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Town storage building could cost Lancaster as much as $1.33 million

Lancaster town leaders are prepared to spend up to 54 percent more on a new town storage building that, in the end, could cost as much as $1.33 million.

The town, which was delayed in borrowing money for the pole barn, now plans to borrow a maximum of $1.33 million, up by $465,000 from the original cost projection.

The town has been renting additional space on Cemetery Road to accommodate the highway department space crunch. Highway Superintendent Daniel Amatura said the pole barn would store highway equipment and include room for a sign shop.

“We’ll use every bit of the space,” he said.

The project should be re-bid in March, with ground broken sometime in the spring, followed by an estimated three-month construction period.

Despite approval of an amended bond resolution earlier this month, the cost spike didn’t sit well with Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli or with a handful of government watchdogs who questioned the latest cost updates for the barn.

“I’m very disappointed that this process was delayed, and taxpayers were shorted $465,000,” said Lee Chowaniec, a resident who has kept a close eye on the project.

Resident Dan Beutler was equally dismayed.

“I want to see the highway department get its stuff … but (this) is a perfect example of the Town Board hee-hawing over this and that,” he said. “But some $400,000 (additional) is wrong.”

Democratic Council members said the earlier bids on the project were higher than anticipated due to an increased cost in materials, labor and equipment. The original $865,000 bond dated to April 2013 and was for a 25,000-square-foot facility that has since been downsized to 20,000 square feet. The pole barn is to be built behind the existing highway department building next to the salt barn at 525 Pavement Road.

Councilman John Abraham Jr., who sponsored the amended bond resolution, said bids twice came back too high. The town then slightly scaled back the project, but still had to amend the bond for it. However, he acknowledged under questioning from Chowaniec that the building’s size is the same as what it would have been at the original $865,000 cost. If it were downsized beyond the 20,000 square feet , it would not be big enough to make it functional for what the highway department needs, Abraham said.

The Democrat-controlled board also knew it had to line up enough votes to get it approved, since Fudoli, a Republican, would vote against it, which he did.

Town Engineer Robert Harris said the new bond would include a cushion for escalated construction costs, the expense of relocating an electrical pole, administrative costs related to the project and contingency funds. Hard construction costs should run about $1.05 million for the 20,000-square-foot building.

Councilman Ronald Ruffino urged the board to vote for the new highway facility, saying it was important to house millions of dollars’ worth of highway equipment. Fudoli cast the lone opposing vote. The supervisor supported the original bond more than a year ago, but he has since disagreed with adding so substantially to the project’s costs.