Town Board looks to define grant requests

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | The Town Board met in work session Tuesday. From left, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Peter Reich and Councilman Ed Brown. Not shown in photo, Councilwoman Chris Lewis.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session members began to winnow down projects they want to ask government agencies to help fund.

Department of Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. presented a list of priorities to the board for what’s called “hazard mitigation grants.” These grants funnel money from the federal government to states, which then provide money to local municipalities after natural disasters. At the local level, municipalities kick in 25 percent of the total grant money.

Mr. Card’s list included elevating the Island’s low-lying areas to mitigate flooding on West Neck Road, Westmoreland Drive, Brander Parkway, Ram Island Road, Ram Island Drive and Gardiners Bay Drive.

Increasing electronic communication between emergency response departments made the cut as well as offering “grants to homeowners to bury electric services in accessible properties.” And finally, grant money was considered to put boulder groins at Shell Beach.

Time means money, Town Attorney Laury Dowd noted, reminding the board that letters of intent for grants have to go out within the first couple weeks of July.

Sticker shock hit the board when Mr. Card estimated that the Shell Beach project could enter the $160,000 range.

The board seemed to be in agreement on one project, which would be increasing communication capabilities for town first responders.

Councilman Peter Reich seemed to speak for the consensus when he said the town “could find $15,000 for communications,” but for road elevation, “it could be half a million dollars and 25 percent of that’s not something we have sitting around in [Supervisor Jim Dougherty’s] office drawer.”

With a government communications grant, the town would be able to help residents immediately if a disaster struck, and would be the most cost effective.

Resident Vinnie Novak suggested that for under $10,000 the town could set up a low power frequency FM transmitter. These send out a signal using lower power than, for example, a commercial station, and are aimed at smaller areas.

Mr. Novak noted that if power goes out, all cable and Internet connection goes with it, but “every resident has an FM radio in their cars,” and the town would be able to communicate vital information to residents.

Mr. Card stressed that elevating roads was essential in a disaster to get medical personnel to flooded areas. Councilman Ed Brown asked for estimates of cost and the board will pursue the matter next week.