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Asharoken's new Village Hall, replacement for Sandy-damaged building, to open in October

Asharoken trustee Mel Ettinger in front of the

Asharoken trustee Mel Ettinger in front of the newly constructed village hall Monday, Aug. 18, 2015, as the finishing touches are completed after the old hall was damaged during superstorm Sandy. Credit: Steve Pfost

Asharoken officials are on the verge of unveiling a new Village Hall -- three years after superstorm Sandy flooded the old building and about 10 years after fundraising efforts to expand village facilities began.

The new complex, which will serve as the police station, courtroom, trustee meeting space, clerk's office and emergency shelter, could be open for the Oct. 6 village meeting, trustee Mel Ettinger said. Village officials have been working in FEMA-funded trailers since Sandy. Trustee meetings have been held at the Northport National Grid plant.

The new building is more than three times the size of the old hall, and projected to cost just over $958,000. It was funded with $593,172 in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants, $85,000 in state grants and a PSEG energy rebate, and more than $340,000 in donations from 230 households.

The fundraising started as an effort to expand the 150-square-foot police station and grew to become a new Village Hall. The two-story, 5,550-square-foot building will also include 2,000 square feet of unused space for future expansion.

"The thing we're most proud of is that we're putting up . . . a beautiful facility," Ettinger said, and "fundamentally at no cost to residents via taxes."

Donors have waited years for the project.

"I wasn't sure it was going to happen," said Steve Mirabile, a village resident. But "they said they were going to get it done and they did."

Sitting 13.1 feet above the mean high tide waterline, the first floor is 5 feet higher than the old one. It also has a 10-foot-high retaining wall and a storm gate system, along with an underground chamber for overflow where water can be absorbed into gravel or, if filled, forced out of ground level windows at the front of the building.

When superstorm Sandy hit in October 2012, the old Village Hall flooded with 6 to 8 inches of water, and mold grew in the building.

Through fundraising and grants, the village has a total of $1,018,172 for the project -- more than the current projected cost. Nearly $60,000 remains available for any cost overruns, said Mayor Greg Letica.

In 2006, when officials envisioned simply expanding the police station, former Mayor William H. Kelly told Ettinger, the village police commissioner, that he could tackle the project if it didn't raise taxes.

Soon after, Asharoken officials established a fundraising and design committee. After the economic downturn in 2008, the committee focused on pursuing federal stimulus grants. To be eligible, the project had to be "shovel ready" for a new building. Asharoken didn't win any grants.

Letica renewed the fundraising effort when he became mayor in July 2012.

"It was important to see it built," Letica said. Sandy created a new funding opportunity because the building became a necessity.

"I think everyone questioned, 'would this become a reality?' " Ettinger said. "After Sandy, we knew it was a reality; we had no choice."

Timeline to a new building

2006 New Police Commissioner Mel Ettinger seeks to expand village hall to create more space for police. Official fundraising begins.

February 2008 $171,00 in donations received.

July 2008-June 2012 Village officials pursue federal stimulus grants. No grants are won.

July 2012 Mayor Greg Letica takes office with campaign promise to complete a new village hall.

October 2012 Superstorm Sandy floods Village Hall.

August 2013 The new round of fundraising brings in an additional $127,000.

April 2014 FEMA will help fund project. In November, Medford-based Ravco Construction Inc. is awarded the village hall contract.

March 12, 2015 Village breaks ground on new building.

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