New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers anticipates several large projects will move closer to completion in the coming year. Sitting bundled up against the cold outside a coffee shop with thick snow banks all around, he offered his insights.
Local governments with considerable responsibilities for infrastructure management have a complicated life. On the one hand, they want to get things done and complete projects. On the other, they want to be alert to changing opportunities.
Where do you think the firehouse project will be by the end of 2021?
Rogers is pleased with how the new firehouse on Henry W. DuBois Drive is shaping up. The dream to move the fire department from the Plattekill Avenue property at which it is presently housed — where four trucks must be crammed through three bay doors to be parked inside — has been a New Paltz dream for a generation. State funds were released earlier this decade to bolster communities against severe storms. |
When bids to build the structure design resulted in only a small number of very high bids, village officials took that setback as an opportunity to reconsider its bidding strategy. It also looked more closely at the climate impacts of the building itself. The result will be an efficient building that could someday be powered by the sun.
The mayor weighed advice on how to receive bids. Public works are usually subject to the Wicks Law, which requires separate bids for the general contract and the usual subcontracts. It seemed simpler to run the bids through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), which is a source of construction and finance support for a wide variety of government projects. DASNY is exempt from the Wicks Law requirements.
When the project was put out to bid the second time only two high bids were received, however, it was in a form compliant with the Wicks Law. Additional bids were received. Rogers see this process as a case study of how the Wicks Law can save taxpayers money.
Local architect Rick Alfandre was retained to review the plans with an eye on making the new firehouse greener. “We were told it would be too expensive to make it greener,” Rogers said. But Alfandre did just that. The new firehouse will use the same insulating concrete forms used in the construction of Zero Place. The mayor says that it’s on the cutting edge for fire-station design.
The old building on the site has already been removed. With the state funds of $5 million on this $6.6-million project due to expire soon, the new structure must be largely or wholly completed in 2021.
What are you top priorities for the coming year?
“My goals? To finish projects.” Rogers says he is neck0deep in long-term projects. Oldest among these is a federal grant secured before Rogers took office to add sidewalks to a few street corners in the village. Clearing the bureaucratic hurdles on this project is still on the mayor’s to-do list.
One project that threatening to become a problem. The filtration system at the water treatment plant was replaced not too long ago. Under state law, the money to pay for anything in a water district has to come from the users of that district. It’s paid via water bills. Money was borrowed to replace the filtration system based on reasonable assumptions of how much revenue was going to come in, and those reasonable assumptions didn’t anticipate a pandemic that would radically reduce water use at the college, the single location with the largest water bill in the village.
The village treasurer has been advocating for some sort of rate hike to make up the difference. Missing payments would impact the village’s credit rating, and the interest rate it could charge. Rogers is also exploring the use of benefit assessments, which are surcharges that can be tacked on under specific circumstances. The village is still hoping for local aid to be authorized at the federal level
Do you still hold out hope for some kind of shared municipal hall for town and village offices?
Rogers nods vigorously. “We must be patient, and all the dominoes must fall,” he cautions. Space would have to be available at 23 Plattekill Avenue, a building already owned by the town and village governments. With the new firehouse and the justice center created just next door, there will be plenty of space.
The mayor believes that retooling an existing building is bound to be less costly than starting from an empty lot. After getting the police out of a very expensive lease arrangement, Rogers expects that the next step for town leaders will be to get rid of the trailers serving as a temporary town hall; Neil Bettez, the town supervisor, has signaled an interest in the Plattekill space to solve that problem.
Rogers anticipates “a thoughtful process” that would involve systems to share conference space and interior construction to facilitate collaboration. Even if the sharing goes no further than chipping in for a copier or an old-fashioned fax machine, taxpayers would save something. They would also experience improved service.
What else are you looking forward to in 2021?
The mayor wants to see village elections moved to November and taken over by the county government, saving village taxpayers about $8000 per election (not including training). More people tend to vote on the November date in any year than in other elections.
There’d need to be a shift to partisan elections with primaries rather than the current non-partisan system, Rogers believes that individual positions and connection will still matter more than party registration. The mayor has high praise for how well village clerk Alberta Shaw runs the elections, but believes that the advantages justifies removing that role from the list of Shaw’s responsibilities.