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Penfield panel hears tide of divergent views on fixing battered pavilion ... or not

The Penfield Pavilion Building Committee wanted to hear what the public thinks of its recommended plan to repair and reopen the storm-battered pavilion -- and its wish was granted Thursday night.

Opinions ranged from those who like the recommended $4.5 million plan for a scaled-back pavilion on its current site to those who want something even smaller built to replace the beachfront structure.

And one committee member, William Sapone, took the opportunity to jump ship and quit the building committee because he said he could no longer support its work.

A 7-1 majority of the committee previously voted to support what is called "option 7" to repair Penfield Pavilion, which has been closed since October 2012 by damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. That plan calls for demolishing the pavilion's east wing of lockers, moving the west wing into the parking lot while new timber piles are driven, and then moving the structure back onto the new foundation and building a small addition of bathrooms, changing rooms and possibly day lockers.

The proposal's cost is estimated at $4.5 million before taking into consideration the insurance settlement to , a state grant and Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements. First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the town's share would likely be between $1.5 and $2 million.

Sapone has all along voiced support for "option 1," which would repair the existing pavilion in place. But he felt that a bulkhead in front of the pavilion, installed after Tropical Storm Irene, should be removed. "Keeping the bulkhead in place can only guarantee that over time, with future storms, the beach itself will be repeatedly destroyed, until the coastline adapts and there will no longer be a beach in front of the pavilion," Sapone wrote in his resignation letter.

He also suggested yet another option. The town could demolish the locker wing and install the new pilings in that section, and then move the west wing onto that new foundation. "A fairly simple change, but one which substantially reduces the moving costs, and which will correspondingly shorten the construction schedule," according to Sapone. Other benefits, he said, include having the building blend more seamless with the tree line, create more separation between visitors using the pavilion's large gathering room and the beachgoers, and provide more symmetry to the beach's Durrell Pavilion on the other side.

Sapone said that new option should trim about $1.2 million from the price tag.

Penfield Road resident Katherine Niznansky said she didn't have problems with flooding in the neighborhood until the pavilion was rebuilt. "This building was not built properly in terms of the surface it was on, that's all that I can gather," she said. "Why do we have to have a big building like that? Why can't we simplify the building."

"I think Penfield should be rebuilt," said another resident, Matt Hutzelmann. "I think the pavilion is a strong benefit to our town."

But Kristen Robinson, who lives on Puritan Road, said a "huge structure" is not needed on the beach, and said the neighborhood didn't experience flooding until the old pavilion was knocked down and the new pavilion built and elevated.

Warner Hill Road resident David Sturges said the pavilion, with lockers and gathering room that can be rented for functions, is needed for those who live here but can't afford the fees for private clubs on the shoreline.

"We're lucky to have Penfield," Sturges said. "We need Penfield."

Jim Gallagher, who served as chairman of the first Penfield Building Committee -- which oversaw a reconstruction project completed in 2011 -- said he agrees with Sapone that their version was properly built. "I think they need to go back to the drawing board," Gallagher said, and suggested that helical piles could be used instead of timber piles, and could be installed without moving the building. Read Full Article 

As for those who complained that Penfield's earlier reconstruction made the pavilion too large, he pointed out that it was in the same footprint as the original, years-old structure. In fact, he said, it was a few feet shorter.

Other residents said they should have the final say in what is ultimately done. Committee Chairman James Bradley said the committee makes only a recommendation, while the final will be the result of votes by the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.

The committee hopes to get construction started in the beginning of October in order to have the pavilion open for the 2015 beach season.

Genevieve Reilly

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