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Jul 1, 2009 12:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Septic system delays Southampton Town Justice Court relocation

Jul 1, 2009 12:23 PM

Plans to move Southampton Town Justice Court from the crowded basement at Town Hall in Southampton Village to a new complex on Jackson Avenue in Hampton Bays in January have been delayed twice, and now the move is on hold once again.

This time, the delay is due to a substandard septic system that was installed in November—in an area that has since been paved over, for use as the facility’s main parking lot—without Suffolk County Department of Health approval. Now, the town must either dig up the parking lot to bring the septic system into compliance, or install another system that meets the county’s requirements.

Digging up the septic system and installing a new one in would cost an estimated $60,000, according to Town Supervisor Linda Kabot. That’s on top of the $3 million already spent on the project.

But Victor Canseco, a principal partner with Sandpebble Builders, the project construction managers, met with Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst on Friday to discuss other ways to fix the problem. He suggested installing another septic system in the rear of the property, a solution that would cost between $10,000 and $15,000 and take about two weeks, he said.

The septic system is not the only bump in the road slowing down the Justice Court move. According to Ms. Kabot, there are issues with the foundation on a section of the modular units that make up the new court facility. Because the section involved will accommodate a significant portion of the court building, no move can take place until the issues are rectified. Ms. Kabot said the town is in the process of hiring a engineer to bring the units into compliance.

Mr. Canseco said the problem is that the portion of the facility that will house the court itself, rather than offices, is considered a more permanent installation of the modular units, and because it will be more heavily utilized than office space, the foundation must meet more rigid standards to be in compliance with state code. An inspection must be completed to make sure the foundation meets the code standards.

Issues with the septic tank and its approval were the primary reason for the earlier delays as well. Initially slated for January, then pushed back to April, the new date for the Justice Court relocation is now up in the air.

Although Ms. Kabot said the town is ultimately responsible for the installation of the inadequate septic system—the General Services Department, directed by Town Management Services Administrator Richard Blowes, instructed Sandpebble to put it in—she added that the town relied heavily on the advice of Sandpebble and Aldo Andreoli, the engineer hired by the town on Sandpebble’s recommendation. “They tried to cut corners, and now the health department is holding our feet to the fire,” Ms. Kabot said.

But Mr. Canseco said the reason the cesspool went in without county approval is that the town ordered Sandpebble to install it prematurely, because the town wanted to meet the January deadline for completing the court’s relocation. “We are only the consultants on the project,” he said. “We do what the town tells us to do.”

According to Mr. Canseco, he was told by Mr. Blowes in October of last year to go ahead with the installation, even though he had estimated that permit approval wouldn’t be granted by the county until the spring. Mr. Canseco maintained that the town wanted to put the system in place by January, and to meet that deadline, the town had to get the tank in the ground before the end of 2008, because the parking lot still had to be paved, and asphalt companies stop paving around that time due to the onset of winter weather.

Mr. Canseco said town officials were confident that the system would be approved by the county after it was installed, but moving forward without the county signing off was a gamble.

Despite the latest glitch, county officials have given the town the green light to relocate the court to the Hampton Bays site as long as the new septic system is up and running by October, according to Mr. Blowes. “We’re ready to go,” he said, adding that county district attorneys are already working out of the new facility.

Repeated calls to the county health department were not returned.

Even with the county’s conditional go-ahead, Mr. Blowes said the move would not happen at least until after the busy July 4 weekend. “It’s just a matter of coordination,” he said.

If the town opts to replace the septic system, digging up the parking lot would likely further delay the relocation. “We would have to close the court in order to break up the parking lot to get the new septic system installed,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “Either we figure something else out or wait until the cesspool is dug up and another put back in.”

Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who has been critical of the plans to relocate the court all along, said this most recent setback with the septic system is just the latest in a series of issues that have plagued the project.

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First Mr. Blowes orders too many of these modular units with out authorization,and now this. Why does Ms Kabot continue to put up with incompetents?? Is is because she is one too?? Mr. Blowes should have been let go when he cost the town so much money by his lack of knowledge. Get someone in there who is educated for the position, and knows what he doing!! How many mistakes do we have to pay for? Time for a change!!
By bayview (160), Southampton on Jul 1, 09 7:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why does it appear that just about every project associated with Sandpebble seems to develop headaches (errors, mistakes, cost over-runs, billing problems, law suits) for the Town? Where does the charge of incompetence belong? And doesn't it appear that Sandpebble receives an unusually large number of the contracts the Town lets? I can't wait for NYS Comptroller DiNapoli and the State audit of this little fiasco to begin.
By foodie (74), Remsenburg on Jul 3, 09 10:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
Wow, now Mr. Blowes screws up another project. Take a look at the Flanders Nutrition Center, what a hugh cost over-run. Richard really botched that one, no kitchen stove, etc. What an idiot. Whats going on at Town Hall incompetent people all emplyed, its no wonder the budget so messed up. Who's going to stand up and tell us all, where the buck stops? Do we have any takers...thought so...case closed!!!!!!!!
By nazz (22), Flanders on Jul 3, 09 1:39 PM
2 members liked this comment
Why should it cost the taxpayers to fix a problem caused by Sandpebble Construction? Let them pay for the cost of a problem they caused. Sandpebble should be ban from further projects with Southampton Town.

Keeping Richard Blowes and permitting him to approve changes without authorization from the Town Board is foolish. Find someone new.

Who supervises him? It's time we find someone new.
By Bob Whyte (48), Hampton Bays on Jul 5, 09 10:21 AM
3 members liked this comment
why didnt southampton vet the contractor before hiring him - it is clear linda kabot does not read the local papers - yikes .... good luck
By johnnytax (29), new york on Oct 22, 09 9:34 PM
well my understanding of health department regs are they Do Not allow septic systems to be placed under driveways or parking lots for residential or commercial and if this is so the Town should not be allowed to place them in there parking lot and Mr Blowes should be fired along with Sandpebble builders and the town board for thier lack of control should be removed from office and banned from holding any other town positions. I also believe the Town Building Department should not be conducting any ...more
By flabu2 (1), Southampton on Jul 8, 09 5:10 AM