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Southold Town attempts to ‘narrow the scope’ of new Town Hall, Justice Court renovations

Southold Town is attempting to “narrow the scope” of proposed renovations on the town hall annex, a former bank that’s set for conversion to a Justice Court.

The proposal, which includes building a new Town Hall and demolishing the original structure, came with an original estimate of $37 million. Now, that cost could be down to $32.5 million. 

Town engineer Michael Collins said he met with the court last week, where they discussed renovating the first floor of the annex exclusively for the court and remediating the basement and second floor. 

“[They’ll] get insulated, get HVAC, but it would basically be white space, it would not be finished,” he said. “That will cut down the cost of the project; the court doesn’t need those spaces. They’ll be available for future use of the town, but not completed.” 

The alternate plan to renovate both buildings rather than building a new Town Hall would involve moving staff into temporary trailers, something that would prove “very disruptive,” Mr. Collins said. That plan came in at $28 million. 

Mr. Collins pointed out that although options for renovation appear to be cheaper, there are “a lot of soft cost benefits” to building a new Town Hall. The town would not have to cover the cost of trailers and the new Town Hall could be laid out “in a more cost-effective fashion.” 

Supervisor Scott Russell, who was not present when the plan was discussed at the last town work session, expressed concern about the cost of the project. 

“We have explored all those different options. Most seem not feasible, but I have to tell you, $37 million, that’s an awful amount of money for a small-town town hall,” he said. “And just remember folks, we need a police department too.” 

He pointed out that general allocations each year, excluding programs such as the open space preservation program, come to about $30 million. 

Mr. Collins responded that if the town does not choose to move forward with a plan, it’s still “obligated to spend millions of dollars on the buildings that we have,” on maintenance or otherwise, and they’d still be faced with the question of a new court. 

“I really can’t stress enough; we need to make a decision by the end of July,” he said. “Because what’s going to happen if we don’t is departments are going to start spending money on renovations and upgrades that they are obligated to do because they do not have a path forward.” 

He does not believe the numbers will change “all that much.” If they move forward this year, he’ll hire an architectural and engineering firm and get bid documents next year. 

“Maybe we get lucky. Maybe the numbers come in lower, maybe these supply chain issues smooth themselves out,” he said. “But I didn’t want to give you a lowball number and then come back and ask for more money later.”

He hopes to “have this whole thing wrapped four years from date of approval,” although that’s a “very aggressive” timeline.