questions about Rail Trail extension
By CORY ALLYN - Staff Reporter
AMENIA — Despite town Supervisor Wayne Euvrard’s assurances that price negotiations were ongoing, members of the town’s Trail to the Train Committee continue to voice their concerns about the Amenia Town Board’s handling of a project that will create a half-mile extension of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail from the Wassaic Metro-North train station south into the hamlet of Wassaic.
At both the April 14 and 21 meetings, three members of the committee spoke out with concerns, including that the project is taking too long to complete and that cost estimates are more than the town can afford. At the April 21 meeting committee Chair Tonia Shoumatoff spoke in what she said was her first public address at a meeting regarding the project since the board voted 4-1 to choose engineering and design firm WSP Sells over the committee’s pick of Mark Morrison & Associates four months ago.
Shoumatoff said she was “disappointed” in the Town Board for still not having a signed contract nearly five years into the project, and that she felt the project had “serious problems in terms of finances.”
WSP Sells has submitted four initial proposals, all with different cost estimates. The lowest alternative is $707,000, more than $100,000 over the $600,000 ceiling that was initially set for the project.
Two years ago Amenia applied for and received a $480,000 federal grant (with an additional $120,000 match from the town). That grant, Euvrard has pointed out, has required the town to follow strict federal guidelines in choosing an engineering and design firm. One of those restrictions is that the town choose a firm based solely on qualifications, without looking at cost estimates, the supervisor has said.
No one is in disagreement that the quotes from WSP Sells are too high; several board members have stressed at recent meetings that the price needs to be negotiated down before the town signs a contract. Euvrard himself said that he would not sign anything without first meeting with the committee and with the approval of the board.
But Shoumatoff said she was skeptical the town would be able to negotiate down to the $600,000 estimate; Euvrard replied that in meeting with county representatives, he had been told numerous times that the project would likely cost more than $600,000 anyway.
In recommending Mark Morrison & Associates, the committee has said that the company believed it could complete the project within the town’s budget. Shoumatoff reiterated that point at the April 21 meeting and said that, in her belief, the town had three options: to negotiate with WSP Sells to bring the price to below $600,000, to turn the project over to the county or to get a second bid to bring the cost down.
Euvrard acknowledged that the committee “has worked hard and has some good points,” but stressed that the board would continue to meet with all of the involved parties to reach an agreement that satisfied everyone.
“We’re going to negotiate and follow procedures,” he reiterated.
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