Thursday, April 30, 2015

Law and Order, Blame and Dissension

Gossips asked back in October 2013, with reference to the police and court building, "Why can't we get this done?" The question is as relevant today as it was eighteen months ago. We now have a building, an approved design, more than $2.25 million in borrowed money waiting to be spent, but City Hall is in turmoil because a bid from one general contractor--just one, not five or six--bumped the total estimated cost to $1.5 million over what was anticipated.

The logical course of action in this juncture would seem to be--in addition to trying to understand why only one general contractor showed an interest in the project--to do another estimate based on the bid documents to vet the bid and identify where things went wrong and then see if it is not possible to bring down the cost. This is pretty much what the project architect, Richard Franklin, suggested at a special meeting of the Common Council, which took place on Wednesday night, but it is not clear at this point if this is the course of action that will be pursued.

At the meeting, which was convened at the request of the mayor, Council president Don Moore began by announcing that the state had given Hudson a deadline, which sounds a little bit like an ultimatum: Present a very specific plan of how you intend to proceed to the Office of Courts Administration by June 3, or there will be sanctions. What needed to be done in the next six weeks, Moore explained, was to arrive at "a mutually agreed on set of steps" to determine "how it is done and how it is paid for."

After Moore's opening comments, the mayor presented his written statement. He began by saying, "It is imperative that we do not point fingers," and continued by "going through a timeline of the last two years," obviously intended to exonerate himself from any blame, because, he alleged, he and "Mayor Aide" Gene Shetsky had been "left out of the loop." Having run through the timeline, the mayor then identified what he considered "our options":
  1. Do we continue looking for cost cuts at the Finnish Line site we own?
  2. Do we continue to pay those contracted with the City over this time period, who have lead [sic] the charge and overseen this project assuring they could provide this Police and Court building renovation and construction at 1.7 million dollars?
  3. Do we consider looking at other sites to build new?
  4. Does the Common Council consider looking at another 1.4 or 1.5 million dollars to complete the building at 7th and Union?
The mayor concluded his presentation with these statements:
If we continue to move the project forward with the belief we can save or make up the 1.4 million dollar difference, I am inclined to believe we should do that from a different perspective.
I am prepared after your consideration to take on the challenges we face with this project including but not limited to assigning Robert Perry as Clerk of the Works, who has overseen multimillion dollar City owned projects.
I am also prepared not to proceed with a Construction Manager in the future with this project and will assemble as soon as possible a team of professionals with experience who can review the project and move the project forward, with the simple purpose of gaining further insight and another perspective of building a Police and Court facility the 701 Union Street sight [sic].   
The gist of the verbiage is that if the Common Council votes to continue the project, the mayor intends to take over. 

Asked to comment, Joe Rapp, the construction manager, explained that the budget was developed before there was a final design. "The building we now have before us is not that project." Of the current state of affairs, Rapp said, "We are in the middle of a process, and we should continue with the process."

When asked by aldermen Abdus Miah (Second Ward) and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) if he knew and when he knew the project was going over budget, Franklin explained that his firm had not been charged with doing a cost estimate. He did outline what he considered to be the next steps: (1) do an independent cost estimate based on the bid documents, which then could be compared, item by item, with the original estimates to identify areas of overrun; (2) do value engineering to get the project back to an acceptable amount.

Predictably, Alderman Robert "Doc"Donahue (Fifth Ward) declared we should build a new building at Columbia and Fourth streets, which according to him would only cost $3.2 million. Former mayor's aid, former Fifth Ward alderman, and former Hudson resident, Carmine "Cappy" Pierro, speaking from his experience as clerk of the works for the Central Fire Station, rattled off a string of numbers, itemized what had already been spent, spoke of "contingency money" and soft costs, and claimed that the current project would end up costing $4.3 million.

Shifting the conversation from what it will cost to how it will be paid for, Moore reminded everyone that when the police department and court had been moved to a new building, the City would have two buildings on Warren Street to sell. "One million [dollars] is not outside the realm of possibility," said Moore of the likely income from that sale. He also spoke of a "funding source" interested in the project that might provide $100,000, although he did not identify that source.

Although Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) urged that the Council make a decision on moving forward, no such decision was made on Wednesday. Instead it was decided that another special meeting would be held next week. That meeting has now been scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.


  1. Is the mayor alluding to a save (alleged) by Galvan ?

  2. Why was only one bid requested? Doesn't there have to be several?

    1. It wasn't that only one bid was requested. The bid was put out there for everyone. Only one general contractor submitted a bid.