Schenectady

Schenectady’s share of costs for troubled sidewalk program escalates

Officials pledge to save troubled initiative
Newly installed sidewalks on Ardsley Road in Schenectady are seen on Tuesday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Newly installed sidewalks on Ardsley Road in Schenectady are seen on Tuesday.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — The city has seen its share of replacing sidewalks on Ardsley Road jump from $63,000 to $159,192, again calling into question the shifting costs of the city’s new sidewalk replacement program. 

The original bid to replace sidewalks on Ardsley Road came in at $179,435. But final costs were $238,194, which resulted in homeowners getting hit with bills twice as high as they were expecting. 

After hearing complaints from residents, the City Council decided to peel roughly $37,000 from the $1 million set aside in last year’s capital budget to reduce the cost to Ardsley Road residents. The city engineer attributed the higher-than-expected costs for sub-base materials and the number of trees that needed to be ripped out.

While fees for homeowners have been knocked down, the city’s share leaped from $63,000 to $159,192, a number Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo called “breathtaking.”

“We need to do better,” Perazzo said on Monday. 

The unforeseen consequence, she said, is creeping costs that have to be absorbed by all city taxpayers, not just those who opted to create a special assessment district to facilitate the improvements in their neighborhoods. 

Under the program, the city fronts the money and performs the work, with residents paying back the loans over time with interest.

While pleased that homeowners will see some relief, Perazzo said the bailout has threatened the sustainability of the fund, which ultimately means fewer projects may be possible in the future. 

“It’s now not what it was originally designed to do,” Perazzo said.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said the city should revisit the entire program.

“It was well-intended,” Porterfield said, “but its implementation was just not very good.”

Councilman John Polimeni, who conceptualized the initiative last year, acknowledged Perazzo’s concerns about escalating costs and called the botched rollout “inexcusable.”

“We’re making attempts to correct and make it better in the future,” he said after the meeting. “As the architect of the program, I’m going to do what I can to make sure it succeeds.”

Ardsley Road residents said while they were pleased with the final product, the city never contacted them between when the bid was awarded and the work completed to inform them of the rising costs. 

Final numbers skyrocketed from early estimates of $2,700 for a 50-foot stretch of sidewalk to $5,051. 

The lack of communication has rattled DeCamp Avenue homeowners who are next in line to receive the upgrades.

City officials acknowledged communication has been poor, but have yet to reach a consensus on which city agency should communicate with residents.

“This is being developed,” Polimeni said. “We’re working on it.”

Several Ardsley Road residents offered a fresh round of criticism on Monday. 

Rosaline Horowitz, who spearheaded the petition process with a neighbor, said she remained “stumped and frustrated” and advised the city to retain an outside expert.

“This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” she said.

Thomas Trouwborst said he originally didn’t want to participate in the effort, but ultimately capitulated. 

He said his family never would have joined if they were aware of the higher costs.

A better option, he said, would be to deploy his three sons with sledgehammers to conduct the work themselves.

“The hardest part about living in the city is getting the value for your dollar,” he said.

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