Monday, May 05, 2008

TOUR OF LIBRARY HIGHLIGHTS FUTURE EXPENSE: WINDOW CLEANING

I spent some time at the construction site of the new Greenburgh Library. I was advised that most of the work will be completed by August. It is still anticipated that the library will open the doors to the public in October. The building is very big, the windows are being installed and the parking lots are being paved.
Among the additional expenses - after the library opens - will be periodic cleaning of the large windows (inside and out). Because special equipment will be necessary for the cleaning (windows are so high) to take place - this could be expensive.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why are you giving us heads up on this new expense.
Why was this not thought of before the final plans were put into motion.
There you go again very bad planning and because of this it will cost the tax payers more and more each year.
Since many changes were made previously without our knowledge why not make a change to suit our pockets..
This has been one disaster after another.
This town has no regard for the taxpayers.
Thanks a lot for putting us in more jeopardy to look foward to high and higher taxes each year.
Boy had we known the outcome of the previous elections maybe things would have been different.
You have all lost heart in what you do and you know what we have lost faith in whatever you toss at us the taxpayers.
I don't think there is any way that you and this board can make the changes needed to unite this town .

Anonymous said...

So you took a tour .
Why didn't you have someone look at the plans before construction started.
Your manager that was chosen to oversee the project should have known of all the hidden expenses.He is also to blame as the rest of the board.
To Sheehan and Juettner one message and one message alone which is we hope that you do not run for reelection but if you do we hope thaat you will be on the loosing end.
Your hatred of the supervisor put us in this boat,
You thought you would hurt his reelection wrong you hurt all of us that have to pay taxes and you saw the outcome He won.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Supervisor object to the design of the library? Think he did. The cost of window cleaning should have been debated pre-referendum.

Anonymous said...

This posting makes you sound like a third grader, Mr. Feiner. So unprofessional.

in the twilight zone said...

Does it have more bathrooms than the old one, that need to be cleaned? Will the heating & cooling bills be greater because it's a larger space? Does it have special surfaces (floors)that require extra care? Will it not have maintenance issues that the old building had that required money to maintain?

Is this possibly the dumbest post seen here to date? Could be but there have been so many ridiculous posts lately, it's hard so say.

Anonymous said...

Why weren't these things checked out before this monster was built.
The library board knew exactly what they were planning and the consequenses that would follow.
Thank you to MR. Sheehan and Juettner for voting for this total disaster.

Anonymous said...

Yes the supervisor was deadly against this new building but the famous four members of the board at that time hated Feiner sooo much that whatever Feiner said was white they would say it was black.
I do hope when election comes arround for the last seated old members throw them out.

Anonymous said...

SO THE LIBRARY NEEDS MORE MONEY FOR EXPENDITURES THAT WERE NOT PUT FORTH TO THE PUBLIC AHEAD OF TIME.
IS THIS THE WAY TO RUN A TOWN???????
YOU ASK FOR ONE AMOUNT THEN YOU DEMAND ANOTHER .
The library project was wrong from the onset,but no one listened.
There is no way to fight this town since they do and say whatever suits them.
By giving this project to Regula as a managerial task was the worse mistake.
Not only did he close both eyes to what was wrong but he also closed his mouth in not making the true reports knwon.
Remember money talks and BS walks.

Anonymous said...

What about replacing burned out light bulbs? They must be pretty high up there as well. Will we need special equipment for this as well?

Don't we have to order new letterhead? Do we all get new library cards re-issued with a new logo on them? If so, how much will that cost?

If the intent of this silly post was to incite bloggers, you have been successful.

If the intent was to discuss real concerns about the library, you come off as real Mickey Mouse.

God. I'm getting pretty sick of this Mickey Mouse way of running of town government. It's so juvenile and remenisant of high school.

hal samis said...

Cut Feiner some slack on this one.
He tried; he was outvoted and Greenburgh taxpayers lost.

Those who don't remember or don't want to remember history dating back to late 2004 when this all started in earnest should follow this brief (hah!) synopsis.

Thus, Part 1 (I shall need to take breaks).

Fall 2004, Library again launches campaign to increase size in light of the reality of some badly needed infrastructure improvements. The Greenburgh Library joins other libraries around the County who are all in a furor and a similar boat, knowing that if they don't get expansion dollars NOW, they never will as libraries are bound to shrink with newer technology. Libraries hope to counter this trend by promoting themselves as cultural and community centers and reposition themselves, not as the place to find Dickens, Melville and Shakespere but as the place to find John Grisham, Robert Parker and Patricia Cornwall or outblockbuster by stocking DVDs to increase their turnstile body count.

