By Lauren Takores
The Oneonta Common Council, on Tuesday, August 15, voted against the payment to New York State Electric and Gas for the temporary relocation of electric distribution infrastructure.
Up to $95,737 or $110,000 would have been funded by the Department of State Downtown Revitalization Grant.
In both voting rounds, Len Carson (R-Fifth Ward), Scott Harrington (R-Sixth Ward) and Kaytee Lipar Shue (D-Fourth Ward) voted against this motion. Emily Falco (D-Eighth Ward) was absent.
According to Greg Mattice, City Administrator, due to the Council’s decision against moving NYSEG machinery, demolition of the garage has been put off.
Carson was initially against moving ahead with the agreement because he thought there was a discrepancy in the minutes and motion.
On June 15, representatives from the consulting company Wendel Companies introduced a conceptual plan worth $30 million to the city council. The plan included the replacement of the parking garage as well as the creation of a transportation hub.
Carson stated Wednesday they believed the council had voted for the demolishment of the garage. However, he thinks they voted instead on the SEQR or State Environmental Quality Review (pronounced “seeker”) and bids to perform the demolition without authorization.
The video of the meeting on June 15, shows the unanimous approval by the council to declare that no further environmental assessment was required for the project, as the land will continue to be used as a parking area.
Mattice stated that “demolition was the next step”, when he discussed the motion authorizing demolition.
We will need to set up the budget, create a bid for this project, then issue a tender, award a contract and make a decision to do so.
Few minutes later City Clerk Kerri harrington read out the motion.
The Common Council must authorize demolition of the parking garage municipal and instruct city staff to complete the bid and design documents as quickly as possible.
Mattice also clarified the fact that this motion did not authorize a garage replacement or a parking area, but rather the bidding of garage demolition, and “ancillary works” required for a safe site.
Harrington did not vote for the motion. John Rafter (D-Seventh Ward) had resigned, and there had yet to be a replacement for him.
Carson also suggested that the city seek out a second opinion on the state of the garage, and cost-effectiveness of different options.
Former mayor Gary Herzig wrote to the city council in a letter to urge them to seek a second opinion. Wendel, a consulting company, provided three reports that said the garage “was good to go”, before sending a 1-page letter saying it needed to be torn down.
He also said that he had no idea Wendel issued an engineering report in full before Tuesday.
The garage should not be destroyed until we have a second opinion that confirms its need for demolition. If we build a parking structure for millions of dollars we are asking the taxpayers to shoulder that cost.
Harrington, Lipari Shue and Carson were not swayed by Carson’s memory of the June 15 vote.
They were also concerned about the cost to relocate the NYSEG electrical distribution infrastructure and the simultaneous demolition of the derelict nearby building located at 27 Market St.
The city plans to destroy both buildings at the same time, in response to Lipari Shue.
Mattice said that 27 Market St. will be torn down in two or three months and that the garage will be torn down during winter.
Lipari Shue believes that the time frame is of the greatest concern. Since [the demolition] of 27 Market St. is needed before NYSEG starts, I don’t think the project should proceed.
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