While a number of capital projects have been chopped or pushed off to another day by Genesee County leaders, resulting in the deferral of more than $1 million in expenses, a plan to erect a new building to store fuel trucks and other equipment at the County Airport remains intact.
By a 3-1 vote this afternoon, the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee approved a resolution to forward a $109,000 project to its Ways & Means Committee for consideration before going before the full board.
After debating the project for about 30 minutes, John Hilchey, Christian Yunker and Marianne Clattenburg voted “yes” while Gordon Dibble voted “no.”
In reporting to the committee, Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said the new pole barn structure will replace an old farm building that has a dirt floor “and doesn’t have a big enough door for us to fit any of our modern equipment in.”
“The highway department force would be tearing the building down and we have put together a bid package for a new pole barn to be constructed on its site,” Hens said. “Basically, just the frame and the skin of the building (would be contracted out). County Highway would pour the concrete floor and we’d do the wiring for the building.”
Hens said Thompson Builds of Churchville came in with a bid of $109,000 – about $30,000 less than the next lowest bid. Funding will come from the county’s 1 percent sales tax.
“It’s a super-competitive price,” Hens said, adding that he understands the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on sales tax revenues but has set this project as a priority.
“This is one of those buildings that I’d still like to move forward. It does provide us a place to store our fuel equipment inside, which is really the driving factor for me,” he said.
The county has been storing the fuel trucks in old blue “T-hangars” that are located close to the runway and not capable of storing airplanes.
Hens said the problem with these hangars lies with the fact that they are unable to keep the cold wind from freezing the trucks’ fuel lines.
“We did have an outside area where we stored these pieces of equipment and put some plugs in … some block heaters for that equipment, but the block heater will only heat the engine end of the truck and it doesn’t deal with the fuel delivery end of the truck,” he said.
The highway superintendent also said heavy winds put the Jet A fuel truck out of commission for several days each winter, costing up to $5,000 in fuel sales profits – with a big impact on fuel sales to Mercy Flight.
Furthermore, the blue hangars are scheduled to be torn down this summer as part of a project fully funded by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“That project needs to move ahead. We just opened bids on it on Friday, and the FAA wants the project to move forward this summer,” he said.
Hens also noted that the new building would be able to store the large equipment used for mowing at the airport and the grader that currently is housed at the Highway Department on Cedar Street and driven through the City to the airport when needed.
Legislator Gary Maha, sitting in on the meeting, said he thought county crews could find a way to rig the heating blocks to keep the lines from freezing,
“I don’t think this is essential at this time,” he said. “I’d like to put this on pause for a year … and reevaluate it later.”
Dibble said he wasn’t against the project but disagreed with the timing.
“I would like to see us somehow make it through this winter to give us another year to see where we’re going on this whole thing,” he said. “It’s the same process we’re applying to a lot of projects across the county. I would like to see us drive the grader one more year and do what we can do to keep the fuel lines from freezing up.”
Yunker mentioned that Hens saved the county more than $700,000 in delaying projects and “made some very good arguments that it is going to be a problem with delivering fuel.”
“Between all the other dollars he’s cut out, we’ve got a very competitive bid and he’s going to do a lot of work on his own,” Yunker said. “It’s one of the more necessary projects that he had in mind, so I’m am going to support the project.”
County Manager Jay Gsell reported that for 2020 and 2021, Hens has put off $1.4 million in capital projects in response to the coronavirus’ impact upon county revenues.
Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said she supports the project for various reasons.
“The potential that we would lose the sale of jet fuel along with a greater use of our workforce’s time and be able to shelter our equipment is extremely important because it extends its life,” she said. “And I would hate to lose the opportunity of grabbing this bid because it so competitive. I know it’s $109,000 … but the return on this is going to be sooner rather than later.”
Clattenburg agreed, noting that the blue hangars will be coming down soon.
“We’re not going to have those hangars to store them in because they have to be torn down, and we’re going to get 100 percent funding to do that,” she said. “I’m going to support this knowing that it’s a competitive bid, our workforce will have time to do this and contribute a lot of work toward this construction.”
Beyond the financial aspect, Hens said he does not want to tarnish the airport’s fine standing with aviators.
“The impact on our reputation of the ability to sell fuel in the winter months would probably be more of an issue for me than the actual dollar value loss,” he said. “We do get some big jets that rely on us (and) we do have a good runway to land on in the winter time. I would just hate to hurt our reputation we have build up in the last 20 years.”
In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions, which will now head to the Ways & Means Committee:
-- A contract renewal with Seneca Pavement Markings of Horseheads (Chemung County) for an amount not to exceed $165,000 for pavement markings – both center line and edge line. This is a 5 percent increase over the previous pact, the first increase since 2018, Hens said.
Hens said the estimated cost for this service is $300 per mile for center line markings and $170 per mile for edge line markings, which constitute the majority of road markings. He said markings last anywhere from six months to two years depending upon traffic volume.
The contract does not cover the cost of markings for roads in towns, but 11 of the 13 towns in Genesee County (except Darien and Pembroke) use the county’s bid prices, Hens said.
-- Renewal of a contract with H2H Facility Service Inc. of Rochester for office cleaning services at the Justice for Children Advocacy Center’s sties in Batavia, Albion and Warsaw. The two-year contract calls for a monthly rate of $505.82.
The cost of these services is covered by grants from the NYS Office of Children and Family Services and the NYS Office of Victim Services and are included in the 2020 Justice for Children Advocacy Center Budget.
-- Permission to apply for a State Homeland Security Program grant for $109,000 which is divided between the Sheriff’s Department (25 percent) and Emergency Management office to work together toward terrorism prevention, and Homeland Security and cybersecurity initiatives.
The county has received this type of funding for the past eight to 10 years, Gsell said.
-- The rejection of all bids for a five-year lease purchase of a new hydraulic excavator that came in at $375,000.
“I think we can probably milk another two to three years out of this piece of equipment,” Hens said. “Having the extra $75,000 (the 2020 expense), that will remain in the surplus in the road machinery fund and hopefully allow us, when we start doing 2020-21 budgeting, to not have to rely on so much revenue coming from either general fund or county road fund sources.”
-- Establishment of two capital projects – a highway fire alarm system for $97,161 and a 5130 Main St. alarm control panel for $15,000 – to be funded by the 1 percent sales tax.
This resolution, however, stipulates that six other capital projects will be put on hold, preserving $442,636 of sales tax revenue.
A similar resolution halted two more projects – an all-season pavilion and a park & forest boardwalk – returning another $180,000 to the 1 percent sales tax coffers.