The East Hampton Town Board is on the verge of approving the purchase and construction of a control facility at the East Hampton airport, according to statements made during Tuesday’s work session as the board considered the winning bids for the project.
Supervisor Bill Wilkinson questioned the rising cost of the structure, saying he thought it was supposed to be $400,000. “We now find that the cost of the tower is $400,000, steel is another $148,000,” with electrical expenses on top, he said.
Mr. Wilkinson asked what the true total would be, and Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who has shepherded the tower project from the start, responded that if all aspects of it were taken into account, including planning, contracting, and so forth, the cost could well be $1 million.
“So it’s a million-dollar tower,” said Mr. Wilkinson.
“A lot of those costs were in previous budgets,” said Mr. Stanzione. “The total cost of the tower management contract is $400,000. That includes the tower, but not the structure that holds the tower.”
“So it’s now a $550,000 tower,” said Mr. Wilkinson.
Mr. Stanzione explained that the rising costs were due to increased steel prices, the need to modify a design change for the pod that holds the tower, and time pressures — for the job to be done as soon as possible, hopefully by Memorial Day.
“Where’s the [additional] money coming from?” Mr. Wilkinson asked Len Bernard, the town budget officer.
“The airport surplus,” Mr. Bernard replied.
“It’s taxpayers’ dollars we’re talking about,” said Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, objecting to what she saw as a piecemeal approach.
“Whenever you’re trying to do something for the first time, there are unknowns that can’t be accurately estimated,” Mr. Stanzione said. “We did our best to budget this as accurately as possible.”
He reminded the board that the airport has been classified a Class D airspace, allowing planes to approach and depart at higher altitudes, which will lower the noise level.
“You know what? Put it on me,” Mr. Stanzione said of the growing cost of the seasonal facility. “I’ll take the hit.”
Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc noted the broad support for the project from both the pro-airport faction and those concerned with airport noise levels.
“In the end, it’s money, and we can’t be flippant about how we spend it,” Ms. Quigley said of the rising costs. She cautioned that an airport surplus is not guaranteed going forward.
There was a moment of levity late in the session. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby reminded the board that Saturday is STOP Day, for residents to drop off toxic nonrecyclables, including computers and laptops, at the town recycling facility.
Upon hearing this, Mr. Stanzione remarked, “Good. I can throw away my campaign literature.”
The day ended in an executive session to discuss personnel issues and review potential property purchases.