will be covered by a grant and a mandatory $10,000 match by the Village. The remaining fund uses approved in the resolution have not been specified for the public.

“I believe that the hiring of services or getting proposals for the master plan was a flawed system,” Weber said before the board voted on the resolution. The trustee expressed concerns about whether each of three businesses hand-selected to submit proposals for the job were all asked the same questions by the committee to allow for fair judgment. “The trustees still have not received the scope of work for any of these projects,” Weber added, suggesting that as a governmental body, it isn’t fair to give some businesses an unfair advantage and the Village should have put out for a Request For Proposal (RFP) so that each firm was working off the same information. “My issue is not with the firm, my issue is with the process,” Weber said.

Attorney Edward Gathman said that an RFP is not necessary for a professional services project, but Weber replied that with such a high price tag, the Village should have completed an RFP to formalize the process.

Trustee Ernest Pucillo said that the proposal received by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis is generic and doesn’t outline the specific issues being addressed within Northport Village. He said that he’d prefer to sit down with the firm and solidify a more specific contract, if given the opportunity.

Trustee Joseph Sabia agreed with both Weber and Pucillo. He too said he’d prefer if the Village put out an RFP and wants to make sure they are spending this amount of money properly, and not just for a “piece of paper that never gets used.”

Trustee Meghan Dolan said that she also wanted more from the process, and would have preferred for it to be more open to board members. “I would like to see it done that way in the future, even though we are not legally obligated to do so,” she said. Dolan noted that after the board asked for a delay in voting on a resolution that the trustees had little information about, they attended a workshop and gained more insight. “Although I agree the process was flawed and I’d like to do it differently in the future, to me that is not an obstacle because I think this is the right firm,” Dolan explained.

Master Plan Committee member Andy Cangemi defended the decision to move forward with the proposal from Nelson, Pope & Voorhis and said that he has experience with the firm and thinks it’s the only one on Long Island that the Village should consider for this kind of project. He explained the need for urgency as they move forward, noting the harbor and parking as two major issues. “It really comes down to how we need to maintain the harbor and, when this hotel opens up,” he said, “with a 200-seat restaurant and 40-something apartments in there, you think parking is bad now, it’s going to potentially be really bad.”

The hotel, however, has 175 restaurant seats and 26 rooms, with 150 parking spaces available on site, accounting for 25% of the Village’s total parking.

Weber also noted that the master plan should include issues like residential sewage, especially if one of the main focuses is maintaining a healthy harbor, and the process needs to slow down so that it’s done thoughtfully and properly. Cangemi said that an important step is the discovery of the issues in Northport Village, which will be addressed by the firm and presented to the board and public. “The canvassing of the issues is the first step and most important step with this,” Cangemi said.

The majority of the board agreed that despite the flawed process, the project should move forward and four board members voted to approve the professional services agreement with Nelson, Pope & Voorhis. Trustee Weber voted against the resolution.

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