Police-fire building a go

TUPPER LAKE – Hope seemed futile as a May 1 deadline approached, but a last-minute grant will allow the construction of a shared-services building to finally begin.

At a special board meeting Wednesday night, village Mayor Paul Maroun announced that a $500,000 grant through the Economic Development Corporation was approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

In 2012 the village hired Syracuse-based Hueber Breuer to develop a feasibility study for a much-needed new building to house the village’s police and fire departments. The study was completed that September.

It took a series of public meetings to convince local taxpayers to commit $3.2 million to the project. That deal was contingent upon Sean Foran, a construction manager with Hueber Breuer, securing another $1.3 million in federal grants to pay for the project.

An initial estimate placed the cost of the project, with building materials, at $220 to $250 per square foot, but a bid from the Watertown-based Bette & Cring Construction Group came in at $175 per square foot – a $600,000 savings.

The bid process was extended twice when Foran failed to secure grant money: first at an Oct. 1, 2013, deadline, and again at an April 1 deadline.

With less than two weeks left before the final May 1 bid-extension deadline, Foran told the board he still hadn’t found the money.

The already apprehensive board members were suddenly faced with the likely scenario that they’d have to put the project out to bid again, which probably would have resulted in higher prices.

Even worse, the board feared the entire project would have to be scrapped if funding couldn’t be found.

The newly announced grant doesn’t cover the entire $1.3 million, but savings the board members recently found will close the gap further.

Trustee Rick Donah said the current estimated total cost of the project is $3.78 million. He said the board would continue to look for ways to trim that down, including seeking better bond interest rates.

“The county is going to help with the excavation, and we are looking at every way we can to reduce the cost of this thing,” Maroun said. “We’re going to continue to reach out to get grants, any monies from the state and federal government, and we will look at ways to finance the project less than the bond.”

Maroun said the village would also create a lock-box account specifically for storing funds marked for the project. He said he is confident additional funding will come in as construction proceeds. The main thing, Maroun said, is to begin building.

Trustee Tom Snyder asked who would be responsible for seeking more money. He was especially trepidatious about including Foran in future plans.

“That was embarrassing to me, what happened,” Snyder said. “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, I’m stupid.”

Snyder said the “ball was dropped” and insisted it shouldn’t happen again.

Donah said he felt that all of the board members did what they thought was best. He reminded Snyder that Heuber Breuer recently completed two new fire stations in the region: in Upper Jay and Keene.

Donah sympathized with Snyder but said it was time to move forward.

“When we did the study and we developed the package, it was developed with the intention of submitting it to federal agencies, and we will continue to pursue that,” Donah said. “This project is just starting, so I can say, from the board perspective, that as long as I am on this board I will continue to find money for this project.”

The village did not have to pay Foran for his time spent seeking the grants. Hueber Breuer was initially slated to act as the construction manager for the project, a relationship Donah said isn’t off the table yet.

The next step is to purchase the 2-acre property on Santa Clara Avenue next to the Tupper Lake Civic Center. Donah said test wells have already been dug there, and the site should be good to go.

Maroun said ground could be broken on the project in as soon as eight weeks.

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