Trading upon what residents fondly remember as the library of their childhood and confusing it with what libraries are today; relying on the thin veneer of providing day care vs. assuming the public schools' responsibility and becoming a hangout for senior citizens, the Greenburgh Library hoodwinked the public into believing that the library of the future needed one foot per capita, using a "for hire" consultant who built a career billing libraries who befriended who would go along with this and bilking taxpayers by this selling this hokum.

So, with the support of the then hostile Town Council (if Feiner is against it, we're for it) and because it was THE LIBRARY and how can you harm our children, voters approved a $19.9 million expansion even though the Library Board of Trustees knew it would really take $25 million to do the job properly. But how to get taxpayers to go along with this figure? Dupe them, perhaps we can get the Library Foundation to tap into all the local affluence -- a feat that hasn't yet been accomplished. So, what they went with was the equivalent of $19.99, not quite the foreboding $20, even without the extra zeros.

I got in at the beginning of this story because I had read about the joke that was the new Courthouse in White Plains and wondered (1) how such an mistake could occur at the County level with all the existing staff to oversee, with architects, construction managers galore and still come in so much over budget and (2) why the media never caught on while it was happening, just there to report the problem after the fact. Were there no warning signs along the way? Were there no red flags? I assumed there must have been but no one was interested, instead assuming that those in charge must know what they were doing. Sadly they did not.

Had the Town instead started a new Courthouse or Police Station, that would have been the focus of my interest. It just happened that the first local construction project was the Library. And when I learned who was in charge (the Library Board of Trustees) of the Library expansion project: a former high school principal, a reading specialist and a bank officer -- I viewed it as asking for trouble. It did not get better along the way when the Town Council appointed Al Regula as the Town's liaison to the project. Mr. Regula had two failed Town construction projects under his belt to assure the Town Council that he was the best choice to represent the Town. Feiner argued for hiring an independent project manager but was overruled by the Town Council and the Library Board.

With this either in place or waiting to be summoned to the stage, we have the road show (like the similarly misguided Comprehensive Plan revue today) called "Library Information Meetings" which were held in neighborhoods to educate the residents as to why they would want to meet the great white whale.
But because they had not raised any funding or sought any contributions in all the years that they were deprived of their expansion, the Library had no money to travel the expansion trail in a leisurely and better researched manner. So the Trustees made a pact with the construction manager, Triton. We need a construction manager because we don't have a clue how much this will cost and as we go into the community, someone is likely to ask how much will this cost. Help us. Of the seven CMs that responded, only Triton had the inside track and offered: give us the job and we won't charge you for pre-referendum work.
At that time, Triton was housed in the same building as the Public Relations expert that the Library had hired to make the road shows look impressive to the untrained eye. So after getting the assignment, in a month's time they came up with an all-inclusive budget so that the Library Tour could begin and have a number to present to curious taxpayers. The number was the $19.9 million which included about $4 million reserved for contingencies and inflation. And it also included Triton's estimate of their own fee. Now the Library team was ready to rock 'n roll in neighborhoods and I'm stopping now to get lunch.
END of Part One.

Anonymous said...

Pay attention to what Hal Samis is reporting.
The new residents should know what this town is all about.
I hope you had a good lunch so you could continue to enlighten the newcomers as to how this town is run and who actually calls all the shots.
No one wanted to listen to you before the first shovel was used so now let's see if they will listen.


Thanks Hal you tried over and over again but you too were out numbered.

hal samis said...

Part Two

The Library Board did undertake an amazing number of whistle stops in pursuit of gaining acceptance for their funding request. Those who attended and bought into their story may remember being told "only $68 per Greenburgh average assessment". No one had a problem with this because they didn't and wouldn't actually have to meet up with this expense until the 2008 Town budget when suddenly $68 meant something.

So the Library team bravely marched along spinning tales and showing pictures and pointing to charts -- all of which left the impression that Greenburgh would realize a library of the future, all for this measly $68. However, this vision did not survive for long as the present quickly asserted itself. And at many of their whistle stops, the project was challenged by residents who, even without special training, could see that the emperor was bereft of clothes.

Questions were raised and statements were challenged but to no avail. Feiner argued that the project was being rushed along and that the Library Trustees, and, in turn, the public, did not understand their project and that the Trustees allowed themselves to be stampeded into the welcoming, knowing arms of an Architect who just happened to have a drawing lying around that no one else wanted -- for reasons clear to everyone but the Library Trustees.

The new design was held captive to the desire to build a large performing arts auditorium that would recruit all kinds of people to partake in the stimulus that was the Library. Thus for a building that was primarily thought of as a Library, the actual Library functions were moved to the upper floor on the pretense that by having the auditorium on the entry level, the upper floor(s) could be closed at such time as the Library was closed and events were still underway in the auditorium. Of course, if you have an auditorium you need an art gallery and if you have both, then you need a cafe. None of these goodies would sink the project by itself; however since the cost of the Library was based upon square feet, don't be surprised to see how much of the project cost can be attributed to these amenities.

