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Police station project manager explains need for space around construction site

By Howard B. Owens


A graphic released on April 11 by the City of Batavia showed what city officials believed at the time would be the available parking at Bank and Alva during the construction of the new police station.  Late last week, officials revealed that the entire parking lot north of Alva Place will be fenced off during construction.

The local press was not permitted in a meeting on Monday between business owners concerned about impacts on their shops during the construction of a new police station in Batavia, but afterward, the project manager spoke exclusively with The Batavian about what he tried to communicate during the discussion.

Ken Pearl explained the scope of construction, the need for the use of parking space next to the primary construction site, and the coordination and liability issues involved.

With five contractors involved -- there is no lead contractor -- there is a lot of complex work that needs to be coordinated with timelines that need to stay in sync.

The sudden dust-up over parking has contractors nervous about staying on schedule, Pearl indicated.

For this $15 million project, there is a general contract, a site contractor, an electrical contractor, a plumbing contractor, and a heating contractor. They’re all under separate contracts.

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“Now that this has become an issue, I have to speak on behalf of this group because they're aggrieved now, too,” Pearl said. “They’re under contract that go under state and federal government rules. And they're like, ‘Wait a minute, nobody can agree to just be moving this fence around because there's insurance issues, liability, and all kinds of stuff. Plus, we need space to work.’”

In the meeting with business owners, Pearl said he tried to convey the message that “this is our world.” He tried to show them what the contractors are supposed to be doing and why.

“We’ve got to put that fence up all around the parking lot on the city's boundary, and then we will transfer all the liability to the contractors," Pearl said. “They're responsible for everything that happens here. They can't have people in here. They're not trained, they're not wearing safety gear. The first thing the contractor is going to do is come in with expensive equipment, like a Thruway project or something or a road project. They're gonna be grinding up all this asphalt because it's all getting refurbished and pulled up. And we got to access the sewers and infrastructure elements underneath.”

Pearl explained that the need for contractor space next to the job site involves much more than asking workers to walk an extra 40 feet, as some business owners seem to believe.

Once the asphalt is ripped out, a sewer line must be removed. It is buried 15 feet underground on the west end lot.

Then, all the footings for the walls need to be dug out. Digging out the footing space and foundation will create debris that must be moved into the west end of the lot where it can be sorted -- refill, recyclable, and waste. 

The stormwater draining system gets rebuilt.

A mesh of conduits and tubing needs to be installed with contractors needing easy access to supplies.

All-terrain vehicles with forklifts will need to move around the perimeter of the building in space that was seemingly designated as parking before city officials learned those renderings were wrong.

Scaffolding will be erected around the building and will intrude into that same "parking space."

While some workers can show up with their tools in their sedan, Pearl explained that the concrete guys can’t do that. They drive pickups with all their tools in compartments around the bed of a truck.  Concrete workers need to work fast. They have a limited time to complete tasks once the concrete is poured. 

“What they're doing is constantly going back and forth to their trucks,” Pearl said. “You'll actually see them moving their trucks because they're working fast. When heavy concrete comes in, there's a time limit on it for their working procedures. They're not going to allow us to tell them to park across the street. That's insane. From their perspective, they don't even want to park over here (he pointed to the site plan). They want to park here. And then two hours later, they're gonna be here, and three hours later, still here. They'll work not an eight-to-five. They'll stay if the poor require them to stay till 10 o'clock at night.”

Quality control testing needs to take place on the job site, which means equipment needs to be set up and stored close to the new construction.

“They can’t do that across the street because they gotta be where the thing is happening,” he said.

Each contractor needs a trailer for office space, so there are five trailers total, plus one each for state and federal inspectors.

Utilities need to be run to those trailers and the job site.

Moving all of that infrastructure to the other side of Alva would mean double installation of infrastructure.

“That's multiple of everything,” Pearl said. “So technically, my message was, we can do anything you want. But we're going to crucify the budgets."

Workers' safety is also at risk if they have to cross a public roadway from the job site to a staging area.

“If we're having people walking across the public street, we’re putting workers at risk,” Pearl said. “Guys get busy, tired, dirt in their eyes, they're sweaty, they might not be paying attention after the 100th time walking across the street.”

Pearl said the map showing swaths of parking around the construction site went out before it was shown to him. During the Monday meeting, he said Tabelski apologized for the miscommunication.

After Monday's council meeting, Council President Eugene Jankowski expressed frustration that some people seemingly can't accept that city management made an honest mistake.

He said that rather than castigating city employees, those affected should understand that a mistake was made and that the city is trying to rectify it.

“There were timelines that had to be met,” Jankowski said. “Rachael had an older drawing. It wasn't an updated drawing, and she thought she would be ahead of the game by getting it out to them.  When  Ken (Pearl) found out about it, he realized that she had sent out the wrong drawing. She apologized to everyone in the meeting earlier today (Monday), explaining that that was her mistake and that it wasn't intentional. However, I've seen affected business owners on Facebook saying the city lied and that the city purposely blindsided us. That's not true. It was an honest mistake. And we're doing our best to correct that.”

Jankowski suggested that small business owners might be more understanding of the fact that everybody is trying to do their best for the community.

“The part that really perplexes me is and it causes me severe disappointment, that we're trying to do something good for the community and our police department and our public safety, which is very valuable in this community. I really take public safety very seriously. And yet, we're meeting all this resistance over a few parking spaces we're trying to accommodate. But that doesn't seem to be good enough.”

Pearl noted that the public part of the police station construction story has always been that this was a three-phase project, with a new police station, new secure parking for the police, and rebuilt public parking.

People seem to have missed the “rebuilt public parking,” he suggested, because that means eliminating all of the existing parking lot.

“When you build a police station, you're talking about doing a 100-year building if you can pull it off,” Pearl said. “If I'm building a warehouse for my business, I might only care that it lasts 20 years. I’m going to invest low in it. A church might want the building to last 200 years. A car dealership, I'm gonna remodel it in five; I don't need certain standards the same all the time on a project. We spent a lot of time working out all this stuff. I think when this is all done for the public. They will get something that boosts that neighborhood. Because somebody's spending money on it, in my experience, that tends to give people comfort if they want to think about investing in something, new or remodeling something, because now somebody did it, values are going up a little bit. If nobody does it, nobody does it, you know.”

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