The Auburn Trail projects are spending taxpayer money like it's free. It's not.
Residents have been led to believe there is no taxpayer cost, since the town applied for, and was awarded Federal Grants. These 'grants' require substantial financial commitment by Victor's taxpayers in order to receive federal funds. They are far from free.
These DISCRETIONARY trail "improvement" projects are costing Victor taxpayers dearly - at a time when the 2010 budget was cut and the Town's reserve funds were tapped to keep the tax rate steady.
Original Auburn Trail Project (2002 - ???)
After federal reimbursements
Victor Taxpayers Pay: $333,500
Federal Funds: $1,070,100
Auburn Trail Extension Project (2007 - ???)
After federal reimbursements
Victor Taxpayers Pay: $265,500
Federal Funds: $619,500
The major cost in the Auburn Trail Extension project is the repair of a damaged culvert and bridge crossing Irondequoit Creek. The original projected cost, in 2006, was $215,000. The actual cost, now 4 years later, could be significantly higher - any costs over budget would be borne 100% by taxpayers. The Town released a Draft Design Report in April 2010 - yet still does NOT include plans or estimates for the culvert repair, claiming it will be decided in the "final" report. Why the secrecy - $300,000 have been paid to Fisher Associates for "engineering design services" yet there is no plan or design shown for the culvert.
The photo at right shows a completed section of the first Auburn Trail project. This is the "trail improvement" that our tax dollars have bought.
Many users believe the natural feeling of the original trail, from Fishers to Farmington, has been destroyed in building this stonedust road, at substantial taxpayer cost. Many other taxpayers are not even trail users.
Is this how you want more of your taxes spent for the Extension project?
Auburn Trail Extension Project: Taxpayer Costs and Consultant Fees.
This 2 1/2 mile trail is proposed to run from Fishers to Powder Mill Park - including parts of the Towns of Perinton and Pittsford - right through a highly sensitive environmental area.
Although nearly 20% of the Auburn Trail Extension Project is in Pittsford and Perinton, Victor's Taxpayers are paying the contract and construction costs for all the work done in those Towns.
Although there have been numerous delays and missteps,
the consultants are doing quite well.
1.) $220,00o already Invoiced. Despite substantial project delays caused by not doing its due diligence, Fisher Associates, has invoiced the Town for over $220,000 for the Auburn Trail Extension. Fisher has already received over $500,000 on the first Auburn Trail project, 30% over its original contracted amounts. See "Ballooning Consultant Fees".
2.) Design Engineering costs have doubled from $158,000 to $318,000. These pre-construction engineering costs are now over 69% of projected construction costs - way out of line for this type of project (high end is typically 25% of construction.) Yet the Town Board votes for every increase recommended by Parks and Rec.
3.) More Fees to Come: Construction Inspection & Support. As noted in the text box (Ballooning Consultant Fees) billings for "construction inspection" have supplied an additional $252,922 for Fisher Associates on the first Auburn Project. "Construction Inspection" is yet to be negotiated for the Extension Project. Given the ballooning consultant fees on this budget line in the first Auburn project, taxpayers need to watch this carefully as the Town Board considers more "Supplemental Agreements." [Original Auburn Trail Construction Inspection Invoice #20 - Sept. 28, 2009]
4.) Victor is paying 2 consultants. Why are two major consultants needed for this project, when only one, Fisher Associates, was used on the original Auburn Trail project? Fisher has contracted over 35% of the engineering fees - $112,819 - to another engineering firm, McFarland Johnson.
The DOT project liaison asked Brian Emelson, Victor's Parks and Rec Director, to explain the substantial increase in consultant fees, because less money is available for construction. Emelson answered, “Rich Brauer had left Fisher for McFarland and we wanted him on for local knowledge and skill in handling the public input process.”
5.) The Wrong Specialist - More Wasted Money. The Town Board approved payments for over $10,000 for 8 days of an ornithologist’s time. Fisher Associates chose this person despite knowing that the critical environmental element was plants, not birds. Almost all the billings on Invoices were for attending meetings, and mileage for driving to Victor from Syracuse. And he wasn’t even qualified for this project – he was a waterfowl biologist - ducks – he had no expertise in plants. DEC explicitly stated that his comments about plants did not constitute studies of any sort. Subsequently, the town has paid many thousands more for a botanical consultant.
Accountability: Should the Consultants' Lack of Due Diligence Justify Receiving Additional Taxpayer Money?
Fisher Supplemental Agreement - $89,000
Fisher Associates claims that the additional funds were needed for "out of scope" tasks because the feds changed the classification of the project to an Environmental Assessment.
Although the original contract between the Consultant and the Town states that the consultant will do "detailed study or analysis" for threatened and endangered species, Fisher Associates did not do any substantive studies. Fisher Associates also ignored DEC recommendation to do a survey for threatened species. If the consultant had done its due diligence, and carried out the studies it agreed to do in its original $229,000 contract, they would have likely have located the threatened plant species (which were found and reported by others) - and it is likely that no Environmental Assessment would have been required.
Most of what the consultant claims is "out of scope" was not - it is work that should have been done in its original contract. However, on May 13, 2009, the Town Board, unanimously and without discussion, approved this resolution for an additional $89,000 for Fisher Associates and McFarland Johnson.
Victor Town Board Fiscal Responsibility:
Who is Minding the Store?
The Town Board is responsible to the taxpayers. Board members rely on recommendations from the Parks and Recreation Director, Brian Emelson. Mr. Emelson has wanted this project to go forward, at whatever cost to taxpayers. Has the Town Board simply rubber-stamped the financial resolutions put forth by Mr. Emelson?