In actual operation terms, this meant that anyone who wanted to use the traditional library would have to go up a floor to get to books. Likewise the children's room. The improvement of this design was that if a resident came with a stroller to the children's room, instead of having to go down a flight like the old library, now they would have to go up a flight.
And, before some outside wisdom intervened, the Architect had also promoted a mezzanine level for books which meant that patrons might have to appear on all three levels of the building in pursuit of their needs. And this would include the staff as well if they were needed to help locate a volume or to return a volume to the shelf. Not to worry, the mezzanine fell by the wayside although its construction cost (per the $19.9 budget) in the budget remained.

However none of these potential problems would have occurred had the Library gone with a new, rectangular building centrally located on the plot. One end of the building would be the auditorium with its own entrance and the remainder would be the traditional library -- all convenient on one floor. But, no, the Architect really wanted to see someone adopt his ski-slope design and the fools of Greenburgh proved themselves to be easy marks.

There were some real problems and questions that were ignored because the Library Trustees and the Town Council simply had to rush the referendum through before anyone had any second doubts. So, with the delivery of the proposed construction budget in late November 2004, the Library tried to set the referendum for March 2005 but had to settle for May 2005due to resolving some technical absentee voter details.

The Library wanted May; Feiner, November when a regularly scheduled election would occur. Library wanted May because it was assumed that with fewer people coming out to vote; they would not have to divulge more about their project and the measure would pass. Feiner wanted November to give the Library time to refine their project, answer the unanswered questions, save the cost of a separate referendum and, the hope that with more knowledgeable voters, the measure would be defeated.

The Library won; Feiner and the taxpayers lost.

And with the victory from the referendum, Triton, who had done the project estimate, saw visions of sugar daddy amplified and found that it had underestimated its own fee and raised their fee to $680,000 or $68,000 higher than they had estimated six months earlier. Anyone concerned that the project cost estimator couldn't even estimate his own fee? RED FLAG alert.

In fact, Triton had found a way to recover their pre-referendum expense. So much for the formality of the RFP experience.

END of PART TWO

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the next installment. Will the library be built? Will it cost much more than ever admitted?

Oh yes, the answers to both seem to be a resounding "yes."

Pity us residents.

hal samis said...

Part Three

OK, so now the Library has $19.9 million to spend and right off the bat they have decided that the 200 seat auditorium that they promised in their road show was now unnecessary. All we really need is 140 seats. And in line with that, we won't need the Town Zoning Code required 154 parking spaces, we'll only need 120 and, the Zoning Board willing, we'll landbank the other 34.

And the mezzanine? Well perhaps we were a little ambitious and we can eliminate that as well, and the curved roof premium...history.

Well that's more like it, even before a shovel hits the ground, the Architect has decided not to spend almost $1.5 million. But let's try and save some more so the project is not going to keep the Library's cybermobile all tucked in at night. Nah, we'll just park it under a canopy. And, we'll just make the auditorium more like a meeting room and less like a space for performances. No motorized room divider, no banked seating, no raised stage, no overhead projection. We never needed them anyway.

But have the taxpayers saved any money. Not a dime.

The Library is still going to spend all $19.9 million.

So, following the referendum's green light, this is when the Architect is supposed to get serious about the design. He assures one and all that he'll have the final site plan to submit to the Planning and Zoning Boards and it shall be ready in the fall of 2005. However, one excuse follows another and it never gets done until late February 2006. No problem, Feiner's around to be the whipping boy, blame him.

What is the Library doing while all this time is being lost? For one thing, they're not arranging relocation space. This need comes to the surface when they learn in July 2005 that they can't use the old Town Hall as assumed because Triton, which had estimated the cost to convert the building for temporary occupancy, this done for the purpose of creating the project budget so that the referendum could occur in May, had neglected to go inside and look around. Thus they did a drive-by estimate and as the result never discovered the mold, the non ADA compliant aspects and the general conditions requiring a more costly than estimated expense. And, true to form, Diana Juettner, Town Board liaison to the Library, who knew the problems, never alerted the Library to the problems. Does this surprise anyone?

And while everything else wasn't happening, what do you thing Triton was doing regarding getting NYS approval to drill the proposed geothermal wells in the vicinity of their water aqueduct. Well what they said they were doing and what they really were doing are two different propositions. In fact jumping ahead to November 2006we learn that Triton had never even applied to NYS for drilling permits. But they had been "in contact".

So what you will hear is that the project got off to a slow start and that it was due to the Town, not the Library and not its Construction Manager, Triton.

