Maps displayed by AKRF at the Sept. 2020 'kickoff' meeting with the town board. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town and AKRF, the planning consultants hired to update the town’s comprehensive plan, have agreed to a one-year extension of the agreement signed in January 2020.

The consultants’ work is now scheduled to be completed by Aug. 21, 2022, pushed back from the Aug. 1, 2021 date in the original agreement.

The firm’s work was delayed by the COVID-19 crisis, according to Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree.

In addition to the change in schedule, the contract amendment approved by the town board last week adds two tasks to AKRF’s responsibilities. First, the consultants are creating a new section of the town website devoted to the comprehensive plan update, where interactive pages such as surveys and interactive maps will be accessible for public use and input. Second, AKRF will create up to four interactive social pinpoint maps that include all hamlets of the town.

The two additional tasks, taken together, carry an additional fee of $22,750, but the add-ons will not cost the town any additional money because the town has agreed to eliminate one of the
deliverables in the original contract: the preparation of an official map of the town, pursuant to New York State Town Law. The official map is created at the discretion of the town board to lay out new streets, highways drainage systems or parks or to widen or close existing ones.

The other tasks spelled out in the original agreement remain in place, though completion dates have been pushed back. The amendment sets them forth as follows:

  • Public outreach and engagement/public survey/final hamlet map: fall 2021
  • Trend analysis: summer 2021 (draft June/final July)
  • Summary of issues opportunities/results of public survey/ transportation plan outline: winter 2022
  • Identify preferred alternative/GEIS, scope of work/DGEIS scoping meeting: spring 2022
  • DGEIS preparation: spring 2022
  • DGEIS public hearing: Spring/ Summer 2022
  • FGEIS preparation/final recommendations/other deliverables: summer 2022
  • Project completion: August 31, 2022

The contract amendment was negotiated by Deputy Town Attorney Ann Marie Prudenti, whom board members thanked for negotiating a beneficial change to the deal.

“They wanted extended money and I refused to accept them with extended money,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. “I want to thank you, Ann Marie, for working to protect our taxpayers’ money,” she said.

The $675,000 contract with the New York City-based firm was authorized by the town board in October 2019, signed by former supervisor Laura Jens-Smith in December 2019 and fully executed Jan. 2, 2020. AKRF was selected by the town board after the board issued a request for expressions of interest June 4, 2019. AKRF was one of two firms to submit a proposal.

Commencement of work was delayed by COVID pandemic shut-downs. The original Feb. 1, 2020 kickoff date was delayed to September 2020, when the consultants came to a town board work session to update board members on what the firm had been doing. AKRF principal and project manager Robert White and senior technical director Lorianne DeFalco told members of the town board and planning board on Sept. 17 the firm had been doing prep work — researching, reading previous planning documents and preparing maps.

The next steps would include establishing an advisory committee, conducting meetings with town officials, and holding up to 20 community meetings. Some or all of the meetings were expected to be held virtually, White said last September, due to ongoing pandemic restrictions.

Councilman Tim Hubbard, the town board liaison to the comprehensive plan advisory committee, said today the in-person community meetings will be taking place and should get underway “soon.” The interactive maps will supplement the in-person meetings, not replace them, Hubbard said. He said he has not had an update from the planning administrator on the status of the website rollout, which Murphree last month estimated would launch within about two weeks.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.