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Town hires pro after failed $142G planting project in New Hyde Park

New plantings in the median on Hillside Avenue

New plantings in the median on Hillside Avenue in New Hyde Park, seen here on Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, replace roses and azaleas that died from lack of water. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Where towering weeds once thrived, newly planted flowers now bloom on the medians of New Hyde Park’s Hillside Avenue, after the Town of North Hempstead’s second attempt to beautify the road.

Last year, the town’s unsuccessful landscaping project led to an internal overtime investigation and a bill topping $142,000. Town officials pledged to avoid the same mistakes and recently gave the beautification project another try.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said at a recent board meeting that the town had embarked upon the second attempt with greater caution “to make sure that this was done right and done beautifully.”

Hillside Avenue is a state road, but the town is responsible for the maintenance and plantings of 3 1⁄2 miles of the road’s medians, under an agreement with the state Department of Transportation dating to 2002.

The town board recently approved a $64,898 bid from Port Washington-based Dom’s Lawnmakers Inc. for the project’s labor costs. Dom’s was the lowest bidder of two companies, said town spokeswoman Carole Trottere. The town is now finalizing the total amount, which also includes planting fees. The project will be paid for with funds from the town’s operating budget.

Last summer, the town planted roses and azaleas, and highway department workers racked up overtime hours for the installation. Many of the plants died after a watering truck was out of a service for a week, and others were crushed by a delivery truck.

This time, the town opted for a private contractor and is using hardier plants that require less water — shrubs and perennials such as golden forsythia, echinacea and Montauk daisies. Town highway staff will water the plants during regular business hours, Trottere said.

Nearly half of last year’s total project cost of $142,685 was due to overtime fees for highway department staff. Trottere said that the town has yet to calculate the highway staff time used to prepare the medians in September, but added that it will be less than the previous effort. As a result of the town’s investigation into the oversight of the first project, the most-recent median maintenance and overtime was preapproved by Jessica Iamendola, the town’s director of finance, Trottere said.

Councilman Angelo Ferrara said that the median plantings were a priority to beautify the community and contribute to its desirability as a place to live.

“If we don’t learn by our mistakes, shame on us. . . . But by the same token, we have a responsibility to the public to do the right thing,” Ferrara said. “Let’s fix it but let’s fix it right and get on to the next project.”

Bill Cutrone, president of the Lakeville Estates Civic Association, said members of his group had been fighting for the plantings for several years and that the new medians were a marked difference from what was there previously.

“Whatever roses that were planted you never got to see them because of all the weeds,” Cutrone said. “We are the gateway to Nassau County. . . . We want people to say this is a really nice place to visit and maybe possibly move to.”

The cost of beautification

2016: $142,685

— Cost covered staff time, plantings and overtime for town highway department employees

— Overtime portion: $65,530

— Project overseen by the highway staff

2017: Not yet finalized

— Labor cost: $64,898

— Overtime: has yet to be calculated

— Plantings installed by an outside contractor, will be maintained by highway staff

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