Meanwhile, inflation was rearing its ugly head and that these delays were imperiling the ability of the project to be completed within the limits of the approved budget. By law, the Library cannot spend more than the amount voted for in the referendum. So no matter how much over this amount, you will always hear throughout the project's history and through the Town's spokesman, Al Regula, that the project is NOT over budget. What this neatly sidesteps is that for the same money, the taxpayers are getting less of a library. Not in square feet, mind you, because according to the President of the Library Trustees, Howard Jacobs, that would be politically undesirable.
Instead, we can cut back on quality, amenities and try to move things out of the budgeted area and into the area of outside funding. When I come back I shall explain this in Part Four.

But remember, after the information sessions ended and before the referendum, the library was already reduced in scope and more important, the original budget had around $4 million to deal with inflation and contingencies.

END OF PART THREE

hal samis said...

PART FOUR

So eventually after all kinds of wrong turns and mishaps, residents see a sharply reduced Greenburgh Library operating out of about 5,000 feet in Town Hall (and the multi-purpose center) and that together with the cybermobile in full use, few patrons even missed the old Library (at 22,000 feet) much less can even comprehend what purpose will be served by a swollen (46,000 foot) library to open in 2008.

This doesn't mean that the Library Trustees aren't grateful for the Town which took them in; giving up the employee cafeteria in the process. So grateful that when the 2008 budget was being prepped, the Library Trustees decide to reward their patient patrons and pay back the Town for its generosity in all things Library by eliminating Sunday hours and the cybermobile altogether. Belt tightening is unknown at the Library and that the taxpayers who funded their expansion and their operating budgets were hit by a 20%tax increase didn't mean that the Library would be sympathetic in return. No, what they did was instead order more books and media for likely use in 2009 just so they could pay the Town back for daring to reduce their 2008 budget by $200,000.

Again, blame it on Feiner.

Meanwhile, if the truth be known, the Library did not have any other place to go but Town Hall when the old Town Hall was found to be unworkable. The referendum bonding cannot be used to pay rent so all worked out well in the end.

Meanwhile, construction commenced at the end of January 2007 and even though the project is "not late" and "not over-budget", there are a few unavoidable contradictions that affirm the opposite. One whopper is the statement that if the referendum was held in Spring 2005, construction would be able to start next Spring. True or False?
But it is regarding the budget that all assumptions, regarding what is truth, are continuously challenged.

As of March 2008, the unattached remainder of the uncommitted funding stood at just $800,000 -- this was reported by Triton. This $800,000 is to cover any problems that might crop up in the 5 to 8 months of work that remains before completion and the doors can open.
It also has to cover the additional billing to be incurred by Triton whose adjusted fee ran out March 30. They are allowed to bill at $21,000 for each additional month under their contract. Let's say that 5 months comes to another $100,000.

But also included in this balance is the unallocated $978,000 furniture, fixtures, flooring estimate that was included in the original $19.9 referendum. Plus an undefined portion of the technology backbone (computer lines, security cameras, etc.) that also appeared in the original estimate.

Well, this isn't really so bad you may say. But already you've forgotten the original reductions in project scale that were made before the project was even sent out for bid. And then, you might not be aware of "value engineering" which is basically find a cheaper alternate because we no longer have enough money. Ok, maybe a nail will do the work of a screw but it is much, much extensive than that. It means substituting the cheaper carpet for the higher grade. Look the same? Come back in 3 years when the Library will be seeking a replacement. And lots of little things, many of which won't be discerned by the lay person. So what's the big deal if we can't see the difference. Well, if the "engineering" has substituted an equivalent that is just as good as the original and the outcome is to keep the project within budget, what's wrong?

If the alternative is just as good, always available and is cheaper, then why wasn't it selected from the start and instead of a $19.9 million library, we would have an $18 million library. Somebody is "trying to fool mother nature" as the early margarine commercials said comparing themselves to butter.

But there is something else afoot.
That is the attempt to sneak budgeted items away from the project checklist and have them purchased now or in the future after the Library opens or paid for by outside entities like the Greenburgh Library Foundation. Who's to know or care if the project spends less than the budgeted $100,000 on landscaping and the Foundation pays the difference? Who's to know if the Foundation were to gift some furniture? That way the Library team can say straight-faced, "but the project is on budget".

Oh, and even though little was done in advance, the Library has now secured $400,000 in grants. For example NYS grants which dictate that the money must be used to reduce the bonded amount. Good break for taxpayers; not as good for the Library which maintains that it is instead extra money for them to spend.

Oh, does anyone remember from other Greenburgh lore that using State and Federal funds exposes the recipient to the obligation to allow anyone from NYS to use the premises on an equal footing. Goodbye to the rules of a lower phylum, the Westchester Library System. Hello Elmsford, when your contract with Ardsley is up, come on in the water's fine (at the Library, not the Town pool).

