Engineers respond to concerns


NORTH EAST - The Town Board invited municipal engineers Rich Rennia and Ray Jurkowski of Morris Associates to its business meeting last Thursday evening to address some "issues of concern."

"I think, essentially, that people have some concerns relative to how fast things move," town Supervisor Dave Sherman told the two engineers, adding, "But we have not gone to the point of putting out an RFP [Request for Proposals], as has been done in the past."

An RFP would have suggested the Town Board was looking for a new engineering firm. The Town Board said that is not the case. Morris Associates has been the town's engineering firm since July 2003.

"We would just like to have a little bit more of an attentive response," town Councilman Carl Stahovec said. "I am whole-heartedly in favor of Morris Associates, which is the engineer for the village, too."

"We appreciate that, and the opportunity to sit down with the board, because we would obviously like to continue our service with the town," Jurkowski said. "We understand the responsive issue, particularly with the community development block grants [CDBG]."

Sherman had said that the block grant applications and administration "seemed to be a problem," as the town's projects were behind in 2005 and 2006.

"We've had problems like that in the past and they have hurt us in getting more grant money," the supervisor said. "I don't want to be overly greedy... but nevertheless I would like to move forward."

Jurkowski said he had noted that many projects, not just in North East, were having trouble meeting completeness within the given 18 months.

"The county was asking us why that seems to be happening," he said. "We indicated there's a lot of complexity and a lot of folks involved with the projects. Just in the last several years, the county went from a $50,000 award to $150,000 grant because infrastructure projects cost more. Once they did that, the projects became larger, and once that takes place the projects take longer."

One suggestion the engineer had was for the county to notify the municipalities earlier whenever they win block grant funds. In many cases, he said, the county is not informing towns and villages of their awards until April, which means the projects get delayed into late spring early summer. By the time the survey work gets completed and submitted to the health department it's almost October, even November. In many instances the project is then pushed off until spring, according to Jurkowski.

"I understand the issue of time limits, but part of that is the complexity of moving forward as a whole," he said. "There is a process, and a long time frame takes place, and construction takes time.

"One of the things we've done this past year is we actually have a separate construction division in the company, so they're available to deal more and more with the day to day interaction with the municipality, and with the contractor, etc.," Jurkowski added. "That's something that we recognize overall. It's our service to benefit our clients."

"My big beef is all year long we want somebody that enforces what the contract says," Councilman Dave McGhee said. "It's good to hear you're going to have somebody there [to be responsible for the work]. Rich [Rennia] can't always be there."

"If everything had to go through Rich's desk it would probably be much more of a bottleneck for him because there would be too much to juggle," Sherman said. "It would be good to have Rich remain as the main contact but to have somebody else in charge [of the site]."

Rennia said that having another person "to hand over the work to," can be very helpful.

The meeting concluded with words of praise and support from around the table.

"The work you guys have done, we have no qualms on. We were just getting a little concerned on the waiting," Stahovec said.

"We appreciate your candor," Jurkowski said. "We have some things we have to work on."

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