The Town of Huntington wants to build a new Maritime...

The Town of Huntington wants to build a new Maritime Welcome Center and Harbormaster's Office at the Halesite Marina. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The first step has been taken in what Huntington Town officials said would be a “years long” process to get a new combination Maritime Welcome Center and Harbormaster’s Office at the Halesite Marina.

The town board voted to apply for a $300,000 grant under the state 2022 Regional Economic Development Consolidated Funding Application grant process to replace the aging Harbormaster’s Office.

The new facility also would house the town’s maritime waterfront operations as well as provide public restrooms, an information kiosk showcasing local businesses and restaurants, and manage new transient docks, town board member Joan Cergol, a sponsor of the resolution, said.

“Both the business and boating communities are very enthusiastic about it because among other things, it will attract visitors who won’t need a parking spot,” she said in an email.

The project is slated to cost $1.5 million, according to town documents. The town must match 80%, or $1.2 million, the documents said. Cergol says promoting the town’s waterways offers another way to visit and spend money in downtown businesses and other attractions. It's “a smart way” to capitalize on the town’s assets, she said.

The board voted 5 to 0 at the July 12 meeting to approve applying for and receiving the funds. Town board member Sal Ferro co-sponsored the measure.

Cergol said discussions for the project began shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic when the Harbormaster’s Office was deemed “inadequate” and in need of replacement. She said she and other town maritime officials met with local merchants to discuss the idea of a welcome center and seek their partnership.

Cergol hopes other government grants will help pay for the project, she said.

Town Supervisor Ed Smyth said infrastructure projects were always a priority, but costs and timing also were considerations. One idea floating around, he said, is a joint maritime center that includes Suffolk County and local village emergency service boats.

“We are in the very, very early stages of trying to get this going,” Smyth said. “We will need major grant money from the state and the federal government.”

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