Oh and lest I forget. This past weekend Ed Krauss and I went on a field trip to the Ossining (same Architect) Library, now a little over a year old since its 5 month late opening. Why so late? "Because of problems with the geothermal system." How's it working now? "We still have lots of problems."

Don't worry, be happy.
And yes, Feiner is right again. The windows will prove to be an expensive proposition to maintain.
But with a 2008 operating budget of $3,440,000 which apparently was not enough to both occupy 5,000 feet and be open on Sunday and keep the cybermobile in operation, how much do you think the Library will require to occupy the new building of 46,000 feet -- one with lots of windows to be cleaned.
And, if they don't get it, how long before Tuesday and Wednesday hours will follow the cybermobile and Sunday hours to the waste bin?

This is the end of PART FOUR, the last installment in the current series. If you have any questions, please post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Hal

ed krauss said...

Hal, you outdid yourself. The only thing you left out were 60 second advertising messages, between parts, requesting the good folks of Blogsville and friends to send money so the poor library board will have more money to waste...but still be "on Budget."

Your comparison to the Westchester County courthouse debacle needs furthe explanation.

First and foremost, the county had no choice regarding the redoing of the courthouse. Because of the exposed asbestos and other glaring construction problems created by the "on time, on budget" 1972 construction of the original building, the NYS Office of Court Administration ordered the county to redo the building, and within a specified time to start. Or else, they would withold state funding that the county was getting.

Knowing that a referendum of this magnitude would not pass, the O'Rourke administration "handed " the project off to the NYS Dormatory Authority, a quasi-public construction agency who needs no referendum to build. They in turn bill Westchester. This "2-year" project lasted nearly 7 years, was approximately 63% over budget, and had 3 GC's go bust.

Back to the problem at hand. Thank you for pointing out that we will get a new bigger and questionably better library. The glitz will cover up the degradation of original budgeted items, i.e. granite entryway replaced by cheap carpeting; an auditorium (as you so eloquently described, present in the Ossining library) replaced by a meeting, albeit, large meeting room; "Ikea" furniture- if that, replacing quality furniture; abacuses replacing pc's(poetic license) and so on.

No matter what we end up with, we will have been cheated. All of the "deletes." will be out of the plan, yet the cost of the deletes remain; all of the contingency (approximately $3-4 million) for inflation and such, will have been used up and then some, because the library has taken significantly longer to complete than planned; the amalgum of errors will have been swept under the cheap carpet (come to think of it, it would have been quite difficult to sweep it under a granite entryway.)

And, as with so many things political the voters' memory is short and forgiving. However, this is a $19.8 million oops, and I truly hope the Greenburgh taxpayer puts the new building under a microscope, looks for the flaws, asks questions and make those reponsible for this ripoff pay.

In fact, the voters should pay as much attention as needed to all Town expenditures, and hold people responsible for waste leading to higher taxes. Not all taxes are the result of normal growth, some/many are the result of poor management, lack of planning and adminisrative failure.

The LIBRARY combines all of these. Let's use this as an example when the inevitable police and courthouse projects come on stream.

Anonymous said...

My, my. I never knew that the topic of window cleaning could be so informative and deep.

Anonymous said...

"If the intent of this silly post was to incite bloggers, you have been successful.

"If the intent was to discuss real concerns about the library, you come off as real Mickey Mouse."

Fully agreed. The Supervisor often conducts himself so childishly. I wish we had a professional manager.

Anonymous said...

" ... we will get a new bigger and questionably better library ... "

But for such a small population. Assuming Elmsford is staying with its wise financial move to Ardsley, this huge venture will likely be of great benefit only to Fairview and northern Hartsdale (and probably Elmsford, official affiliation or not), but the rest of us in Unincorporated Greenburgh will still use the local libraries in the neighboring villages, as usual. Seems unjust to have built a Fairview-Elmsford Public Library that we all have to pay for. Too late now, I know, but still annoying nonetheless. Same with Town Hall; what's it doing way up there on Hillside? Okay, okay, sorry, I'll stop, just venting.

Anonymous said...

What a colossal waste of 20 million dollars! If I could say, "wow, what a beautiful building", might be a bit appeased. But as I drive by it on 119, it sure looks ugly. Hope the inside is better than the outside.

How I wish I had paid more attention to the many phone calls from the anonymous folk urging me to vote for it. I didn't vote at all - it passed by 40 votes. Library Board and 3 council people got their way - and we pay forever.

Lesson learned, the hard way.

