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SEP 16- SEP 24, 2014

End-of-Season Paving at City Hall Shows City has Money to Burn

By Frank Parlato

September 16, 2014

As these October 2011 photos show, the lot has needed work for years.

(This writer has built public roads in Hamburg and Clarence and filled an acre-wide hole in downtown Niagara Falls and paved it for use as a parking lot.)

Something is wrong.

The City of Niagara Falls is paying $468,720 to repave the parking lot at city hall. At almost a half-million dollars for a 1.3-acre lot, it's a monstrous, a preposterous price.

The funding is from casino cash which may explain the wastage since the administration of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster generally treats casino cash as if it were funny money. But there's nothing funny about this price.

Some municipalities pave lots for less than $100,000 per acre.

According to the city engineering department, the scope of this job is: remove and replace asphalt, remove subsurface deficiencies (raise dips in the lot and make it flat), replace drainage, restripe the lot, add signage (handicap signs etc.) and replace about 500 feet of sidewalks along Pine and Cedar.

A calculation of materials, at present prices, shows it will cost about $65,000 for asphalt; $25,000 for concrete, $12,000 for (10) catch basins, $3,200 for plastic pipe (800 feet), $100 for striping and $300 for signs.

All told, materials should cost about $105,000. If one adds a generous 60 percent for labor and profit, this job should come in at less than $200,000.

But let’s be generous. In the private paving business, if a company gets $4 per square foot, they are doing wondrously well. At 70,000 square feet, this job would have been $280,000 with plenty of profit.

How did it come in almost $200,000 higher?

Part of the problem is that the Dyster administration did not plan this job in advance.

As one city hall source said, "This paving job was added in the middle of the year and sent to engineering. I am sure that engineering wished they had known about it being done last year."

After engineering finished scoping the work, the Dyster administration put out a request for bids in the summer - (yes you read that right) - at the height of the construction season - requiring work to be done at the end of this year's construction season.

As everyone knows, the best time to get good prices for paving is at the beginning of the season, when companies are coming off a long winter without work.

The end of season, when companies are flush with work, and fighting cold weather to complete existing contracts, is the worst time to get a good deal.

Paving companies often bid top dollar for end-of-season jobs, if they bid at all. In fact, despite the city’s publically advertising, requesting that any and all qualified paving contractors bid, only one company bid: Yarussi Construction Inc.

A for-profit company, Yarussi is not obligated to protect taxpayer dollars. They bid this at top dollar.

Had this paving job been planned in advance, and put out to bid this winter, instead of only one company bidding, it is likely there would have been several companies eagerly bidding - each sharpening their pencils to the point of competitive pricing - for a spring 2015 paving job.

As former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello observed, "Letting contracts out at the end of the season, the bids are naturally going to be higher. I always used to look at the historical figures and plan five years forward. Bids for road construction, which is impacted heavily by climate, need to be done with great thought, and a city needs to have everything ready at the beginning of the season," Anello said.

"When you do things at the end of the season, it is going to cost more," Anello added. "Most contractors, large and small, will tell you to be prepared. Most government administrators will tell you, you start thinking about your budget this year for next year."

When contacted over the weekend, one elected official, at another Niagara County municipality, who is familiar with paving projects, said, “Based on the price of this job, the profit is immense. If the job was done in-house by the city's DPW workers, it would have cost $100,000. It's a simple job, and can be done in four days. The DPW should have done this, scheduling it as time permitted. After all, DPW workers are being paid year round anyway and there is down time. Even to have done it with an outside contractor, under normal circumstances, even paying prevailing wages, it is still less than a $300,000 job.

"This was not done smart. First of all, a smart city would never award a bid when there is only one bidder. Not unless there is an emergency. There was no emergency here."





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
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