Town hall projects top $1M

SARANAC LAKE – Town of Harrietstown officials will meet later this month to discuss how to pay for more than $1 million worth of renovations and repairs to the Harrietstown Town Hall.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Ed Randig provided cost estimates to the town board at its meeting Thursday night. The numbers were calculated by Saranac Lake-based North Woods Engineering.

More than two-thirds of the $1,020,000 in expenses, or roughly $678,000, would be for a long list of upgrades to the town hall building itself, including replacement of windows and fixtures, and pointing, patching and sealing the building’s brick exterior walls.

Town officials have been working with North Woods on a plan to renovate the 85-year-old building for more than a year. Some areas of the steel-framed, masonry-clad building have been renovated over the years, “but the majority of the building has not undergone extensive renovation since the original construction,” Joe Garso of North Woods told the town in a report last year.

Another $330,000 would be spent to replace a retaining wall behind the town hall that was undermined by the Saranac River in the spring 2011 flood. The project has lagged in part due to permitting requirements from multiple state and federal agencies, most recently a state Department of Environmental Conservation request that the town complete a hydraulic study to determine the retaining wall’s potential impact on downstream properties.

The board agreed Thursday to hire North Woods to complete the study. It had received two bids: one from North Woods for $4,130 and one from AES Northeast for $9,155. Randig said North Woods’ bid was lower because the company had already done some initial engineering work while AES would have to “start from scratch.”

Randig said it will be important that the engineering company maintains a direct line of communication with DEC’s Warrensburg office, which had requested the hydraulic study, “to make sure we cover every infinitesimal detail when it comes to this permit.

“We have satisfied every single requirement, state, federal and local level,” Randig said. “This is the last hurdle we have to go through before we put stone in the ground. Before we mobilize a contractor, before we go to bid, I want every permit in place.”

Randig said the retaining wall work could potentially start this fall and be wrapped up before winter.

“Hopefully by this fall, when the water’s low, we can get the work done,” said Supervisor Bob Bevilacqua.

As for the repairs to the town hall, some interior work could be done this year, but “any exterior work such as the windows, the cornice work, the brick, all would have to start in the 2014 construction season,” Randig said.

Town Councilman Barry DeFuria said the project may have to be done in phases. He asked how that would happen if the town bonds – or borrows – the money for the renovations, “because if we’re going to bond for all that money and sit on it for a year, I don’t think that’s prudent.

“If we’re going to be lucky enough to get the wall done this year, then we can do a (bond anticipation note) for that and phase the rest of it,” DeFuria suggested

“I would suggest to do a BAN on the wall because we don’t have anything written in stone that we’re going to be receiving any money,” Randig said. “We have a letter from (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) saying once the project starts they’ll submit payments, but we still have to have money in the bank to write a check.”

Randig said Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently made available an additional $500 million in hazard mitigation funding for 2011 storm repairs. He said he will put in an application for funds to cover the costs of the retaining wall replacement.

Bevilacqua said the town board, at its next meeting on July 11, could issue a BAN for the retaining wall and come up with a schedule for how it plans to phase in the town hall renovations.

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or