Outlook shaky on Tupper Lake’s police-fire building

TUPPER LAKE – Time to secure grants to help fund the construction of a shared-services building is running out.

Hueber Breuer construction manager Sean Foran told the Tupper Lake village board Monday that he still can’t guarantee the grant money will come through.

“If we are not successful with funding by May 1, I don’t know what the next step is for the village and the town, but Hueber Breuer would certainly assist with any input,” Foran said. “But right now there is a funding shortfall.”

It took a series of public meetings to convince local taxpayers to commit $3.2 million to construct the much-needed new building to house the village’s police and fire departments. That deal was contingent upon Foran, who is Hueber Breuer’s construction manager, securing another $1.3 million in federal grants to pay for the project.

Resident Ron LaScala questioned why the money hasn’t come through yet.

“At our last meeting before the public meeting that we did before the referendum, you said that you basically had a guarantee for public funding,” LaScala said. “I know I personally went around and knocked on doors. I did a lot of work to make sure that referendum passed. You gave me your word that that funding was ready. Where is the funding?”

Foran said there was nothing in writing to guarantee that, but asked LaScala and the community to understand that he thought the funding would be available. He reminded LaScala that Hueber Breuer has successfully built two fire stations in the area, in Keene and Upper Jay.

“I moved forward in that manner because I assumed that if the voters had to assume the entire debt, there was no way that would be able to meet approval, and rightfully so,” Foran said. “The best effort that we can do, when we deal with federal or state funding, is we have to put a project that is shovel ready and voter approved in front of these people to fund the project. It’s what we did in Keene, it’s what we did in Upper Jay and it’s the same process I’ve done here.”

Foran said that process usually works, and he said he’s hopeful it will still come through.

“I’ve got extensions until May 1, and I would hope the village would allow me the next nine days to see this through,” Foran said.

A plan to build a shared-services building in the village of Tupper Lake has been in the works for 20 years. Voters in the mid-’90s said no to a shared police-fire-ambulance building near the town hall on Demars Boulevard.

In 2012 the village hired the Syracuse-based Hueber Breuer to develop a feasibility study for the project, which was completed that September. That company will also handle construction management.

The project went out to bid, and the two bids that came in lowest were from the Watertown-based Bette & Cring Construction Group, which won the general contracting job, and the Peru-based J. Hogan Refrigeration & Mechanical Inc., which won for refrigeration and mechanical work.

Since the status of the grant money is uncertain, the bid process has been extended twice: first at an Oct. 1, 2013, deadline, and again at an April 1 deadline. The current bid extension expires May 1.

Village Mayor Paul Maroun told the Enterprise that the village board hasn’t discussed what will happen if the grants don’t come through. He also said he is in the process of exploring other options for obtaining grants but said he wouldn’t be able to make an announcement until later in the week.

“I want to get the shell up, and we can do that for $3.2 million,” Maroun said. “Things like propane tanks, generators, landscaping, we don’t need to do that right away. I think once the building is going, there are going to be contributions from this community and others. We’ve always been good hearted. We’ve always favored the police and fire departments.”

The local construction project superintendent for the shared-services building, Chris Alcocer, told the Enterprise people in Tupper Lake shouldn’t give up hope that the money will come through. Alcocer has been involved in many projects throughout the region and has worked for Heuber Breuer on the fire houses in Keene and Upper Jay.

“It’s pretty standard for this to happen in the industry,” Alcocer said. “If there’s public funding involved, it can take a long time. I can fully understand everybody in Tupper Lake is getting really nervous but remember, down in Keene, I waited for a month-and-a-half for that money to come through, and Upper Jay was a month-and-a-half late at the start, too.”

Alcocer, however, has opted out of the Tupper Lake project. He recently took another offer to work for Roedel Companies on the Hotel Saranac restoration project in Saranac Lake. He stressed that his decision was not a reflection on Heuber Breuer or on the viability of the Tupper Lake project. He said Heuber Breuer will not have a problem replacing him if the money comes through.

“I’ve worked for (Heuber Breuer) before, and they’re a great company to work for,” Alcocer said. “It would have been easier for me to do another firehouse, but I got this offer, and I had to fill out my calendar.”

Alcocer added that Bette & Cring Construction Group and J. Hogan Refrigeration & Mechanical Inc. would not have extended their bids if they thought the project wouldn’t happen.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.