Eight engineering firms have submitted bids on a contract to determine the feasibility of repairs on the Main Street parking ramp.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said before Wednesday's Common Council meeting that a staff committee will meet Tuesday and recommend one of the firms for the Council to hire at its April 18 meeting.
The 32-year-old ramp has been closed since August because of crumbling concrete, blamed on decades of road salt.
The consultants were asked to consider three scenarios: repairing the entire 242-space, five-level ramp; shearing off the top two levels while repairing the other three; and repairing only the bottom two levels while making the others structurally safe.
The request for proposals envisioned three phases of testing to make those recommendations, Tucker said. Under each scenario, the city is seeking a cost for covering the gray concrete exterior with a brick facade.
The apparent low bidder is Greenman-Pederson of Buffalo at $182,430, but Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said in seeking professional services, the city is not bound to take the lowest bidder. He said qualifications and experience can be considered.
Tucker said repairing the ramp, no matter which project is selected, will cost "seven figures," and the city will have to borrow the money. He said he's not sure where the money will come from to pay the consultant.
On another matter, a proposed new policy on signs in the city right of way was introduced Wednesday, but Alderman Joseph C. Kibler backed off trying to move it through as a late item and agreed to discuss it at a work session next week.
Last month, the city sent all business owners letters warning them that signs in the right of way are illegal unless approved by the Planning Board. Kibler, R-at Large, doesn't like that policy, saying it "nickel-and-dimes" the businesses.
"Why not? It's money. These people can afford it," said Alderwoman Flora M. McKenzie, D-3rd Ward.
"To have somebody come in and pay $100 or $130 for a permit for a sign that's been there for 10 years is ridiculous," Kibler said. He attempted to have the Council approve a long-standing sign on West Avenue for Timkey Limousine Service, but withdrew the motion.
"Look at Bill Timkey, how much he's done for the city," Kibler said of the former Towpath Trolley owner and cruise night organizer. Kibler said he would like to "grandfather" all signs at least 10 years old in the city right of way.
Tucker said the enforcement push was triggered by a large advertising "coffee cup" placed on the sidewalk in front of a Wilson Farms store at South Transit and West High streets. "The purpose of it is to do something about the hodgepodge of signage," the mayor said.
But Tucker said he doesn't want the Council to get involved with approving individual signs, saying the Planning Board should do it.
Also Wednesday, the Council moved its meeting time to 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, starting April 18, in the wake of radio talk show complaints about the inconvenience to the public of the 6 p.m. meetings.