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Newsday (New York)


Suffolk County Community College officials are scrambling for funding after bids for a new $16.75 million expo-sports-health complex on the eastern campus came in $4 million over budget.

Louis Petrizzo, college general counsel, said the lowest of the seven bids, opened a month ago, came in at $20.96 million. College officials are looking to trim the size of the proposed 40,214-square-foot building and are asking county and state officials to fund the unexpected increase in the project, for which costs are split 50-50 between county and state.

Time is critical because Suffolk must authorize its share of the extra cost before the college can approach state lawmakers about including additional funding in the new state budget, which must be adopted by April 1.

College officials say they have asked County Executive Steve Bellone for an emergency resolution for Tuesday's county legislature meeting.

The proposed complex includes a gymnasium, basketball court, pool, facilities for strength training and aerobics and some classrooms.

"We did a lot of time trying to figure out why" bids came in over budget, Petrizzo said. "It seems it was the pickup in the economy, a lack of skilled labor locally, the bullishness in the marketplace and the tremendous amount of building going on in New York City."

Bellone has yet to commit to back the higher cost. "Due to the significant increase . . . we are doing our due diligence, and asking the appropriate questions before making a decision," said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Bellone's spokeswoman.

Ben Zwirn, college director of legislative affairs, said that to reduce costs the school has cut 4,700 square feet from the building in part by reducing its height and the size of the gymnasium. Officials also are considering the possibility of using less costly materials.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he supports a resolution for additional funding for the project. "It's a critical asset for the East End communities," he said.

State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), higher education committee chairman, also said he will press for inclusion of the extra funding in the state budget.

"It's a great facility - one that will be very much used on the East End," he said. "It's a shame that it went $4 million over, but we've got to deal with reality. . . . The county should put up its share and the state will match it."

Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) questioned the spending in light of county fiscal problems and the fact that enrollments are down at the college and local high schools.

"I have serious problems with this," said Trotta, arguing that the project should be scaled back to fit the original budget. "We can't spend another dollar we don't have."

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March 22, 2017


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