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Smithtown plans to spend millions to improve park, ease traffic

Construction of new softball fields has started at

Construction of new softball fields has started at Flynn Memorial Park in Commack. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Smithtown officials this week proposed a $10.2 million capital budget for 2020, an increase over most recent budgets to fund the Flynn Memorial Park rebuild, installation of a new Lake Avenue water main and a high-tech traffic signal monitoring system. 

The $4.5 million rebuild of Commack's Flynn Memorial  and the $2.6 million  Lake Avenue water main replacement account for almost three quarters of projected spending and would be funded by bonds. Town officials have said they hope to turn Flynn’s four softball fields into an East Coast destination for tournament and recreational play by 2021. The Lake Avenue replacement of an aging water main serving the St. James business district is part of a broader effort that will include road improvements and installation of a dry sewer line in anticipation of eventual sewer service for the area.  

“This is part of our long-range plan to incrementally do things that haven’t been addressed in quite a lot of time and are necessary to do,” town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said in an interview. The 2019 capital budget was $10.7 million, up from $9.5 million in 2018 and $9.7 million in 2017. Most of Smithtown's capital projects are funded through bonding, but the town also uses grants and tax revenue. 

The Town Council could vote on the capital budget Nov. 21. 

Comptroller Donald Musgnug told Wehrheim and Town Council members at a Nov. 5 budget presentation that as major projects finish, “future borrowings will be more in line with past borrowing levels.” 

Total 2020 borrowing could drop to $9.9 million if town officials do not borrow for a drainage project at Gedney Avenue. Ongoing work there could eliminate the need for the project, Musgnug said; the town could also self-finance the project. Keeping total bonding under $10 million may reduce borrowing costs, he said. 

The proposed plan also includes $95,000 for a traffic signal communications system, the first installment of what Musgnug said would be a multiyear investment to improve traffic flow by monitoring and adjusting traffic signal timing. The town may later add cameras to better respond to flooding and other incidents. 

The town would borrow $6.6 million in 2021 and $6.7 million in 2022. Those totals would drop to $1.2 million in 2023 and to under $500,000 in 2024 after completion of big-ticket items, such as a rebuild of the town marina and construction of a wash station for highway department trucks.

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