Anonymous said...

no comment form sheehan or juettner on this? gues they are really hiding!

what a terrific waste of money

what an excellent 4 part summation by HAL

too bad everybody was sleeping or lulled by the sheenhan gang back then

bankruptcy is coming said...

why did sheehan and juettner allow the unincorporated library to use the land where the old town hall was fora parking lot without any compensation to the villages? this land is owned by the entire town and has been given away to the library!

as a result another parcel has been taken off the tax rolls.

another double digit tax increase is coming and its largely due to the library fiasco.

juetter and sheehan are bankrupting us especially with the idiotic comprehensive plan.

sheehan reneged said...

sheehan said if there was no tennis bubble then no comprehensive plan

that was the deal he struck with paul feiner. there is no tennis bubble - sheehan you reneged.

sheehan should go. paul, please no more money for this foolish project.

Anonymous said...

Oh you are so right that both of these old board members gave away a parcel of land that would have helped to bring in plenty of tax revenue.
No on seemed to have brought this up at any town meeting or work session.
Boy do they know how to rob the public.
About the bubble well I'm glad that someone heard what I heard no bubble therefore no comprensive plan.
Why do we need this plan when these two board members do what they want and the others follow.
We could be saving four hundred thousand dollars plus, money that we don't have.
They screwed us with the library but I think the next time arround it will be hard for them to do what they want.
The courthouse and police projects have been discussed well I do hope it will remain as a discussion.
We were screwed once but it wont happen again.

Anonymous said...

We did not need a monster of a building a so called library for this town .
Renovations could have been sufficient.
If there is a way in the future that this building can be tranformed into something else it would be great.
Many of us have learned to use other libraries and feel very comfortable in doing so.
Why should we return to this library knowing how we were fooled about it's need and what it had to offer.I think it would make a good catering hall or a funeral parlor or maybe some sort of business school.
.

Anonymous said...

While I don't disagree with Hal on most of the library issues and his observations, I bristle at the attempt to not blame Feiner. While it may be true that Feiner was against it all for reasons stated, I can't help believe that he isn't guilty of doing the exact same thing.

Did we really need a new town hall? Maybe, but was it due to years of neglect? Maybe. Was maintenance costs underbudgeted in attempt to appear as if tax payers were saving money, all the while the place fell apart so badly not only couldn't it be salvaged, it can't even be used as temporary space for the library? Could be. Why? Because there was no money budgeted for routine maintenance or repairs? Possible.

I've lived here long enough (20 years) to see a distinct pattern. We build ball fields, parks, erect buildings, memorials, playground equipment most of which suffer so much neglect that we no longer reparable but replaceable only. All along the way when people complain of neglect we are told that there is just so much money in a budget for these things..blah, blah.......

How much has this costs us?


So before I get my pistoleros out and point them at the Library board, I can't help but point out that the library board has learned by watching and experiencing town government getting away with the exact same things that the Library board thought it could too. There in lies the biggest mistake.

That fact the the library has considered the maintenance costs of cleaning, only to be dragged out here for criticism, gives me great pause.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I wish you would focus on costs you could do something about, like

1. Overtime
2. Excessive payroll
3. Planning for new public safety building.

hal samis said...

Dear 11:51,

Regarding your comments on the old Town Hall, how can I break the news to you gently: the Town has grown over the past 20 years. The total population of the Town is the business of the Town government in that it has responsibilities to all its residents. The Library, while operating amidst the same population, cannot make the same claim as it is resposible to only those who walk through the front door.

Thus, as the Town has grown, so has the need to increase staff, files and the various, albeit costly, support mechanisms for the residents and the employees that serve them. The old Town Hall was only about 15,000 feet at best while the present Town Hall is about 45,000 feet. True not every inch is used and true the building is not laid out in the most effective manner but, on balance, the choices are limited when you purchase an existing building vs giving the order to a waitress. I'm not concerned about the purchase and think it has worked out well for residents.

That said, Feiner was patting himself on the back when he said that the Town had worked miracles to buy a building worth $20 million for only $7 million. Fortunately he doesn't have to feed his family based upon earning a living as a real estate broker.

Given the crowded conditions in the old building; given that the building was not ADA compliant and given that the Town had been looking for some time for a replacement, it would be foolish to spend taxpayer dollars on trying to maintain the building.
That the Library realized too late that the cost to occupy the building was not the $300,000 budgeted (including moving expenses) but more like $500,000 is not a bad mark against Feiner but against the Construction Manager who failed to properly inspect the building before making an estimate. And it would have been as equally stupid for Feiner to have spent this money in recent years on keeping the ship afloat as it would be for the Library to have done the same. In both cases, the building was destined for demolition, either by the Library or by a buyer such as Senior housing.

There is one important difference between the Library Board and the Town government. The Library Board, appointed officials, feels it is responsible to no one and they serve longer terms than elected officials. Town officials are responsible to residents who have the power to vote them out of office, every two years for the Town Supervisor and every four years for members of the Town Council.

If you are unhappy, register your grievance at the ballot box.

Anonymous said...

