Hearing of a memo that had been published declaring the renovation of the Walden Avenue police building had been put on indefinite hold a few residents addressed the Lancaster Town Board on the status of the police building renovation project.
Resident Mike Fronczak asked Council Member Ronald Ruffino whether it was true that a memo was published that says that there is no funding out there (no grant money available) and that the renovation of the police building is on hold.
Ruffino: “Not my role. My role says the plans are moving along, I don’t know where you are getting that from. “
The board members denied seeing such memo.
Fronczak: “It was on the Internet.”
After some chuckling from the board Fronczak was told not to believe the Internet.
Fronczak: “So there’s no truth to the matter, the police station project is not on hold.”
Ruffino: “No, the architects are still looking at the design.”
Fronczak: “How much money do we have wrapped up in these architects to this point?”
Ruffino: “It’s based on a percentage.”
Fronczak: “A percentage of what? If there is no funding available how are we paying the architects? We already knew there was no grant money out there before the $8 million was bonded for the renovation project. Are we paying interest on money we are not even using?”
Giza: “We don’t pay interest on the money unless we use it.”
Fronczak: “But we are using money to pay for the architects, right?”
Giza: “The building is separate from the account. There are two different pies”.
Fronczak: “So the $8 million is still sitting on hold?”
Giza: “We don’t pay interest on the money until we start using it.”
Fronczak: “So do we have a ballpark figure on what we have in this building so far?”
Councilman Mark Aquino: “The design factor.”
Ruffino: “The design factor. Right now the architects are looking into the design (renovation).”
Fronczak: “All I know is when I take my car in for work I’d like to get an estimate on what the cost will be.”
Aquino: “We told you the last time that the design cost is based on a percentage of the project cost. If you want an amount of what is being spent, go see Dave Brown (Department of Finance). You can look at the vouchers. We are not paying by the hour. We have a signed contract that pays them a percentage of the project cost.”
Fronczak: “What percentage are we paying them?”
Aquino: “I told you last time it was based on a percentage. Go see Dave Brown. He’s got all the numbers.”
Resident Dan Beutler then addressed the board regarding the police facility renovation status.
Understanding that the Walden Avenue Colecraft building purchase in 2003 was made with a $1.9 million bond and that last year another $8 million was bonded for renovation of the building, he asked where the money to pay the design architects was coming from. “Out of the $1.9 or the $8 million bond money,” asked Beutler? The response was that the money was coming from the $8 million bond money.
Beutler asked whether any of the $8 million bond money was used to pay the design firm. “Not to my knowledge,” answered Ruffino.
Beutler: “Do we know what percentage we are paying the architect? Is it 1%, 2%, 3% or what?”
Supervisor “Giza: Oh no, it’s more than that, unfortunately.”
Ruffino: “It’s in the contract.”
Beutler: “I am still a little concerned about the contract not getting out to the public. With the purchase of the Colecraft building in 2003 I was one of the gentlemen that initiated a lawsuit because we thought the money could have been used a lot better. We spent $12,000 to go through a study and eight years later we are still trying to figure out what we have. I’m still baffled by it as I don’t see too many people working there and don’t see too many private cars parked there. The engineers must be walking in from another place.”
Beutler was told the detective squad has been in the building for a couple of years.
Beutler: “We could have had a building built years ago; a new state of the art police facility. I can’t see paying $8 million to renovate a 55 year old 76,000 square foot warehouse and getting only 40,000 square foot for the money.”
It’s like pulling teeth to get information from the Town Board on this renovation project. Had the board advised Mr. Fronczak or Mr. Beutler to contact the Director of Administration & Finance Dave Brown at earlier board meetings and/or examined the 2011 budget debt statement they would have learned:
The Town bonded for $8 million in 2/1/10 for the Police/Court Building renovation project.
Of that authorized $8 million bond $5.5 million remains unissued. On 7/22/10 $2.5 million was issued with a maturity date of 7/22/25. It has an initial interest due date of July 2011. So, no interest has been paid as yet on any of the $2.5 million issued (1.5% interest rate).
Thus far four checks for a total of $67,351 have been issued from the $2.5 bond anticipation note. Two checks have been issued for bond application fees and two checks have been issued to architect design firm Foit Albert, one for $40,217 in September 2010 and a second in November of 2010 for $22,950.
When Supervisor Giza made the comment that unfortunately the percentage paid to the architect firm for design would be more than 3% he was spot on. Architect firms usually get somewhere around 10% of project costs. If Foit Albert were to get 10% of project cost that would mean that $800,000 of the $8 million bond would be eaten by the design firm.
The town did receive a $350,000 grant for construction costs years ago. The grant expires sometime before April of 2012. Something that needs to be kept in mind is that the grant helps lower the cost of the project for the municipality. It is not an add on to the project cost.
So, if the design firm gets somewhere around $800,000 and the town should lose the $350,000 in grant money that leaves $6.85 million to complete the project. Is this why the town is looking for more grant money and the project keeps getting delayed; that there is not enough money to renovate the 40,000 – 45,000 square foot of the 76,000 square foot building as was planned and bonded for.
Is the town once again experiencing “sticker shock”?
Mr. Beutler should have added that in addition to the $12,000 study he referred to, which I believe was for $15,000, several other studies had been conducted since 2003. I was not part of the lawsuit but agree that a new facility should have been built on town owned property on Pavement Road several years at a cost estimate of $7 million; a new state of the art policy facility that would have been somewhere 35,000 – 40,000 square foot in size.
I am being told that the Pavement Road facility has a roof leak and needs updating – carpeting, painting and window repairs. We spend enough already to maintain two police buildings, what will the public say about putting money into buildings that are both over 50 years in age?
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