AKRF Senior Vice President Robert White during a meeting at Riverhead Town Hall in April. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town formally pulled the plug on the planning consultants hired in 2019 to update the town’s comprehensive plan.

The Town Board on Wednesday voted unanimously to terminate the town’s agreement with the New York City-based consulting firm AKRF Inc., a move announced in advance by Supervisor Yvette Aguiar in a June 24 press release.

Town officials were “increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of progress and shallow depth of study put forth by” the firm, according to the release.

The consultants’ work under the original agreement, signed in January 2020, was to have been completed by Aug. 1, 2021. Work was delayed by the pandemic, according to Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree who is overseeing the comprehensive plan process for town. An extension was approved by the town last August, with a new target completion date of August 2022. In February, Murphree told the town board the comprehensive plan update would not be completed before spring of 2023.

Facing the need to again extend AKRF’s contract, town officials instead decided to terminate the relationship.

The firm has been paid about half of the $675,000 fee due under the contract, according to town officials. It had not produced a draft of the plan as of the termination date. The planners held three series of community meetings, conducted an online community survey and worked with Murphree on the launch of an interactive website. It presented town officials and the public with compilations of community and stakeholder comments as well as an affordable housing analysis. Its traffic engineering subcontractor, Louis K. McLean Associates, prepared and presented a traffic analysis.

An AKRF spokesperson said in an email last week the firm was “very disappointed” with the town’s decision.

“We care deeply about our planning work for Long Island communities and stand by our responsiveness and the quality of our work,” the statement said. “While we would prefer to complete this important work for the town, we respect their decision to move in a different direction. We wish Riverhead success as they build on AKRF’s work and continue updating their 2003 Comprehensive Plan.”

Members of the Central Advisory Committee appointed by the Town Board to work with the consultants on the update expressed frustration with the process and concerns about more delays going forward. See prior story.

The town is moving forward to select a new consultant to complete the plan update, Aguiar said. Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree has “begun to engage with reputable firms who specialize in the Comprehensive Plan process,” the press release stated, and will begin to receive proposals from firms to replace AKRF.

“The town board has met individually in this regard and we need we need to address this immediately,” Aguiar said in a June 28 phone interview. “There’s probably going to be an outcome within the next week or two.”

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