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Government Waste

Lancaster Town Board non committal on possible change in police building project/location, Part I
By Lee Chowaniec
Mar 22, 2011, 10:29
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“Is there anything going on with the plans to renovate the Walden Avenue police building,” the writer asked the Lancaster Town board at Monday evening’s meeting. “Nothing has changed,” replied Council Member Ronald Ruffino. “We are still crunching the numbers and nothing has changed.”

Resident Lee Chowaniec voiced that he had heard several individuals stating that a new build was being considered on Pavement Road. “Is that true,” asked Chowaniec.

“Could be,” replied Ruffino.

“Would a new build be only for police or for the courts as well,” Chowaniec asked.

“There are no definite plans now, numbers are still be crunched,” Ruffino responded.

“Is Foit Albert still the architectural firm performing the study,” asked Chowaniec.

“Yes,” answered Ruffino.

Chowaniec declared that at one time the design cost was stated as being a percentage of the project cost. It was stated at that time it could be any percentage and that the individual asking should contact the Town’s Financial Administrator or to do some research. Well, research showed that the percent charged for project design could be as high as 10%.

If the town were paying but six (6) on the bonded $8 million project, the cost could be as high as $500,000. That would leave but $7.5 million to renovate the 76,000 square foot Walden Avenue building. It was recently reported by Ruffino that the town was looking to renovate but 40,000 – 45,000 square feet with the $8 million bond.

Now if the town is considering a new build on Pavement Road, property it owns, and if it is to include the courts, one can only imagine the cost as being prohibitive.

If only the police building is being considered, those of us that have favored a new build since 2006 would be hard pressed not to complain about the town’s opposition and delay in doing so in all that time – even when they half-heartedly supported the new build suggestion in 2008, but did a 180 and said the Walden Avenue building was the best fit.

As to the police needing a new facility, that has been covered numerous times over the past several years. Stop in and see a building that was never meant to be a police facility - snow blowing through closed windows, leaking ceilings, mold, etc. Our police deserve better.

It took but a few years to bond for $3.2 million and add on to the Town Hall building. It has been eight years sine the police merger and we are still studying a design for a police facility.

Timeline

Several residents favored the construction of a new build on Pavement Road years ago, at a time when the cost was reasonable – a 33,000 square foot police facility that would be state-of-the-art and near the courts, at a cost of $7-$8 million. That was then, to do so today has to cost much more. This has been a fiscally irresponsible process from day one.

The following sequence (from previous reports)has taken place since the purchase of the Walden Avenue Colecraft building in 2003 and during that eight (8) year delay has cost the town taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to house but a detective squad and to store town/school equipment and materials:

2003

An irrevocable agreement takes place between town and Colecraft Manufacturing Co. for the purchase of a fifty plus year-old 76,000 square foot warehouse building takes place, for $1.6 million and the cost of furniture and equipment.

Supervisor Giza states that the estimates for a new facility that would meet all police needs would cost $7–$8 million dollars. The city of Buffalo recently built a new 18,000 sq. ft. police facility at a cost of 3.2 million, he claims.

Giza – Speaking on the Walden Avenue facility he declares: “If it costs a total of $4 million dollars, we will still be cheaper and bigger.”

The Town Board authorizes bonding $1.9 million for the Colecraft Building. That would cover purchase of the building - about $1.6 million - as well as professional fees and other expenses. There also would be renovation costs. Those costs are not known, but Giza estimated they will be around $1 million.

Feb, 2008

“I was unable to attend the last meeting, but heard there was discussion on the Walden Avenue building,” declares resident Dan Beutler. “What is the status of that building as of now? Are you selling it?”

Supervisor Robert Giza responded: “I’ll be honest with you. I had one party interested in purchasing it. I wasn’t against it.”

Supervisor Giza went on to say that there is some property available on Pavement Road, up in front by the Psyche Center to build a police station. “When Former Police Chief Fowler was in office, he didn’t think it was big enough to put a police station in.”

Council members Donna Stempniak and Ronald Ruffino also seemed cool to the idea of leasing part of the Walden Avenue police facility building. They suggested Giza pursue selling the building.

At this time it been over a year since ex-justice Timothy Dwan suggested the sale of the building take place and nothing has taken place to get to that point.

There has been talk that property is available at the Town Center site on Pavement Road and that a building housing all the police (not the courts) could be built for $7 million. What are we waiting for?

Supervisor Giza responded that the board was always caught in the middle. “It’s not that we don’t want to build a new police station, it’s that we want to build one for always; to operate out of there for years to come.”

“We didn’t buy the Colecraft building overnight,” Giza continued. “A lot of people went through the building to examine it; residents, police, board members, and others. We saw a perfect building for a police station. The costs to renovate were much higher than we thought. To be honest, we are looking at a site on Pavement Road that we own."

Jan, 2010

Chowaniec: “I have always favored getting a new police facility from the time the Town and Village police forces merged. For me, it was the process manner and the place that was chosen. So in closing I would like to make the following statement.”

“We could have had a new 33,000 square-foot police facility built on Pavement Road years ago for $7 million. The Town spent 1.9 million for the 3949 Walden Avenue Colecraft Building and some furniture. The Town has paid over $300,000 in debt interest over time since the $1.9 million bonding took place. The Town has spent a few hundred thousand dollars in building repairs, maintenance and energy costs. It took a commercial building off the tax rolls at a cost of $51,000 in property taxes per year, another $350,000.

Several feasibility studies have been conducted that cost the town hundreds of thousands of dollars. A grand total of over $11 million will be invested into this project and the building will not be fully refurbished. And, we will still have an old building, 50+ years in age.”

“Please tell me why taxpayers should not feel that this Town has acted irresponsibly in spending the money at 3949 Walden Avenue to renovate this facility; that this investment was in the best interest of the community?

Since we have been bandying this project along for near seven years, it seems we are still at square one, where we could have spent less money years ago and got this done. And, this is happening two months after election time, when residents have been asking about this police station for a very long time and we are still unable to get any numbers on what this police facility will cost. I am disappointed, to say the least.”

Feb, 2010

Lancaster’s Town Board voted unanimously to approve an $8 million bond resolution for the reconstruction/construction of the 3949 Walden Avenue (Colecraft Building) it had purchased seven years ago to house the then merged police forces of the Town of Lancaster and the Village of Lancaster.

• The entire 76,000 square foot building could have been renovated in 2004 for $9.8 million (Trautman feasibility study) and that included building purchase price. 51,052 square feet of building could have been renovated for $8.4 million (Clough Harbour feasibility study) and that included cost of building. The $8 million plus the $1.6 for building puts the project now at $9.6 million and that will only cover renovation costs for 35,000 to 40,000 square feet of building – and maybe less according to Supervisor Giza.

• The police could have had a 33,000 square foot new build on Pavement Road for $7 million years ago. Councilman Ronald Ruffino said Monday evening that the cost for a new build of 25,000 square feet would be $12 million (near $500 per square foot). Where is Ruffino getting this ridiculous number from?

Part II: Other residents and students speak out

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