Work to rebuild a vital North Shore artery battered by superstorm Sandy has slowed as Nassau's contract for the project is still without final approval -- six months after county lawmakers had approved it.
The second phase of restoring West Shore Road in Mill Neck, including a new seawall, drainage and underground utilities, started last fall, about a month after the county legislature's Rules Committee awarded the $9.5 million contract.
County Executive Edward Mangano's administration initially said full closure of the road, which connects Oyster Bay and Mill Neck to Bayville, would take place between November and this month, leaving plenty of time for the project to not affect the waterfront region's summer season.
But after County Comptroller George Maragos' office held the contract for a lengthy review, the county's fiscal control board, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, has been unable to provide a needed final approval. The Mangano administration, also citing severe winter weather as contributing to the delay, now targets May 4 to lift the full closure, with closer to Memorial Day also possible.
"It's just disappointing that there has been very little progress," said Richard Valicenti, owner of the Bridge Marina in Bayville, one of many businesses reliant on road access. "You walk down the road and it looks like a deserted town."
The county's contractor, A.L.A.C. Contracting Corp. of West Babylon, did begin some work before the contract approvals by Maragos and NIFA.
Those approvals were initially expected no later than the end of November. But the delay in the comptroller signing off on the contract meant NIFA could not give its OK in time for either of its last two meetings: Nov. 24 and Jan. 14.
Without final NIFA approval, A.L.A.C. has not been paid for the work it has already done and is limited in new expenses it can take on. Company officials could not be reached for comment, but they wrote a letter to Maragos last month -- copied to Mangano's administration and Mill Neck village -- expressing dissatisfaction with their contract's long holdup.
"All our inquires have been met by excuse after excuse as to why the contract has not been approved." an A.L.A.C. official wrote in the Feb. 19 letter.
One of A.L.A.C.'s principals is Anthony Labriola, whose brother, Steven Labriola, is Maragos' top deputy comptroller.
Jostyn Hernandez, a spokesman for Maragos, said the office conducted an initial review of A.L.A.C.'s contract last fall and gave it to NIFA, but subsequently requested the contract back "to double check some details." He blamed a "miscommunication" for NIFA not acknowledging receipt of the contract again until Jan. 15, the day after its last meeting was held.
"As far as we're concerned, the contract is good to go," Hernandez said last week.
NIFA officials say they expect the board to consider it at its next meeting on March 23.
Public works officials say utility work is ongoing on 2,000 feet of West Shore Road, between Cleft Road and the Long Island Rail Road crossing. Following completion, sheeting will be put down, the county says, with hopes that delays will be limited to no more than two weeks beyond the revised May 4 timeline for the full closure lifting.
"We will try to make up for lost time as we continue to move forward," said County Department of Public Works spokeswoman Mary Studdert, blaming weather for the delays.
Legis. Donald MacKenzie (R-Oyster Bay), who represents the district, said the administration assures him the project is on schedule, and "residents will not be burdened any longer than absolutely necessary."
But County Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) replied: "I don't think it's going to be done anytime soon."
Mill Neck Mayor Peter Quick lauded A.L.A.C., which completed the project's first phase in less time than expected, for doing initial second phase work before its contract was approved, and for repaving a key detour path used during West Shore Road's closure.
"People get a little angst when they hear of challenges in the county regarding payment," Quick said. "But the contractor has been good and dependable through all of this."