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Flood-soaked documents may cost Smithtown hundreds of thousands to restore

Smithtown town documents waterlogged from last month's flood

Smithtown town documents waterlogged from last month's flood have cost the town $31,000 and counting to remain frozen in a Rushville document-reprocessing facility, town officials said. Credit: Smithtown Town Clerk Vincent Puleo

Tax files, birth and death certificates and other documents waterlogged from last month's record rainfall may cost Smithtown hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore, officials said.

An estimated 301 boxes and 85 ledger books from the town clerk's, assessor's and comptroller's offices were damaged in the Aug. 13 storm that dumped more than 13 inches of rain on parts of Long Island, said Smithtown Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski. Several inches of water flooded the basement areas where the documents were stored.

To prevent more damage, the documents -- which also include accounting ledgers and assessment files -- were frozen at Document Reprocessors, a facility in Rushville in the Finger Lakes area, said Joseph Kostecki, the town purchasing director.

The town received a bill for about $42,000 for services that include "document pick-up transportation and vacuum freeze drying," and an invoice for about $6,600 for fumigation services and the cost of return shipping, according to a Sept. 9 memo from Kostecki to the town clerk, assessor and comptroller.

The company also submitted estimates for potential additional costs, including about $254,000 for reproduction of the documents in digital format or roughly $454,000 for hard copy reproduction, according to the memo.

At a Sept. 9 work session, Kostecki asked the town board to proceed with an emergency purchase for the services already undertaken, he said.

"The documents were taken off site and put in . . . some sort of cryogenic vault to prevent further decay and to dry them out," Kostecki told the board, noting that restoration "can be a very, surprisingly expensive process."

The board agreed to vote on the emergency purchase at an upcoming meeting and keep the files "on ice" in the interim. Vecchio said last week that the town has since determined that almost all of the documents will have to be restored.

"Very few will not be restored," he said, adding that he is assessing how Smithtown will pay for the expenses in its 2015 tentative budget. "It could be a capital item or I might have to take it out of fund balance -- a surplus account."

Neither Kostecki nor town Comptroller Louis Necroto returned calls for comment.

Town Clerk Vincent Puleo said his office had minimal records damage, adding that most of the information in waterlogged documents was already copied in electronic and film files.

Still, Puleo said, "The only concern I have is we haven't started the process yet and it's already over a month."

There were no waterlogged documents in neighboring Babylon, Huntington and Islip towns, according to representatives.

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