The Common Council Tuesday night — hoping to reduce costs by $100,000 — dropped a proposed plan to go out for competitive bids for a project to convert the former VFW hall at 24 3rd Ave. into the headquarters for the city Recreation Commission and a Code Blue shelter.
First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss had sponsored a resolution for the council to consider a five-page scope of work plan written by civil engineer and former council member Steve Smith, which would have cost an estimated $130,000. The plan would have served as the bid specifications for a contractor to do major renovations to the former VFW hall, including installing new handicap accessible men’s and women’s bathrooms plus showers, as well as a new HVAC system, a kitchen unit and other changes, but Weiss withdrew her sponsorship of the proposal.
“We had a little meeting this morning to figure out a better way, a better plan, to save money so that the things that are essential get done in a timely manner, so that (the city Recreation Commission) can still do what they need to do for the summer,” Weiss said. “The savings will be a lot. We’ve put something in, but we’ve taken some things out. I’d say we took out close to $100,000, between $75,000 and $100,000.”
Third Ward Councilwoman Elizabeth Batchelor asked that the revised plan be printed out for the council to examine in detail during one of its meetings in May. She said, in general, the slimmed down proposal seems to offer cost savings.
“We’re changing the bathrooms from what it was in our proposal to something much simpler and more economical, but I’d like to see that in writing,” Batchelor said.
Mayor Vince DeSantis said the revised renovation plan for the building includes doing a “request for proposals” process for replacing the HVAC system, which he said will mean contractors will submit proposals for how to do the project, rather than the city creating a specific work scope and then soliciting bid prices.
DeSantis said New York state law does not require local municipalities to go out for a competitive bidding process for projects costing less than $35,000. He said two elements of the renovations the city estimates will cost less than $35,000 will be split into separate projects for which the city will only solicit price quotes, without a formal competitive bidding process.
“One is making the restrooms handicap accessible, and the other is the new front doors — the front entrance to the building,” DeSantis said. “The RFP will be just for the HVAC system, and the reason it’s an RFP is we want (contractors) to tell us what they recommend to be done.”
Batchelor said when the slimmed down work scope is presented to the council in May the council will decide on a time table for the renovations.
“We’ll identify what it is that needs to be done now, and later,” she said.
Weiss said the council will also decide what elements of the project can be done by the city’s Department of Public Works and what parts have to be done by a private sector contractor.
The city plans to use money from the $1.5 million it received from the U.S. American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) to pay for the renovations.
City Finance Commissioner Tammie Weiterschan said the original plan for the ARPA money, presented to the council by DeSantis in the fall of 2021, included $200,000 for a homeless shelter dormitory and $150,000 set aside for a headquarters and summer youth program location for the city’s Recreation Commission.
“So those combined gave the council $350,000 total to (address those two ideas),” She said. “We closed on the purchase of 24 3rd Ave. last week, and we received a portion of our lease payment back to apply towards the purchase, so the expenses so far (for leasing the building for Code Blue temporary homeless shelter season and then purchasing it outright) have been around $190,000.”
“So that leaves us with about $153,000 left in that fund to do what we’re talking about here?” 2nd Ward Councilman Art Simonds asked, referencing more exact figures.
“Correct,” Weiterschan said.
Weiss said that between Jan. 14 and April 15, a total of 90 homeless people used the former VFW hall as a shelter on the 31 nights the shelter was in operation when the temperature went below 32 degrees. She said the shelter was staffed by 27 volunteers.
DeSantis said the city is working on coming up with a budget for how much it will cost to run the temporary shelter in 2023, and that budget will be presented to the Health and Human Services Committee of the Fulton County Board of Supervisors. He said New York state has funding to pay for the shelter’s operations but Fulton County has to be the governmental entity that applies for the money.