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Editorials

$10 Million and not a dime more!
By Lee Chowaniec
Mar 6, 2012, 11:16
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I would like to thank Lancaster Supervisor Dino Fudoli for having Foit-Albert & Associates project manager Gwen Howard attend a town board work session where attending residents would have an opportunity to question the escalating costs of the project.

Unfortunately,the discussion occurred at the work session where there are but a few residents in attendance. This is the reason it is being presented here in detail.

The writer addressed the board and Ms. Howard declaring that at the last board meeting a resolution was approved to request new bids for the police/courts building at 25 Pavement Road. What is the current status of the shooting range? The shooting range was not included in the language of the resolution.

“Yes it was,” answered Ms. Howard.

Chowaniec: “The words shooting range were not included in the language of resolution #10. It stated that the bids were for the police/courts building at 525 Pavement Road.”

Howard: “Do you want me to clarify that for you?”
Chowaniec: “Please do.”

Howard: “The packet was published with a notice to bid that includes the construction on the immediate site and as an alternate that may or may not be accepted by the town.”

Chowaniec: “And the shooting range would be separate from the police/courts building?”

Howard: “It is the same set of drawings that were sent out before. The hope is that the contractors with a larger scope will come in with numbers that will be more refined. It will be more competitive because there is a lot more room to be competitive.”

Chowaniec: “When was Foit-Albert contracted by the town to do the design work on the police/courts/range project?”

Howard: “June 15, 2010.”

Chowaniec: “So Foit-Albert came on board when the town was still considering the renovation of the Walden Avenue Colecraft Building?”

Howard: “Yes.”

Chowaniec: “On February 10, 2010, the town bonded $8 million for renovation/construction costs for the Walden Avenue Colecraft Building. At that time how much of the 76,000 square foot building was to be renovated.”

Howard: “I have no idea what it was in February 2010 as I was not on board yet.”

Chowaniec: “I have drawings/graphs/data that result in different dollar numbers when you do the number crunching on the project costs. Last week, you stated in a Buffalo News report that the cost of the project was going to be $7.4 Million. I have heard so many numbers thrown around on the cost of this project that I am confused.”

Howard: “I can’t answer to any numbers except those that occurred past June of 2010.”

Chowaniec: “I favor the construction of a shooting range if it is fiscally viable. Through the years we have seen the projects costs escalate. In 2003, we were the told by former Supervisor Robert Giza for $4 - $5 Million we would renovate the Walden Avenue building to accommodate for the police/courts/shooting range, and that cost would include the purchase of the building. When the first feasibility study came in the cost was more like $9 Million and sticker shot set in.”

Howard: “I can’t comment on that. I wasn’t around.”

Chowaniec: “I am not asking you to comment, I am trying to give you some history so you and others can see where this is leading to. So in 2010, we see the town bonding for $8 million to do the Walden Avenue Colecraft Building project. Then in early 2011, because of code change requirements, the town decides to build new on Pavement Road – town owned property.

Two months later the town bonds for another $2 Million. This is when residents start hearing about the construction of a shooting range at the current police garage – opposite the new police/courts building. They assume the added $2 Million is for the range.”

Howard: “That was not the reason for the added $2 Million. The shooting range was always in our scope of work. The added $2 Million was bonded to cover costs associated with the project.”

Chowaniec: “I am asking you these questions because our questions before the town board were never answered, and/or given with detail. When we asked about the added $2 Million bond, we were given an answer “in case things go awry.”

Now I have to ask you why we don’t have enough money bonded to pay for the scope of the project. I understand we lost the $350,000 Empire State Development grant because the project could not be completed by March 2012.

In fact, the town never received a reply from the state that the grant money could be used for the range project, yet the public was led to believe it was still viable.

So we now have $10 Million bonded for the project. If I were to say that the police/courts project costs $8 Million – that includes the Foit-Albert design costs – what is the other $2 Million going for?”

Howard: “The $8 Million goes for the police/courts/shooting range. There are additional funds associated with the project for all kinds of things that the town needs to have. There are special inspections that are required, there are design fees, furniture/fixtures/equipment that need to go into the building.”

Chowaniec: “BINGO! None of that was ever brought before the public. Whenever anyone considers the cost of the project they look at what you just mentioned as included in the project construction costs.

