The start of construction for the city’s Riverlink Park Phase 2 project is now in limbo after the Common Council Tuesday night rejected a resolution to loan the project $100,000.
The money would have paid for unexpected up-front costs and helped maintain cash flow while the city awaits state grants awarded to pay for the project.
City Engineer Richard Miller explained to the council that CSX Railroad is requiring a $30,000 up-front payment for the cost of a flag man to coordinate traffic of the city’s contractors across the railroad’s tracks in return for granting a permit to cross them.
“They were originally going to require an up-front payment of $60,000 to pay for a flag man to stand down there when the heavy trucks go across the tracks,” Miller said. “In negotiations with CSX, I talked them down to a $30,000 up-front payment, but part of the problem with the grants we’re going to get is that we can’t get money reimbursed until after we’ve spent it and our contractor [CFI Contracting] isn’t willing to expend that kind of up-front cost.”
To pay for Riverlink Park Phase 2, the city of Amsterdam is set to receive a $350,000 grant from the New York State Dormitory Authority and another $350,000 grant from the New York State Department of State.
The other $70,000 of the loan was the idea of Nick Zabowsky, the city’s grant writer. Zabowsky said the money would help make sure CFI Contracting is paid on time, instead of forcing the company to wait for the state to release the grant money. Waiting for the grant money could take six months or longer.
“I think you get more bids and lower bids if you can establish a reputation for paying contractors on time,” he said.
The majority of the council was unswayed by arguments to loan the project money, and the resolution was defeated. The vote took place within the context of the council struggling to fill a $700,000 hole in Mayor Ann Thane’s proposed 2011-12 city budget.
City Controller Heather Reynicke, who voted against the resolution, said there wasn’t enough benefit to the city from the project to justify the expense, even if it would eventually be reimbursed.
The second phase of the project involves transforming the grassy portion of land west of the current Riverlink Park into another park with playground equipment, landscaping, a band shell, a walkway and benches. The extended park is expected to dovetail into a landing for the new pedestrian bridge linking the South Side to the downtown Main Street section on the north side of the Mohawk River. Phase 2 also includes a decorative stone wall reminiscent of Native American art.
Thane was incredulous at the council members’ stance and tried to convince them that voting against the loan could seriously disrupt the project.
“They were supposed to start work this next week,” she said. “This project has been in the works for 10 years, and to get to the 11th hour, five minutes before midnight, and throw a wrench into the project is very frustrating. We need to recognize the importance of waterfront development to economic development in the city.”
Amsterdam Corporation Council Gerard DeCusatis advised the council that not agreeing to pay at least the $30,000 needed for the flag man could expose the city to litigation for not honoring its contract with CFI Contracting.
Fourth Ward Alderman William Wills said Saratoga Associates, the city’s consultant and design firm for the project, should have to pay the cost of the flag man out of its “errors and omissions” insurance for having failed to identify that cost as part of the bid specifications it wrote for the city.
“I’m tired of the city paying for the mistakes of consultants,” he said.
Wills proposed an amendment to pay the $30,000 now and authorize DeCusatis to pursue Saratoga Associates for reimbursement of the cost, but the amendment was defeated.
Miller said part of the confusion over the flag man issue is due to the fact that the first phase of the park’s construction was apparently done illegally because the city never asked for or received a permit from CSX to cross the rails.
Zabowsky said he is going to ask the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency, a public authority with its own budget and board of directors, to loan the city the money needed to pay for the flag man.
“If CSX doesn’t get this $30,000, the project can’t go forward,” he said.