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April 1, 2010

Village board approves design contract for Gateway Project


BY JIM AUSTIN
COOPERSTOWN CRIER

After years of delays and frustrations with the agencies controlling the federal purse strings, the future of the village’s Gateway Project is looking brighter.

The project will make improvements to Linden Avenue, create parking and a visitor center at the south end of the village and reconstruct the access road to State route 28.

During last month’s board meeting, the trustees discussed the possibility of having to abandon the project because of a looming deadline for the federal funding. In order to meet the September deadline, the project design would have to be complete and ready to go out to bid.

Included on the long list of things to accomplish were the required property acquisitions _ all had been agreed to, but ownership had not been transferred. The biggest concern was the piece of property to be acquired from the school district and whether it would require a public referendum.

In order to proceed with the project, the board had to approve signing a contract with CLA Site, the Saratoga-based company that has been providing design and technical assistance to the village.

The problem was the state funding portion of the project, which was supposed to pay for the design work. The funds had been approved, but the state was not sending out checks because of its fiscal problems.

To approve the design contract and continue with the project would require the village putting up the money with the idea of receiving reimbursement in the future.

If the September deadline was missed, however, the funds put up by the village and the project could be lost.

The state’s financial crisis has held back our ability to move forward, said Deputy Mayor Jeff Katz, chair of the Gateway Technical Committee. We could front the money, he told the trustees, but there is certainly some risk.

``It continues to be a difficult process,’’ he said. ``The cash is what we don’t have. The cash is what we planned on to move forward.’’

``I’m uneasy committing the money when we don’t know when we’ll receive reimbursement,’’ Mayor-elect Joe Booan said, adding that it was very possible the money wouldn’t flow from the state.

The board discussed approving the contract and authorizing CLA Site to perform up to $40,000 in work through the month of April. It would keep the project moving and allow the trustees to reassess the situation during their April meeting.

``I don’t want us to be the ones to blame for it not happening,’’ said Trustee Neil Weiller.

The board approved the contract by a margin of 4 to 1 with Booan voting against it. During the Gateway Technical Committee meeting four days later, some of the concerns were addressed.

Booan, a member of the committee, did not attend the meeting, but said in an email the Katz that his ``biggest concern is that we can meet the deadlines for the next round of money.’’

Katz told Peter Loyola from CLA Site that the board had approved the contract for the design phase and expressed the board’s concerns about the property acquisitions and the village’s ability to meet the September deadline.

Loyola said it is possible a referendum will not be required to obtain the property from the school. A board resolution may sufficient, he said, adding that there is a strict process that must be followed to obtain the different properties.

``We’d love to move this thing much quicker, but we are aware of the funding issue,’’ Loyola said.

He tried to reassure the committee that the reimbursements from the state will come through.

``There are so many projects in the same position,’’ he said. Loyola said his firm should have the design documents 100 percent complete by the end of August.

``We want to make sure no tax dollars are being spent on this. That was always the goal,’’ he said. ``We’re moving this forward, but once we hit April 30, it’s time to say yes or no.’’