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Relief at last at Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park’s new public bathroom is ready for its closeup with a ribbon cutting set for Thursday at 2 p.m.

After literally years of waiting and working through the permit process with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, a ribbon cutting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at the new unisex bathroom installed at Volunteer Park.

The structure was installed in late summer and has been up and running for several weeks now.

The structure was paid for in part by a $67,700 Suffolk County grant, augmented by $30,000 from the Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce and $20,000 from the town coffers.

But despite the grant from the County, when the Public Works Department was about to install it before the start of the summer season, work was stopped by the Health Department, which refused to permit it because officials wanted a “full-blown system” that could serve a four-bedroom house in place of the flush unit that would be pumped out.

It took months and intervention from County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) to cut through the red tape and gain the necessary permit.

Then, when construction began, it was discovered that installation was more difficult than originally realized, but the crew proved to be up to the task.  Another delay ensued until the parts were shipped to the Island.

The new unit will be pumped out regularly the same as a Port-A-Potty, although it will be far cleaner and more attractive than a generic portable bathroom, Mr. Card said.

Electricity to monitor wastes in the holding tank below the unit had to be installed so that a sound would occur if the tank is nearing capacity. That will alert the Public Works Department that the tank must be pumped.

With all the delays, Jack Kiffer, owner of the Dory on Bridge Street, filed a lawsuit against the town, complaining that it should have taken steps years ago to install a public bathroom in the area so non-customers wouldn’t seek to use his restaurant facilities. That lawsuit will go forward, Mr. Kiffer said  in August.

“The damage to me has already been done,” he said about what he termed “six years of lies, and procrastination” by town officials since he first complained. The delays have cost him customers and “a lot of money,” he said.

While he said he’s hopeful that the problems he has endured are coming to an end, the town “still has to pay.”

Mr. Kiffer couldn’t be reached Wednesday to determine if his suit is still going forward in light of the ribbon cutting.

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