Fire department seeks accessway through parkland

The Centerport Fire Department wants an accessway built across Suffolk County-owned parkland to prevent delays in responding to emergencies.

First responders are concerned that road obstructions, such as in storms Irene and Sandy, could slow assistance to fires or injured residents. About 60 people gathered to discuss the proposal Tuesday night at a meeting at United Methodist Church organized by Legis. William Spencer (D-Centerport).

Several expressed concerns about disrupting the parkland and the steepness of the land where the fire officials would like to see the right of way.

Attendees also offered ideas to improve fire department response, including burying electrical lines, constructing a fire department substation and using water access for emergencies.

At the meeting, county Water Authority officials also presented their idea to construct a water main below the right of way, to help keep water flowing to residents in the event of a break.

Spencer said the authority would cover much of the costs to clear the land and that is the only reason the two potential projects would be connected.

But even if there were agreement among Centerport residents, Spencer said, both projects would need county and state approval, which could take many months, if not years. County park Commissioner Greg Dawson said Tuesday that it would require an "alienation of parkland."

Fire Chief Nick Feeley said the proposed accessway would connect Prospect Road to Little Neck Road, via Harbor Ridge Drive. He said it would be a grassy path about 350 feet long and 12 feet wide. It would be locked and gated, with fire officials having the key.

County Commissioner of Public Works Gilbert Anderson said Tuesday that from an engineering standpoint, "we can construct what is proposed."

Feeley said he didn't know about the parkland alienation requirement until Tuesday's meeting and said the proposed right-of-way location is the "only viable option at this point." And, he said, the sooner it could be constructed, the better.

Spencer said he will schedule a follow-up meeting to continue discussions on the proposals.

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