People hear the bonding increase from $8 - $10 Million and then hear we can’t afford to include the shooting range. I as well wondered whether the $10 Million covered everything. We know we lost the $350,000 in grant money. But in the last two years we heard from the town board that the shooting range was going to cost $300,000; then we are told $500,000; then $600,000 and the bids came in anywhere from $800,000 to $950,000 – and we own the building.”

Howard: “Let us back up here. You are putting a lot of words in my mouth.”

Chowaniec: “I am giving you some past history here so you understand where I am heading.”

Howard: “I am going to tell you what I said because that is what I can speak to. If you are going to look at a new build, there is a reasonable cost per square foot that can be assigned to any project, of any type. It varies on the basis of the complexity of the building, the structural requirements of the building and early in the project you will look at those cost and costs per square foot.

Then we work backwards looking at what is the minimum square footage you can have for the building that would be beneficial to the town. That’s where the $7.4 million dollars came from. That left $600,000 from the $8 million that was bonded. So if the project was to occur it didn’t mean that the range was going to cost $600,000, but that $600,000 was left. And so you have to come up with a project that would fit that. But to get everything that was necessary in the building that left $600,000.”

Chowaniec: “What would estimate the cost at for equipping the police/courts building – computers, desks, etc?”

Ms. Howard presented individual item costs – computers, security, phones, etc. No total estimate.

Chowaniec; “Is there anything useable from the two police/courts buildings?”

Howard: “Absolutely!” But one has to go back and look at the condition of the materials and equipment to see if they are usable. Are there enough chairs at the court facility, I would certainly hope that you have enough pride in your facility to allow them to purchase new chairs in the courtroom.”

Chowaniec: “In my opinion it is more important that we spend the money to build the shooting range. I think it important to revisit these bids and do what is important to make the range possible. Police Chief Gill and I have had several conversations regarding the range and he is of the opinion that I am against it. I am not. What I am against is not spending another dime toward this project; $10 Million and not a dime more.”

Howard proceeded to present all that was included in the range project to make the facility efficient and more accessible to the public. She also commented that the hope was that the new bids would come in lower with the economy what it is and where the bids will be more competitive.

Chowaniec: “What I want you to know is that I favor the town having its own police force, that I supported the police merger in 2003, that I advocated for a new build from the get-go, that I want to see the means for police officers to be proficient. You should also know that in 2004 we could have had a new build, 40,000 square feet in size, for $7 million. Now we are looking at a police/courts building 27,000 square foot in size and a police garage 10,000 square feet in size.

When we consider what we spent for the purchase of the Walden Avenue Colecraft Building (its maintenance, loss of having it on the tax rolls, bond interest, etc.) and looking at the $10 million bonded for the new build on Pavement Road and the interest that will be paid on both bond issues, we are looking at a total cost of $15 - $16 million.

We are looking at a time where the economy is in decline and where Supervisor Fudoli was elected into office with a mandate to bring fiscal responsibility. We taxpayers are being asked what we are willing to sacrifice to make this all happen. We should be looking at this as to what we all are willing to sacrifice. When Supervisor Fudoli brought up the possibility of using the upcoming private Walden Avenue shooting range for Lancaster police needs and the savings implied by doing so, the immediate thought was why not.

The police want their own range big time. What are they willing to sacrifice? At a previous meeting several police officers mentioned that having their own range would save $3.9 million over 30 years. Yet when Supervisor Fudoli asked whether they would state in an agreement that they would give up their overtime, there was no response. The overtime allotment for patrol and Detectives in the 2012 budget is $235,000. The police contribute nothing to their health care program. We are all in this together, what are they willing to sacrifice? That’s why my position is $10 million and not another dime.”

Howard: “And that’s why the project is being set up with the range as an alternate; so those alternates will be reviewed.”

Chowaniec: “All some of us are asking for are credible cost estimates and where the money is going. When we asked the board such questions in the past, all we received in information was bits and pieces, what the board wanted disseminated. The $7.4 million quoted in the News by you is what triggered this meeting – what the $10 million was buying us and why we can’t afford the shooting range.

That’s why we were looking to you to provide such information. I am not chastising you. When I presented some of the pat history of this project is was to illustrate how the costs of this project have ballooned over this nine year process and how many millions of dollars have been wasted in delaying the project completion. Thank you for your sharing.”




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