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LEGISLATURE STUFF - Justice Center Bids Tempestuously Awarded

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 12/1/23 | 12/1/23

By Michael Ryan

CATSKILL - There was a brief but boisterous brouhaha before bids were awarded by the Greene County Legislature to construct a new Justice Center wing on the county courthouse.

Lawmakers approved four separate bids at a special November 20 meeting following an executive session where tensions apparently ran high (please see related story in “Better Than Hearsay”).

When emotions settled, the way was cleared to proceed on the $28.8 million project, expected to break ground next spring or summer.

Plans have been discussed over the past eighteen months, focused on providing needed room for the county’s District Attorney and Public Defender offices which are reportedly squeezed for space.

The 3-story structure, connected to the current courthouse by an elevated walkway, will further house facilities for the NY State Office of Court Administration and ground-level, indoor parking.

While designs and plans had been smoothly advancing over the summer, with lawmakers saying “yes” to $25 million in serial bonds to finance the work. a glitch emerged in recent weeks.

An additional $3.8 million was unexpectedly tacked onto the cost, covering complex engineering required to bolster the foundation of the building, situated at the base of a steep hill.

While more borrowing did not happen, instead tapping Reserve Funds, the mood swiftly changed for a group of lawmakers who began expressing doubts that the project was the right move.

Those concerns culminated in four bids being placed on the agenda for a November 13 Public Safety committee meeting, then being surprisingly pulled by committee chairman Thomas Hobart.

Hobart’s action was later overturned in a November 15 vote, determining that Hobart was not authorized to “unilaterally” remove the resolutions, having done so without input from fellow committee members.

That all led to scheduling the special November 20 sit down, where the bids were awarded - albeit not unanimously (5 “no” votes among 14) - and only in the aftermath of an apparently contentious executive session.

The behind-closed-doors gathering was requested by lawmaker Michael Bulich (District 1, Catskill), who emerged at the forefront of rising and eleventh-hour resistance to the project.

Bulich, calling the executive session to discuss “personnel and contractual matters,” was most visibly joined by legislative Majority Leader Matthew Luvera and Hobart (District 2, Coxsackie).

Lawmakers were not willing to share details of the talks although they were characterized as very heated and directed by Bulich toward the county administrator Shaun Groden and county attorney Edward Kaplan. 

Twenty-five bid packages were received overall for General Contracting, Plumbing & Fire Protection, HVAC and Electrical.

Thaler, Reilly, Wilson Architecture & Preservation and Freeman Project Management Services reviewed the submittals and recommended the following lowest responsible bidders:

—General Construction Work: Murnane Building Contractors, Inc., 287 Ushers Road, Clifton Park. Total base bid and Additive Bid Item, in the amount of $19,450,000.

—Plumbing & Fire Protection Work: Tri-Valley Plumbing & Heating, 2617 Hamburg Street, Schenectady, in the amount of $903,100.

—HVAC Work: RMB Mechanical, Inc., 1442 Fern Avenue, Schenectady, in the amount of $1,940,000.

—Electrical Work: BW Electrical Services, LLC, 12 Elmwood Road, Albany, in the amount of $2,440,724. 

The documentation from the consultants states that, “Thaler Reilly Wilson contacted officials of all four companies to verify the information they submitted and to confirm their prior experience. 

“We have also contacted references furnished by the low bidders,” TRW stated, noting the General Contractor, in particular, has previously been involved with “projects of similar size, type and complexity.”

Overall there were four General Contracting bids, ranging from the low of $19,270 million to a high bid of $20,967 million.

There were four Plumbing & Heating bids, ranging from the low of $903,100 to the high bid of $1,251,930.

Overall there were 8 HVAC bids, ranging from the low of $1,940 million to the high bid of $2,253,676.

There were 9 Electrical Services bids, ranging from the low of $2,440,724 to the high bid of $3,888,000, according to the consultant.

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