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Suffolk lawmakers OK funds for beach

The Suffolk Legislature last night unanimously approved a $200,000 emergency resolution to ensure that Cupsogue Beach, whose pavilion was ravaged by fire last fall, can reopen in temporary quarters next summer for 110,000 local beachgoers.

The resolution would take unused money from the county's downtown jump-start program and reallocate it to buy trailers that would provide bathrooms for beachgoers and cooking facilities for a concessionaire to keep the county beach going until a new pavilion can be built by 2017.

"It's very important to have the beach up and running," County Executive Steve Bellone said of the 296-acre oceanfront park. "It's one of the gems of our park system."

The temporary work, said Gil Anderson, public works commissioner, also would include rebuilding some of the boardwalk destroyed by the fire, new electrical services and a sewer hookup to the existing septic system. He added it also would include an area with tables for beachgoers to eat.

Some lawmakers questioned why the concessionaire would not be responsible for cooking facilities. Gregory Dawson, parks commissioner, said, "Our contract with the vendor is to operate the food service, not provide the kitchen facilities." He added the concessionaire, Beach Hut, has greatly increased the popularity of the beach by having live music nightly.

The legislature, however, turned down the parks department's request for $150,000 in planning money to build a new dining hall at Peconic Dunes Camp, balking at the estimated $1.6 million price tag for construction.

While the Cornell Cooperative Extension promised to downsize the project and pay $80,000 of the $120,000 in annual debt service, it said it needed the planning funds to make changes.

The measure, which was also an emergency resolution, needed 12 votes and fell one vote short. The defeat also means that the planning funding, part of the 2014 capital budget, will expire at year's end.

Lawmakers also rejected funding for another capital budget project -- $25,000 to study the increasing presence of red tide in county waters by surveying 20 local waterways next spring. Legislators wanted the funding for the study to come from operating funds, not borrowed money.

The legislature authorized a landmark agreement in which the county will irrigate Indian Island Golf Course in Riverhead using treated water from the town's sewage treatment plant. Town officials say the course will get 350,000 gallons of water daily from the plant, water that now goes into Peconic Bay.

In other action, the legislature:

Ratified a $4.7 million contract, which runs from 2011 to 2018, with the county's 47 detective investigators who work for the district attorney's office.

Approved the creation of a new county sewer district to take over the operation of the sewer plant for a 1,144-unit condominium development in Huntington called the Greens at Half Hollow.

Approved $200,000 for expanding a 3.2-mile bike path at the Enterprise Park in Calverton so it can become a 8.5-mile loop around the former Grumman complex.

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