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Granite-Gate Part 2 Saratoga Husband and Wife Team Develop and Execute Plans for Expensive Granite in State Park

By Frank Parlato

The Niagara Falls State park is the westernmost outpost of Albany. It is of, for and by Albany.
It is only right that we fill up the Niagara Falls State Park with Albany Granite since Albany owns everything else in Niagara Falls.

The "granitizing" of Niagara Falls State Park continues unabated.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that an offer for bids for another "Park Improvement" job has been put out, requiring contractors to buy granite from Champlain Stone, a Saratoga Springs/Albany area company with quarries in the Adirondacks.

The expensive, peculiar-colored granite is being used by contractors all over the park, including Prospect Point. The granite requirement is mandated by the LA Group of Saratoga Springs, a consultant/landscape architect for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks).

A request for sealed bids was released by State Parks and is due to be opened at 11 am April 29, for "improvements" to the Plaza Area at the Cave of the Winds Area on Goat Island. The specifications require contractors to use "Corinthian Granite," a product exclusively manufactured by Champlain Stone.

While the bid specifications say contractors can use an "approved equivalent" approved by the project manager for the state and the design team from Saratoga Springs, there is no known equivalent to this highly specific granite.
It is no secret around the Niagara Falls State park that local State Park landscape architects were ordered to stay clear of all aspects of the $40 million park improvement work. In their place came Albany-based State park landscape architects headed by Stephen McCorkell, RLA, of Saratoga Springs.

McCorkell, a state employee, is paid $103,913 per year, according to www.seethroughny.net.

He is working hand-in-hand with the LA Group of Saratoga Springs, the outside landscape architects for the project.

Because they provide professional services, consultants such as the LA Group, do not submit to competitive bidding but are selected by the project manager who, apparently in this case, happens to be McCorkell.

The LA Group may be working closer with McCorkell than the public generally imagines. The company selected to design the specs has on their staff a senior landscape architect who is listed at the same address, has the same phone number, and the same last name as McCorkell.
She is Lisa L. Tonneson-McCorkell, RLA, of Saratoga Springs.

The Reporter called the listed phone number for both Stephen McCorkell and Lisa Tonneson McCorkell.

Stephan answered the phone. When asked if Lisa Tonneson McCorkell is his wife, McCorkell declined comment, telling this writer that it was "inappropriate calling me at home on a Sunday night," and referred the Reporter to the public relations division of State Parks in Albany.

So it works like this: Stephen McCorkell, of Saratoga, is the project director for State Parks. State Parks selects his wife Lisa's company from Saratoga to design the specs that require contractors to buy granite from Champlain Stone (also from Saratoga) for the Niagara Falls State Park.

Indeed all individuals presently in charge of the Niagara Falls State Park "improvement" plan, including the lead man for the LA Group, David Miller, State Parks Deputy Commissioner Frank McCue ($115,389 annual salary) and the team of McCorkell and McCorkell are from the Albany/Saratoga area.

The $4 million Prospect Point improvement plan for Niagara Falls State Park includes $600,000 in granite stone pavers purchased from Champlain Stone. Prospective contractors knew in advance, from looking at the specs, that the granite was to be purchased from Champlain Stone, despite New York State Finance Law 163 that prohibits sole source bidding.

According to sources, Champlain Stone charges contractors around $60 per square foot, far above the normal market price for granite of $20-$40 per square foot.

The use of this oddly-colored granite is also inconsistent with the limestone found in natural rock formations in and around Niagara Falls, which also makes an excellent paver.

Limestone would be the natural stone to use if one were seeking to adhere closer to Frederick Law Olmsted’s original design plan. That abundant local limestone has been eschewed in favor of more expensive, out-of-town granite has been a source of much speculation among park workers and contractors.

Sources said that particular granite, which is slippery when wet, has already caused slip and fall problems in the park due to mist from the falls.

At least one employee of Champlain Stone who is in their Corporate Media Relations office in Saratoga Springs, Kirsten Anthony, was also previously employed by the LA Group.
There is at least one more project ready to be designed by LA Group with a requirement to use Champlain Stone.

Indeed, if this keeps up, they may rename the Niagara Falls State Park “Champlain Stone State Park” or, for short, "Plain Sham" State Park.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Mar 25, 2014