Aug 15, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia Town Board has selected the Syracuse-based architectural firm of Holmes, King, Kallquist & Associates to be the lead architectural consultant on the Gothic Cottage renovation assessment project. The decision, which was followed by a unanimous board vote to officially contract with the company, came after a brief executive session during which the board had to review additional information it had requested from HKK and Landmark Consulting, of Albany. These firms had made the short list of candidates for the job, with the board finding a final decision difficult.
HKK architects will now begin their review of the Gothic Cottage and all the various issues that need to be addressed as part of a renovation project to make the building structurally sound, technologically modern and handicapped-accessible as well as usable as a municipal office space. The resulting architectural assessment and viability study will help the board to determine whether to keep the building as the town office or move to a different location.
“We think of the Gothic Cottage as a community asset and we think that we are the stewards of it,” said Councilor Liz Moran, the board’s point person for the project. “We don’t know how this will play out. We’ve heard all sorts of ideas [on what to do with the building]. We don’t know what the answers are. What’s left [to decide] we need professional help on.”
During the board’s Aug. 12 regular monthly meeting, Moran gave an update on the Gothic Cottage project to date and said that from the original qualification forms submitted by nine different companies the board narrowed the choice down to three finalists. The board interviewed representatives from all three final firms during the last week of July, from which the board narrowed the choice to HKK and Landmark Consulting but was unable to make a final pick. The board then checked the references offered by each firm and asked for additional information from each on potential project costs and other issues, Moran said.
The executive session after the Aug. 12 meeting was held for final discussions and to agree on which firm to select, Moran said.
The board ultimately chose HKK because it was a local firm, their expected costs appeared to be less expensive, their experience working on buildings at Syracuse University and the Colgate Inn was impressive and the town board felt there was a good chemistry with the HKK representatives, said Town Supervisor Ralph Monforte.
During her update on the Gothic Cottage project, Moran addressed the issue raised in a previous Cazenovia Republican report that the board’s closed-door interviews with the three final firms in July were properly held in executive session although the session was improperly explained to the public as required under the New York state Open Meetings Law.
According to the state Open Meetings Law, a municipal board may move into executive session to discuss matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation. The board’s stated reason for its executive session, however, was because of possible “financial issues” that may be discussed — a reason that, according to Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, was insufficient.
“What we’re reviewing is appropriate to be discussed in executive session,” Moran said. She said the board discussed matters private to the companies involved “and that’s not something that should be shared with the press. We have some responsibility here as well to keep these things private.”
Town Attorney John Langey said that before the board moved into executive session on July 29 he informed them that the open meetings law stated an executive session was appropriate in that instance because it was a matter relating to the employment of a particular person or corporation. He said he noticed his statement to the board was not reported in the original Cazenovia Republican story.
Moran said that HKK will now embark on Phase 1 of the project, which will be to conduct a buildings needs assessment, current assessment, viability assessment, development of alternative project costs and, ultimately, public input. “We need to have all the numbers before we know what the solution is,” she said.
Moran said moving into Phase 2 of the project will require a separate authorization from the town board.
There were two comments from members of the public during the meeting, one which opposed extensive changes to the Gothic Cottage so as to avoid possibly ruining its historic value and integrity, while the second comment supported continued ownership and upgrading of the building by the municipality as a way to protect the building through responsible stewardship.
Monforte said the public will have ample opportunity to comment on the project as it moves forward. “There will be no quick decisions here,” he said.
Also at the meeting, the board:
—Appointed Susan Wightman as a full-time office clerk at a salary of $15.09 per hour beginning Sept. 4.
—Appointed Brian Fitts as sole assessor for the town of Cazenovia for a term of six years.
—Approved two new local laws to designate Barrett and Fairbanks roads as minimum maintenance roads. The minimum maintenance designation allows a municipality to save money by preventing the need for impractical or unnecessary levels of maintenance. Both laws were passed after the board held public hearings on each proposal.
—Approved a new town procurement policy, which is similar to the previous law but now has higher statutory limits, said Town Attorney John Langey.
—Approved a request to use a portion of Ridge Road for the “Two Smiles, One Hope” 19- and 39-mile bike races in support of muscular dystrophy.
—Approved a request for the use of portions of certain town roads for the 2014 Pumpkin Run on Oct. 27. The run is a fundraiser for the Cazenovia High School Class of 2014.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.