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Furnishings to boost cost of home for police, courts Falls officials unclear on who will pay bill

Furnishing the planned public safety building could cost millions of dollars, and who will foot the bill remains unclear, an advisory committee was told Tuesday.

Acting Corporation Counsel Damon DeCastro said he has received estimates of $4.5 million to purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment for the 130,000-square-foot building planned on North Main Street.

That would be in addition to the $44 million to acquire the land and design and build the three-story complex that will house the city courthouse and Police Headquarters.

"I don't know where [the $4.5 million figure] came from, but that was a number that was given to me on more than one occasion," DeCastro told the city's Courthouse Advisory Committee.

DeCastro said the city administration had expected the development services agreement signed last year with joint developer Ciminelli Development Co. and Largo Real Estate, both of Amherst, to cover the cost of furniture and fixtures.

Now a disagreement has erupted over who should pay for all the desks, lamps and chairs that will be needed for the new building.

"We're aware it's not part of [the agreement]," DeCastro said. "We'd like [the developer] to pay for it, and they'd like us to pay for it."

Development officials said Tuesday they are not required to help choose furniture and fixtures under their city contract but have begun to work on that portion of the project.

William B. Stark Jr., Ciminelli's chief investment officer, said he hopes to arrange a meeting between city officials and representatives of the state's Office of Court Administration to talk about the furniture and its cost.

The Office of Court Administration has mandated the city replace its deteriorated courthouse -- now in the public safety building on Hyde Park Boulevard -- or face sanctions totaling millions in withheld state aid.

While the state is expected to reimburse the city for a third of the interest costs to build the courthouse section of the new building, DeCastro also wants help with the cost of furniture.

"The [Office of Court Administration's] initial approach is that they don't contribute toward that," he said. "Niagara Falls has indicated that based on the threat of sanctions, they should help us because we are a distressed city."

Chris Brown, a committee member, said he was shocked the city had not established a budget for furniture.

Kirk Burzynski, Ciminelli's director of development, said he recently brought city and court officials to a showroom in Toronto to look at furniture and to some courthouses and the new public safety building in Buffalo to get ideas for the Falls.

He said a budget will be drawn up as soon as the type of furniture and number of pieces can be determined. Some of those decisions will be based on specifications of the state, but Arthur Garabedian, another committee member, said the new facility should use furniture from the current structure.

DeCastro said the city's Police Department probably will inherit much of the furniture from the city's court offices.

He said he has told Ciminelli officials to make all the decisions about furniture, fixtures and equipment because the city has no one with the expertise to do so.

Stark, meanwhile, said Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, the project architect, is expected to deliver the final design development phase of the building by Monday.

He said the developers will review the drawings and then present them to the city on or before May 10.

The city then will have 15 days to respond to the detailed drawings, which will include interior floor plans and all the specifications of the building.

Burzynski said that 120 days after the city approves the drawings, the developer will announce a guaranteed maximum price for the entire project.

The cost recently went up by $2 million because of design changes, and Burzynski said the development team plans to find ways to scale back the increase before the new drawings are made public.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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