Talks continued at a Riverhead town board work session on Monday about the future of the Second Street Firehouse.
Theafter a swap with the fire district.
And now, the board is to do on the roughly 1.1 acre parcel, which served as fire department headquarters until 2008. Recently, the board discussed whether the parcel should be used for an arts space, or parking.
Councilman James Wooten said he met with representatives of the Suffolk County Historical Society, who "loved the site" and expressed interest in expanding its current facilities on the parcel.
Plans could include displays of county historical artifacts, as well as a relocation of the Riverhead town historian and town artifacts from their current location at the East Lawn building on East Main Street.
That building, Wooten said, is in disrepair and unsafe, without security to protect the town's artifacts.
In addtion, Wooten said, the Suffolk County Historical Society is willing to help relocate the Southold Indian Museum, which could be looking to move -- and, it would sign on to commence with repairs for the building.
Also, Wooten said, the goal would be to remove the garage from the back of the parcel and create a municipal parking lot.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said if the plan were to proceed, he would like to see all the offices currently housed in the East Lawn building -- including the Riverhead Community Awareness Program -- moved to other locations, so the building could be sold.
He also said he was not prepared to make a decision, because a few "new, big projects" are coming down the pike that could be parking intensive, including at the former Woolworth building, which "could be" in contract.
Deputy Town Attorney Ann Marie Prudenti said the Suffolk County Historical Society is proposing to invest $1.2 million in renovations to the firehouse, in two phases. The first phase, she said, would involve $500,000, and improving the parking situation would be the first priority, as well as relocating the town historian to the site and renovating an area for display cases for county historical artifacts.
The organization would provide for a security guard; the facility would be open to the public.
The second phase would include $750,000 to $1 million to continue with setting up displays for historical items.
Walter asked if the funding was secure. Prudenti said the organization has the funds currently available but would like to garner additional monies through fundraising efforts over the next two years.
The Suffolk County Historical Soceity would like a minimum 30-year lease, Prudenti said.
Prudenti reminded when the site was swapped, the requirement was that the parcel would be used for a public purpose.
Councilman John Dunleavy said the idea would be a "win-win" for the town, since the main part of the firehouse was built in 1935 and is historic; enhanced parking would also benefit the town, he said.
A fireproof room should be provided for town records, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.
Councilman George Gabrielsen and Walter said they would like to see numbers regarding how many parking stalls would be included in the plan. Parking, Gabrielsen said, will continue to be a problem as downtown development continues.
"I don't want to see downtown all blacktop," Dunleavy said, suggesting a dilapidating bulding near an empty lot off Roanoake Avenue be considered for parking. He also suggest the town consider creating a paid parking garage, much like what is utilized by hospitals.
One compromise, Walter said, might be to demolish all of the building except the original two-bay firehouse -- and utliize that part of the structure for housing historical artifacts. But nothing can be decided until the fate of the Woolworth building becomes clear, Walter said.