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Schenectady homeowners continue to seek clarity on sidewalk program

Schenectady homeowners continue to seek clarity on sidewalk program

City officials pledge to improve communication
Schenectady homeowners continue to seek clarity on sidewalk program
Sidewalks at the corner of Ardsley and Rugby roads in Schenectady are pictured on Jan. 2.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — Following a speed bump that saw the city bill Ardsley Road homeowners double the estimated cost to replace their sidewalks as part of a new pilot program, residents awaiting the next batch continue to harbor concerns over the program’s transparency. 

“I do not think we have received the information we need to know about what the next phase of the sidewalk initiative will be,” said Laurie Bacheldor, who circulated petitions for repairs on DeCamp Avenue. 

During the run-up to the new program, the city projected an estimated price of $2,700 per 50 feet of sidewalk, or about $54 per foot, Bacheldor said. 

She and a neighbor then used those numbers to drum up support from the neighborhood last year, ultimately getting approval from at least 75 percent of the property owners required to form the special assessment district. 

The bid approved by the City Council in September reveals costs clocking in at $83.55 per foot, or $4,177.65 for a 50-foot stretch.

Bacheldor said city officials have not yet reached out to explain the discrepancy despite being criticized for the same opaque communication process by Ardsley Road residents just weeks earlier.

She was unaware of the increased costs until The Daily Gazette sent her the bid documents on Thursday. 

“This is coming in a lot higher," she said.

Annual payments spread over 10 years would be $417.77 for homeowners with 50 feet of sidewalk.

City Engineer Chris Wallin did not immediately respond to a request on Thursday to discuss why the DeCamp Avenue numbers came in higher than anticipated.

Officials are trying to salvage the program after Ardsley Road homeowners were hit with a case of sticker shock when issued bills in late December that were double the original cost estimates. 

Organizers said while they were pleased with the final product, the city never reached out to them between when the bid was awarded and the work completed to inform them of the higher costs. 

The city said the bills to Ardsley Road residents will be adjusted. The City Council voted on Monday to peel approximately $37,000 from the $1 million set aside in last year’s capital budget to offset those costs, or roughly 32 percent of the residents' share of project costs.

City officials acknowledged they need improve the communication process.

“We will ensure this happens for DeCamp Avenue as we move forward and ensure those mistakes don’t happen again,” said Councilman John Polimeni, the program’s architect. 

Wallin has asked administration officials for guidance on communicating with homeowners. 

“I never thought it was in my purview to contact residents with information,” Wallin told lawmakers on Jan. 7. 

The city, however, hadn’t formalized a process by Wednesday. 

“That is something we are still discussing internally,” Wallin said in an interview.

The engineer attributed the skyrocketing figures on Ardsley Road to higher-than-expected volume of sub-base material that needed to be filled in underneath the new sidewalks.

Work crews also had to remove more trees than anticipated.

“Clearly as it went forward, the bid had some flaws,” Wallin told the City Council. “We were also rushing to get it done.”

Conversion between yards and feet was not a factor, he said. 

DeCamp was bid as part of the city’s fall paving program, which unlike Ardsley Road, will see the street repaved and curbs installed at the same time. 

Construction will likely begin in April, Wallin said. 

Peter Luizzi & Brothers Contracting, Inc. provided the lowest of three bids at $1,754,325. 

Some City Council members said the project should be rebid, citing the problems with Ardsley Road. 

“I would like to see us go back out to bid if possible,” said Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo. “I was uncomfortable with how quickly this legislation was passed.”

Officials acknowledged the bumpy rollout, but said they hoped it wouldn’t discourage future participation in the program.

“I don’t want to stop,” Wallin said. “I just want to do better.”

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