TOWN OF NORTH HARMONY
TUESDAY, 10/3/17, 7:00 PM, ASHVILLE FIRE HALL
NEW TOWN BUILDING/RENOVATION-ADDITION EXISTING BUILDING
SALLY P. CARLSON, SUPERVISOR PRESENT
FRANK STOW, COUNCILMAN PRESENT
DICK SENA, COUNCILMAN PRESENT
DUNCAN MCNEILL, COUNCILMAN PRESENT
LOUISE ORTMAN, COUNCILWOMAN PRESENT
Mrs. Carlson opened the Public Hearing at 7:00 PM. There were 28 persons present.
Don Harrington, Architect gave a presentation of both conceptual proposals for a new town building and a renovation/addition to the existing building. There were minor changes to the design of the new building as it was presented at the August Town Board meeting. Those were the addition of a covered walkway to the entrance and use of brick and siding for the façade. There were cost estimates of the two projects provided by Baer & Associates, LLC: 1) renovation-addition at $1,187,000 and 2) new building at $1,735,000.
Q: Interest rate was previously given at 4% for the bond. Is now 5%.
A: Would be a fixed interest rate for the 30 year period on a new building and 15 years for renovation-addition.
Q: Funding for bond counsel fees.
A: Funds have been set aside that will more than cover bond attorneys’ fees.
Q: Has loan interest been calculated?
A: Not at this time.
Q: Is this in line with the County plan for Shared Services?
A: The County hopes to have a plan by 2020. There have been discussions with various municipalities who are interested in court consolidation now. Because of I-86 accessibility, this would be a good location for consolidation. This would be a shared service with different courts using the building on different nights. New unified court system regulations require upgrades to all courts for safety and handicap accessibility that impact all local court buildings.
Q: Have there been estimates on how this will affect taxes?
A: Based on court revenues in 2015 North Harmony took in $168,000.00. After court costs are removed there would be a balance of $108,600.00 which would be a total cost to taxpayers of $631.00 (less than $.01/per $1,000 of assessed value). In 2016 revenues of $206,438.00, and after paying court costs balance would be $135,320.00 which would leave a balance after bond payment of $26,000.00.
Q: Aren’t the court funds currently a part of the operation costs of the budget?
A: A substantial amount is used for court costs, but there are other areas in the budget that could be reduced.
Q: Talks with Municipal Solutions indicate that there are funds available through the state with various senators to generate large up front grants to municipalities for these types of costs.
10/3/17 (Pg. 2)
A: We have applied to Senator Young for a substantial grant, but the state budget will not be in place until April and we won’t know what the funding amount might be until then. Also, the town is eligible to apply for unified Court grants up to $30,000/year.
Q: Has any information been received on the Southern Tier West study on regional court consolidations in Dunkirk, Jamestown and Mayville.
A: Spoke to Dale Robbins but have not heard that those would be the only three consolidation areas.
Q: Would grant funding from Senator Young and the unified Court System be available for the renovation-addition of the current building?
A: The court funding would be available, but the Senator’s grant would most likely not be.
Q: How much money has already been invested in the current building for the court project?
A: We have spent approximately $45,000 in relocating utilities; parking area, etc. The reason for considering a new building was that the cost for a renovation-addition was so large that it no longer made sense to renovate a building that has health issues for the workers and is not handicap accessible.
Q: Why does the court room need to be so large?
A: It would greatly increase security costs in order to stagger court appearance times. The court must give individuals 30 minutes past their appointed time to appear for a scheduled appointment. That is not possible to do when there are attorneys and public defenders also scheduled when there are at least 30 cases every night. The size of the court is not dictated by, but recommended by the NYS Court System. It was noted that the judge’s dais uses about 1/3 of the courtroom.
Q: Aren’t remediation of existing health and handicap issues addressed in the renovation proposal?
A: Yes, but an additional issue will be trying to work in a building under renovation which will be extremely difficult.
There was discussion of using renewable energy (i.e. solar, etc.).
Q: Will there be a referendum involved in this matter and will seasonal residents be allowed to vote?
A: If people circulate petitions, yes, but voters must be registered North Harmony voters.
