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2017-11-08 / Front Page

County Supervisors to Vote on Purchase of Delhi Site for DPW

By Rosie Cunningham

DELHI - Well, Goldielocks would be envious with the choices about what to do about the county DPW site. Too high, too low, too much grading, too near a flood plain - is there a need for a bridge - or is it just right where it is?

The Delaware County Board of Supervisors is finally set to vote today at 1 p.m. (111 Main Street, Delhi) on an option to purchase property two miles outside the village of Delhi on County Route 18 to be the future site of the DPW facility - the cost for the project is slated to be $23 million.

If approved, the option will authorize an agreement with Delhi landowner Robert Marty for up to two years at a cost of $60,000 per year to allow for environmental, archeological and physical studies to determine if the site is suitable for the development of the facility. If the Delhi site proves acceptable, a bridge will be built across Delaware River, to make the facility accessible from NY state Highway 10. This would potentially require the purchase of an additional property owned by James Bracci. Neither landowner could be reached for comment.

The Bishop property on Route 10 in Hamden is a site that many believe should be the pick, according to Walton Town Supervisor Charlie Gregory.

“Initially, Mr. Bishop was asking $3 million,” said Gregory. “However, he reduced the price to $1.4 million, which is the same price as the Delhi location.”

Currently, the county’s public works facility is on Page Avenue in the village of Delhi, a location that the board and DPW Commissioner Wayne Reynold’s has repeatedly said needs to be vacated first and foremost, because portions of the facility are located in the flood zone.

“The current site is in a floodplain,” said Middletown Supervisor Pat Davis during an August Delaware County Board meeting. “The option to raise the building is crazy. Leaving the site in the current location goes against our flood hazard plan,” said Davis. “But what is a real slap in the face - Delaware County is the number-one leading county for emergency declarations in New York state and we are going to continue to discuss leaving the DPW site in the floodplain. We should not even be talking about rebuilding in the village. Even if the building was raised, it would adversely back-up an extra 12 inches of flood water, badly affecting neighboring houses.”

Davis addressed the amount it will cost to rebuild and said the cost is being focused on over and over, but the issue of safety is not. Rowe said the cost to improve the current facility is high and he “can’t believe” rebuilding in the floodplain is being considered.

“We are dealing with a critical facility here,” added Davis. “In most all areas, building a critical site in a floodplain isn’t even allowed to be considered. The public works facility is listed in the county’s all hazard mitigation plan as a critical building.”

Public opposition to the county’s purchase of the 213-acres parcel off County Route 18 has been strong.

Chair of Delaware County Industrial Development Agency Jim Thomson, stated on a public Facebook site, “I have long been a proponent for transparency in government and I am concerned about a possible move by the Delaware County Board of Supervisors at the November board meeting on Wednesday of this week. There is a resolution that has been filed that authorizes the DPW committee to move forward with either a purchase contract or option for the McFarland farm on Route 10 outside of Delhi. This is being forwarded even though the county has spent tens of thousands of dollars on an engineering firm to do a siting study and the McFarland site is not even rated number one. You will remember that the McFarland property is the one requiring a large bridge across the Delaware River and a lengthy entrance road. The number-one rated site is located on Route 10 in Hamden,” Thomson continued. “And the price of this property has just been reduced by 50 percent. This site does not require a bridge and major entrance road, and is level with and fronts on Route 10. Logic tells me that the site is much cheaper to develop into a shovel ready property, and there will be no ongoing maintenance cost for another major bridge. The problem is that even though the Hamden site makes far more sense for the taxpayers of Delaware County, the DPW committee has favored the McFarland site from the beginning and are moving on that property as soon as they can. We simply do not need to destroy many acres of active river bottom agricultural land, clutter up an extremely scenic entrance to Delhi, and spend millions of dollars to construct and maintain a bridge to nowhere.”

Delhi Village Mayor Richard Maxey echoed Thomson’s stance.

“So much money is going to be lost over assessments and we need to stop the bleeding,” said Maxey on Monday. “They can build on land currently owned as stated by DEC. Besides, the county has already lost tax challenges in the town of Delhi of $800,000 and the town of Walton of $444,000. Buying 97 Main Street for the Office of the Aging, soon land for a new mental health building and the proposed McFarland farm. The board is choosing to be ostriches and are taking what Wendel and the DPW says as fact, no matter what. You can’t even speak at these meetings and there is a lot of half truths and misinformation.”

Wendel Companies, was hired last summer as a consultant to review nearly a dozen potential sites for a new facility, but quickly narrowed it down to about four. According to the company’s reports, the engineers recommended to the board that the facility be built on the Delhi property.

