Sunday, April 29, 2018

East Avenue Sidewalk Project

At the Town Board meeting on February 22, 2018, the Town Board was asked to award a contract for concrete sidewalk work. The $250,000 contract was to help the Town's Department of Public Works catch up on the East Avenue Sidewalk Project. I voted against this award. Because I believe government should be transparent, here is why I voted "no."

(1) The Board had previously been told the project would be completed by Town staff and would not require outside contractors. In fact, on April 19, 2017, the Board lauded the project for keeping costs low by using Department of Public Works staff to do the work and not contracting out the project. Yet, we were now being asked to award $250,000 to contract out the work.

(2) No clear explanation of why the project was behind schedule was provided. Phase 1 of the project was supposed to go from the village border to Kilbourn Road by the end of 2017. As of February, the project had only proceeded to the south edge of Nazareth College, a mere fraction of Phase 1. When I asked why the project was running so far behind schedule, reasons given were the grading needed in front of Nazareth College to meet ADA requirements for wheelchair accessibility, negotiations with Irondequoit Country Club, and the upcoming spring leaf pick-up making Town staff unavailable to work on the sidewalk. I was concerned these delays reflected a lack of appropriate project planning because all of the factors were either known ahead of time or could have reasonably been anticipated. 

(3) The contract was not for a set cost. The contract the Board was asked to award had two options: $250,000 for the contractor to provide survey, grading, stone preparation, forming and pouring of concrete, and topsoil restoration - OR - $195,000 for the same work but the Town staff would provide all the necessary grading leading up to the pouring of the concrete sidewalk. I was concerned this ambiguity reflected a further lack of planning. 

Pittsford needs a more comprehensive sidewalk system. Connecting the north part of town to the village will be a benefit to all residents on that side of town, including Nazareth College and St. John Fisher College. However, when a project is poorly planned or implemented, we cannot simply write a check to get it back on schedule. 

It is the Board's responsibility to use taxpayer money effectively and efficiently to promote the common good. Residents deserve better planning and so do the the Town crews who carry out the work. 

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