Q: The seasonal residents in Finley Lake were allowed to vote on the sewer issue; why can’t seasonal residents vote on this?
A: Because they passed a local law that allowed it.
Q: What is the additional cost of the services (electric, sewer, gas) at the new location?
A: It was not calculated as a separate number, it was all figured in the entire complex and there are changes that will be made to that.
Q: What is the revenue expected for the courts in 2017?
A: Budgets are subject to many changes based on projections and hopes that revenues will be up from sales tax, etc. There is really no way to 100% know, it is a guesstimate based on revenues seen in past years. If the court were to take in no money in a year, the tax rate would increase by $.40/$1,000.
Q: Were costs per square foot for heat, electric, fringe benefits, etc. figured into court costs per year?
10/3-17 (Pg. 3)
A: No. There is no breakdown for retirement, social security, health insurance, etc. That is included in the budget. It can be calculated.
There was discussion of moving employees to office trailers if the old building is renovated. It was noted that that type of question had been a part of the calculations for the cost. Mr. Harrington said that the company who provided the cost projections is usually high so that there is some room for contingency and no one is misled.
Mr. Sena noted that is more expensive to renovate than it is to build new, but he feels the numbers provided by Baer are disingenuous at best. He said we should have a legitimate Plan B if the project is voted down by referendum. He said prior to Mr. Harrington, several sets of plans had been presented for renovation-addition that were about half of the cost of the Baer estimates. He said the Baer estimate has a cost for heating of about $250,000; electrical at $142,000; $10,000 automatic electric door; which he feels are excessively high and there are a lot of things that can be done to make that more affordable for Plan B, which the town could send to referendum and let the voters speak. He said there are many factors that need to be kept in mind.
Mr. Harrington said very rarely does a cost estimator come in below what things are going to be. He said they are safe numbers, but wagering numbers and things like prevailing wages, etc. can have an effect. He said this is a comparison to be used in the decision process.
Mrs. Ortman said her understanding is that this is more of a general comparison to give an overview of what each project would entail and a rough estimate of cost. Once a decision is narrowed down and looked at, that will be the time to fine tune the project. She said what we are currently looking at is a general overview to be used to begin deliberation and conversation.
It was commented that a decision between A and B cannot be made without numbers that are realistic.
It was commented that when you are dealing with a public project and prevailing wage those numbers may not be so out of line.
Mr. Harrington noted that the more detailed the project needs the closer the estimate and it can be fine tuned. He said this is probably a 15% +/- estimate.
It was commented that taxpayers need all the information they can get to make a decision and there is a need for more data.
Given what the cost of a renovation-addition is, it was felt that it was prudent to also get costs for a new build as it relates to the long term efficacy of a 1940’s renovated building vs. a new build. The initial estimate of an addition (prior to Harrington Architecture) at $400,000.00 did not include any abatement of radon, asbestos, nor remodeling the existing facility.
It was commented that either of the options at the hearing will push the finances of the town to the limit and it was hoped that other things that are important to the community will not be left out.
It was commented that Supervisor Carlson has done a good job at this hearing. It was asked if there is a time line set before the town will meet again on this issue.
Mrs. Carlson said probably not until we know what the outcome of Senator Young’s budget in April and other grant funding info is available.
Mr. Sena gave background on the issue. He said in 2008 the town had received a citation from the unified Courts because it did not meet standards (i.e. bullet proof glass; location of windows, etc.). He said we had started to do small renovations to bring it up to standards and it grew because the building we have now is insufficient (no meeting rooms for attorney/clients, security, etc.). He said we started at the minimum and it has moved to the maximum.
Mrs. Carlson said we also need to take into consideration that any study of court consolidation would have to be done through the county.
10/3/17 (Pg. 4)
Mr. Harrington said what we are trying to do is get a direction on one of these options which cannot be decided at this meeting. He said this is just the beginning and more information needs to be obtained in the process.
Q: What is the cost of the remediation of asbestos and radon for the renovation-addition proposal?
Mrs. Carlson noted that the entire board has been working diligently on this project. She also noted that the appraisal amount of the current building, land and garage is $60,000.00 in the C-1 district.
Mrs. Carlson thanked all for attending and closed the hearing at 8:15 PM.