Last summer on my way to a conference in upstate New York, I stopped in to visit an old friend who now lives in Kingston and she suggested we spend the day driving the beautiful countryside and visiting the city by introducing me to a project that she was working on — the Kingston Greenline and Catskill Mountain Rail Trail. It was a wonderful day! I must tell you, I reside in one of the most storied cities in the world in San Francisco, but we have nothing to compare to the charm of old buildings and narrow streets that make up your Uptown Kingston. Our Fisherman’s Wharf, while wonderful, has nothing on the quaint historic waterfront of your Strand.
I was particularly impressed by my friend’s project. The Greenline Linear Park and Catskill Trail to the Ashokan Reservoir (which we visited on our drives — breathtaking) reminds me of our own Golden Gate Park, which is both a landmark tourist attraction as well as a wonderful amenity and source of pride for all of us living in the city. My friend talked about sculpture installations planned along the linear park part of the project, as well as a beautiful gateway bridge leading to the Ashokan on the trail portion. I was completely captivated.
When I returned, I could not help but gush about my experience and a colleague, who has an MPA from an Ivy League school and an entrepreneurial idea for a national social services project he has been pioneering here, actually began to investigate relocating to Kingston. Cities like our San Francisco have become far too expensive and an upcoming location like yours, with a growing cultural scene, the charm of a small city combined with a beautiful countryside, and an attractive recreational and artistic project like your Greenline are a tremendous draw for many of us who now, with internet, can work from anywhere. (It didn’t hurt that he unearthed a recent article naming Kingston as the best city to live in New ). He is currently taking a class in entrepreneurship and is planning on visiting this summer with his fiancé to seriously explore the possibility of moving there. I applaud you on the direction your city is taking and look forward to visiting again soon — and hopefully going for a walk or ride on your Greenline Project out to the Ashokan!
Devon Rath, San Francisco, Calif.
Dear Kingston school board members:
As a long time taxpayer in the Kingston City School District, I found your recent decision not to even study having a project labor agreement on a $140 million project troublesome. I hope that you will reconsider before it is too late. A massive capital project such as the one you are about to embark, without a PLA is a gamble you definitely should re-examine. My own experience is what drives me to ask for your reconsideration. When I was elected to serve as the chairman of the Ulster County Legislature in 2006, in which I served as the CEO of the County, I immediately became responsible for the completion of the Ulster County Law Enforcement Center. This poorly planned and politically rushed project to that date had already cost the county $70 million with an end price that was set to double the original estimates while being a year behind schedule.
Having this mess dropped in my lap, a team of legislators and people in construction were put together with the goal to move the project along faster and control further costs. One thing that all were thankful for was that the original planners put a PLA in place. I am certain the project would have shut down if this PLA was not in place, causing significantly more financial burden on the taxpayers, as well as putting the County further away from the goal of ending the boarding-out of prisoners. Out of the 1,000 things that contributed to the “jail fiasco,” labor was not one of them.
The PLA was administered by Hill International. They were professional and helped us in various ways to get to our end goal of opening the facility.
The project was completed through the diligence of our team, Hill International and Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum. The sheriff was relentless at pushing the state for an expedited inspection to enable occupation.
If my information is correct, the project at the High School is estimated to be just short of $140 million dollars with some $55 million from Kingston City School District taxpayers. That is almost 50 percent more than what the “jail fiasco” ended up costing, which leads me to believe your decision to not even examine having a PLA is gamble you should not take. A PLA assures project stability, efficiency and productivity by giving a broader management-rights provision, full trades commitment to the project, and provisions that increase contractor flexibility.
This insurance alone is worth the small cost of a study. You need only look at your own Excel Project that didn’t come in on time and the project managers, BBL, charged the school district another $150,000. That project was less than one-fifth the size of the capital project you are about to take on.