Town Hall: Worth 12 million in 1992, would have cost 20 million to build in 2001.
WORTH 6.9 not 20 million as it stood in 2001.

My house built for 3k 1922, worth 250k in 1998, 750k in 2005. Would cost 500K to rebuild.(who cares) Today? Slowly becoming worthless due to increasing town taxes and diminished services.

I'm torn between patting myself on the back or flogging myself to death. LOL!

hal samis said...

Dear 3:12,

What you don't take into consideration is that most commercial real estate is not sold by replacement value, or even on the basis of what it cost to build.

Buildings are built with a total cost which includes the builder's equity plus the borrowed money. After the construction loan has been repaid with the permanent financing (based upon the rental revenue), the builder generally has replaced his equity with debt and now embarks upon a long career of refinancing the permanent at higher amounts to reflect an increasing bottom line.

When the building gets sold, the buyer is paying a capitalization rate of the bottom line (income less expenses) and this number is likely below the original building cost or the replacement cost.

Despite this lower amount, understand that no one has lost money on these transactions.

So, it is most likely that a building built in 1992 would fetch only a fraction of its cost years later.

And then there is the additional benefit of depreciation calculated for tax reduction purposes...

Anonymous said...

Why cant we worry about things that we can actually change -- like TDYCC payroll, police and public works OT?

how to start said...

a good first step - get rid of juettner

Anonymous said...

"We build ball fields, parks, erect buildings, memorials, playground equipment most of which suffer so much neglect ..."

Same with the roadways ... so much neglect. Driving around, it disgusts me how filthy and weed-infested the streets are throughout Unincorporated Greenburgh.

Anonymous said...

4:33
All you do is complain about weeds!
why don't you just MOOOOOVE!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

There are bigger problems in Greenburgh other than weeds.
We have to get rid of the people in Westchester Government Spano and company.
We have to collect monies that the Housing Authority has not paid for over five years for our police departments services which adds up to about one half million dollars.
The amount was in Kapica's budget every year paid by all the taxpayer of Greenburgh.
These are things that we should be concerned about.
The library==will it be fully completed on time and how much more money would the library board demand for the interior.
What kind of a tax increase will we be getting next year.
Again if the weeds bother you take some time to write the county
about your complaint since
The roadway does not belong to Greenburgh to take care of the maintenance.

Anonymous said...

Why do Central Ave in Yonkers and 119 in WP look so much nicer if it is the county's job to maintain???

Anonymous said...

People forget that we have spent way over 20 MILLION UNNECESSARY tax dollars since just 2001 because we failed to uses 177 Hillside as the library and then convert the library building to a town hall. It would have cost a total of $23 million, given us an excellent library building (same square footage as the building under way), doubled the size of town hall, and finished the whole thing 3 years ago.
Instead, the supervisor grabbed a 46,000 square foot building for an operation that had been squeezed into 13,000 square feet. Justified it by lying, yes outright lying, about 177 Hillside's load-carrying capacity (it's built on a SLAB! and carries heavy file cabinets on the second floor—entirely adequate for children's short stacks.)

Given the importance of a library to a town's attractiveness to homebuyers, the supervisor should have been investing in library maintenance and upgrades all the way along, and no referendum should ever have been necessary. He simply wasn't doing his job.

And now he's complaining about money? Let's see who's willing to do a detailed accounting of how much the town hall grab has cost taxpayers. I'm guessing $27 million to $29 million.

P.S. as for windowcleaning—the beauty of the new design is dramatic enough to put Greenburgh on the map—something the US Post Office was unwilling to do. A day's worth of window cleaning a few times a year is hardly an exorbitant price for that.

The truth is, wise investments save money long term, and if the tax base is strong because the town is attractive to buyers, the money is well spent. Think long term, folks.

Anonymous said...

It is not only that the beauty may or may not put us on the map, but it will serve as a beacon. The library has to attrack the young people to the library. Yes, I live in a privilidged section of town, and my child will go the library no matter what. But the library is important to children who don't have parents who will drive them constantly to the library (in the physical and metaphorical sense).

hal samis said...

Dear 5/11 at 11:34 and today at 8:40,

Let's see if I have this right, the Library of Tomorrow, the one that will serve unincorporated Greenburgh's needs for the next 25 years should be a beacon and this is accomplished by buying into a design albeit one that resembles a rejected pavilion design from the 1964-1965 NYC World's Fair.

That would be the same logic of the song hit by the Stylistics, "Break Up to Make Up" circa the 1960's.

There's no defending bad, dysfunctional design -- unless you happen to be a Library Board of Trustees groupie.

And the only relevance to beacon, will be the sun's glare reflecting off the glass of the main "reading" room so that the remediation will be NOT to clean the windows.

