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Update: Town may team up with Greenport to save village ice rink

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since it was first published.

Southold Town and Greenport Village may team up to invest in much needed repairs for the village ice skating rink. 

Supervisor Scott Russell said the town is investigating the feasibility of an intermunicipal agreement with the village to split capital costs for rink maintenance and operation, including a potential “bubble” to insulate the rink, making it viable even in bad weather.

“Typically it’s difficult for a town to spend money on a village asset, particularly capital improvements. But as a joint venture, I think this is a very important asset. I think we need to keep it open to the community. I know the [mayor] feels the same way,” Mr. Russell said. “If we’ve been able to work out joint agreements in the past, such as pump boat operations, things like that, then we ought to be able to join forces to make this work.”

Village administrator Paul Pallas said at a work session last Thursday that the rink needs around $200,000 in repair work. The rink can still operate this season, he said, but beyond that, it needs to be upgraded or put it aside until there’s a different plan.

“The concern, in addition to the cost, is the use,” he said. “If we make these changes, it’s not going to improve the uptime, if you will, of the ice rink. It may improve it a little but not significantly.”

Plus, between the new ice rink coming to Calverton and two rinks on the South Fork, the village is facing “significant competition.”

“It’s starting to become somewhat untenable from a financial standpoint at this stage,” he said. The rink brings in “almost no net income” and “very often on an annual basis, we’ve lost money.”

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said in 2020, the rink brought in $54,000 and $23,000 in 2022. It didn’t operate in 2021. Mr. Pallas said it had been viable for around 12 days in 2022. 

Trustee Julia Robins suggested considering “installing something more permanent” on Moores Lane as an alternative, especially with plans for the mini railroad in the park.

“There are ways to protect it from the sun without building an expensive, permanent indoor structure. I’ve seen them in other places,” Trustee Peter Clarke noted. He pointed out that residents and businesses have been irritated about the ice rink’s operation.

Mr. Russell said in an interview following the work session that he plans to approach the Town Board and has already asked the town attorney’s office to start researching the possibility of a joint venture. 

“We have very few assets to work for the public. We do what we can. Small towns operate on tight budgets and we feel like this is very important and serves a town wide benefit so having the town be part of the solution, I think is not only appropriate, I think it’s necessary,” he said. “It’s too important an asset to let go.”

Mr. Russell emphasized that the town is not seeking to interfere in village operations but said Southold would have “a vested interest in making sure our capital improvement is protected and that the residents of Southold Town have reasonable access.”

Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. confirmed he’s speaking with the town to “help with the maintenance” and “try to get a cover over the top of [the rink] so we can keep the sun off of it and try to make the ice last longer and have a longer season with it.”

The ice rink will go up this season, he said. The village is still looking into prices for a “bubble” to cover the rink.

“Unfortunately Mother Nature is getting warmer and warmer every winter. We don’t have the real cold weather that we need for the ice, so that’s why we’re talking about the cover,” Mr. Hubbard said.