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Islip councilman questions ballfields deal

Steven J. Flotteron, Islip Town Councilman, poses at

Steven J. Flotteron, Islip Town Councilman, poses at the new little league fields that are under construction on Eastview Drive in Central Islip. (May 24, 2013) Credit: Heather Walsh

Islip Town Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr. on Wednesday criticized town leaders for taking $125,000 in escrow from a developer to cover possible repairs to a Little League field project in Central Islip.

Town officials demanded the escrow after discovering Yaphank-based developer Andy Borgia had failed to continuously bond the $2 million field project, which Borgia agreed to complete in exchange for the right to build a $45 million sports complex.

Cochrane said Wednesday that he's unsure the escrow is adequate and questioned whether fellow Republican Councilman Steven J. Flotteron, who has faced criticism over $2,000 in campaign donations from Borgia, has pressured town officials to ignore problems with the quality of the fields. Flotteron is the sole Islip councilmember to receive donations from Borgia since 2000, campaign records show.

"The councilman, in his own way, has put the fear of God in everyone in Planning to get the project through," Cochrane said. "There is an undercurrent here that we are treating someone differently. Steve might say it's a public-private partnership, but I can't have this partnership cutting corners where it might be unsafe for kids."

Rich Zapolski, deputy commissioner of Planning and Development, said Flotteron has been the council's point person -- "the father of the project" -- but town engineers have frequently inspected the project. "I don't fear any of my councilmen; I work with all of them as teammates," Zapolski said.

Flotteron said Cochrane's comments were "ridiculous" and denied he had meddled. "Would I ever put the fear of God in anyone? You know my demeanor . . . If [Borgia] doesn't complete this properly to our engineering specifications, he can't buy the other land -- that's what our protection is. It's a $2 million donation to the town."

Borgia, who signed a contract with the town in 2011 to build the facility and the fields, said he's spent $1 million above what the town required and has used higher-quality materials -- sod instead of seed. He accused Cochrane of having a "hidden agenda," but declined to explain.

He asked why Cochrane does not "come to the site and take a look at what's going on? I've gone above and beyond . . . If I'm building Little League fields and I got a bunch of people there working, he should be happy that I'm completing the job."

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