But let's return to those golden days of yesteryear when the Library Trustees thought that it was they who were going to walk down the aisle of the new building and instead settled for second place by getting to catch the bride's tossed bouquet.

Let's see if this makes sense. Town Hall is a building in which real work is done by a mostly full-time staff. Although Town business often requires the public to appear at its door, in the case of the Library, it ALWAYS requires the public to arrive where a substantial part-time staff is to be coddled. Given the reality of limited locations in the marketplace, wouldn't it make sense to locate the Library at the more desirable venue within unincorporated -- one served by better public transporation.

If limited convenience to patrons were the yardstick, then I would have championed the office building off Central Avenue behind Webb Field --a building which is again being offered for sale, for the third time in less than 10 years (this time at around $9.4 million). But residents of Fairview would have rightly argued that it was not readily accessible to their children.

But, let's also examine the costs that the Library, jilted at the alter, says would have made their solution more tenable.

First off, only the Library says that a new 46,000 foot Library was appropriate. A new Library which at the time of the Referendum the Trustees wanted the public to believe that it was really a Community Arts Center as well and thus a 200+ seat auditorium and 160parking spaces would be justified. This would have been contained within the original concept, as would the provision for an indoor cybermobile shelter. But that is not the Library we are getting. Instead we are getting a 140 seat auditorium with 120 parking spaces and this auditorium does not have banked seating, a raised stage or an overhead projection system and there is no inside cybermobile housing.
And, still we have the same 46,000 feet of building.
While I won't forget to mention that every six months, technology advances make the bricks and mortar building more of a dinosaur as the future becomes the present.
So, if you buy the argument that the Library needed a 46,000 foot building, only then can you stay on the page that describes the new Town Hall. Here we have a building which also has extra space beyond what is needed for Town departments. But not that much excess that is not the result of adapting a class A executive headquarters to small office use. The Town could have spend more than the actual $1 million of renovation and gutted the building but it was cheaper to live with the less than efficient layout than to alter it to eliminate the wasted space.

However, to convert to a Library would have required a total gut renovation. This means that not only the purchase price must be included but also the extensive renovation which at $200-225 per foot would have meant a job costing in the area of $16 million were the building to be acquired and converted to a Library. And, a building which not only welcomes small children but also provides a pond for them to drown in.

Then we have to add to this equation, the cost to renovate the existing, now former Library of some 23,000 feet. Here we can spend about $9 million (including sitework, landscaping) and get the combined total of $25 million (my figures) vs the anonymous bloggers cost assessment of $23 million for both projects.

But let's call it a draw at $25 million each and not the extra $4-6million that anon would have readers believe taxpayers actually incurred.

If so, what would we also get? Well, we have a Town Hall of 23,000feet which would still be too small for what is now provided at Town Hall. (I don't include the gaffe of the Credit Union). Certainly, we would not have a Town Hall that could be expected to provide office space for the Town for the next 25 years, the same time period as the Library envisioned. Certainly there would not be enough room to maintain the records storage which had been previously leased elsewhere (at a considerable annual cost) while having the documents under one roof also represents an operational advantage.

So, in a worse case scenario, the decision to utilize the building as Town Hall and allow the Library to remain and expand at its location was not a foolish or political one. That it left a spurned bride to shed tears is not denied. That the Town Board made the wrong choice is not as clear as the Library Board of Trustees would have uninformed residents believe.

What is clear is that the Trustees would rather not have been in the position of bringing a $25 million Library expansion in for $19.9 million -- with the damning results still trickling in. That is the reason why they want readers to think that by posting nonsense that they are posting the lost episode of "You Are There".

If you can't fool all of the people all the time, then you can try fooling them another day.

That is the position of the Library Trustees. Now that the offense team has screwed up, they're sending in the defense.

Anonymous said...

Are Hal Samis and Paul Feiner dating?

hal samis said...

Dear 1:27,

I laughed out loud; it was clever and funny and maybe I'll have the occasion to steal it for another post.

On the serious side, I gather you don't quarrel with the conclusion or:

"it's not where you start but who you diminish"

I'll trade, you can use the above and I'll use yours.

i.e.
Are Howard Jacobs and Susan Wolfert dating?

Anonymous said...

I suggest we correct a wrong by giving the new building to the courthouse, then the police can expand into the court area. Then when we need library books we go to WHite Plains or Elmsford or Ardsley. This eyesore is a waste of Taxpayers dollars.

Anonymous said...

Reading in between the lines the library was put in place for the children of Fairview. Is't that great. All the tax money seems to go in one direction.
Paul what's the story with is area.
Have you forgotten there are other areas in town other than Fairview.
If the library were far from home the children in Fairview would be driven by limo to get there books.

hal samis said...

Dear 5:01,

A fresh opinion.

Almost everyone else writes that the Town Board only cares about the villages.