“Of all the sites that have been reviewed, we at DPW believe that the best place for the relocation is the McFarland site,” said DPW Commissioner Wayne Reynold’s on Tuesday. “The site is very close to the existing site, so operations as they are currently set up would not change. The site is out of the floodplain so we would not have to worry about waterproofing the building during flooding events. We can focus on patrolling the roads and bridges for safety. Response times to the roads serviced out of this location would change very little, if any at all. The site is close to the county seat so interaction with the other departments and the Emergency Operations Center during natural events would be efficient. The repair shop is closer to the other agencies of the county that use DPW as a repair facility. The site is level and on gravel so construction would be very straightforward and building foundations would be a minimum.”

Reynold’s discussed what his thoughts are on the Hamden location, which in his belief, is the second best choice.

“The Hamden site is 10 miles away from the current operational center for the two patrols operating out of Delhi,” he said. “This increases operational costs and increases wear and tear on equipment. The distance increases response time to points on the eastern end of the area served by the shop which lowers the quality of service. The distance results in increased cost getting our agency cars to the facility for repairs. The grades of the Hamden site are more than the grades at other sites requiring more earthwork. More earthwork results in more chance of differential settlement having adverse effects on the building over time. The shape of the Hamden site is not as conducive to efficient operations. The site is actually closer to Walton than it is to Delhi. Walton already has a DPW facility there. Concentrating the buildings in one location as opposed to keeping them well distributed around the county is not efficient.”

According to Maxey, he believes the prices that are “being thrown out” are to direct the public to the Delhi site. During a board of supervisors meeting at the end of September, Wendel Consultants Scott Neale and Gerald Summer discussed the leading four sites, as well as a potential hybrid site option. Neale said for DPW to remain at the current location the building would need to be raised, a retaining wall installed and would require a lot of fill. There will also be backwater disturbances.

“The current site is workable, but only if fill dirt is brought in and a retaining wall is built to a height of 11 feet to mitigate flooding,” added Neale.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Maxey of the retaining wall. “They are trying to make it sound as undesirable as possible.”

Reynold’s disputed Thomson’s claim that the Hamden site is the number-one option.

“At one point, the Hamden site was ranked number one because of it being cheaper to develop,” he said. “Even at that point, sufficient consideration was not given to the extended response time for the roads served by the two patrols mentioned above. Response time and trip time is very important for snow removal. If trips get too long, the roads can have too much snow accumulate on them during heavy snowfall events before the truck can get back for the next trip. This is not an acceptable condition. Because response time is so important, the committee had considered the hybrid of having two different locations. The shop in Hamden and the patrol garage in Delhi out of the floodplain. That turned out to be even more expensive which was not acceptable. When all of that was considered, the site was no longer considered number one. Especially when the cost of the land made that site more expensive than the McFarland site.”

The consulting engineering firm (Wendel) identified the premium portion of the site development at Hamden to be about $2.5 million and the public, as well as supervisors such as Delhi’s Mark Tuthill and Walton’s Charlie Gregory, question the price it would cost for grading and how it could possibly cost more than building a bridge.

“The consultant’s position was that the money was better spent on the bridge for the McFarland site because that resulted in other benefits,” said Reynolds. “Those including providing better access to county route 18, decreased demand on the historic covered bridge for access to CR 18, would serve as a replacement structure for the Hoag Crossing bridge which is nearing the end of its useful life and would be much more expensive to build than the one at McFarland’s. The consultant has estimated the cost of the bridge at around $2 million. DPW estimated it at around $4 million. DPW chose to be very conservative until the hydraulics and geotechnical borings are completed so that the number of spans and the sub-structure types could be better defined. The consultant is confident that the bridge can be built for the estimated value.”

The four largest towns that carry the most weight in regards to voting, include Middletown, Sidney, Walton and Delhi.

Although the Middletown and Sidney supervisors could not be reached for comment, both Delhi and Walton addressed today’s vote prior to the meeting.

“I’ll be voting ‘no’ on the option,” said Delhi Supervisor Tuthill. “More than 1,000 people have signed petitions against the site. I get letters every day and have been on the phone constantly. I have questions about the Delhi option; voters feel like their questions are not being answered.”

“I can only speak for myself,” said Gregory on Monday. “I will be voting against the Delhi site. I have fielded a lot of calls and there are valid concerns. I see some problems at the Delhi site - particularly that the property has to be purchased from an additional landowner and that a bridge needs to be built. The initial cost is rising.”

However, Gregory said he believes the board has been transparent and that multiple public hearings have been held and that the public has been informed regarding the matter.

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