Although it’s a new year, it’s the same disagreements for the Lower Merion Township Board of Commissioners on topics like the Ardmore Revitalization project and the owner’s representative for the Bala Cynwyd Library project.
At the Wednesday night, Jan. 11 meeting, Commissioner Lewis Gould once again expressed his concern over the nearly $147,000 Lower Merion Township proposes to pay Foreman Program and Construction Managers for an owner’s representative on the Bala Cynwyd Library Project.
“If all they’re doing is monitoring and communicating, it seems like a high price to me,” Gould said at the meeting.
Gould comments followed Commissioner Cheryl Gelber’s question as to whether or not the owner’s representative’s money is contingent on shepherding the project so that it’s done on time. Deputy Manager Pat Ryan and Commissioner and Vice President of the Board Paul McElhaney answered that the owner’s rep does not have direct authority over the contractors, but can do everything possible to ensure the project’s on-time completion.
Gould took issue with that role of the owner’s representative due to the problems and delays occurring with the Luddington Library renovations under constructors from Vitteta Architects. He said he did not want the township taxpayers burdened, especially, he said, since the board still hasn’t been given a detailed report by Vitteta on what’s happening at Luddington.
“Luddington is going very far south, and I don’t think because it’s going south that we should spend another $150,000 to be told they don’t have authority,” Gould added.
The Township Engineer Edward Pluciennik said the owner’s rep would have the authority to manage the work in the hands of contractor and that if decisions come forward, such as paying bills, the representative would bring that to the township for officials to make decisions.
Commissioner George Manos explained that although there might be perceived duplication of effort or a degree of overlap, the owner’s representative is important for the project.
“There is [overlap] to some degree, that is to say if issues arise that the architect has to get involved with, the township side gets involved through Foreman,” Manos said. “The architect really has a lot to do…separate from the work the owner’s representative does.”
Manos added that the owner’s rep is to know that the contractor is complying with the contract, and if it’s the contrary to go to the township so they can figure out how to address the issue.
The board voted 11-2 to approve the owner’s representative, with Gould and Commissioner Jenny Brown casting the opposing votes. Commissioner Philip Rosenzweig was not present.
The board voted the same on extending the Ardmore Revitalization project agreement deadline with Dranoff Properties from Jan. 31 to March 31.
Before the vote, Brown and Gould explained their opposition to the extending the agreement, which was previously granted an extension in October.
“The main problem is that goal for Ardmore revitalization has always been a moving target, and it seems to be what everyone wants it to be at a given time period…the change has been significant since my time on the board,” Brown said.
For the township to keep the $15.5 million grant money it’s acquired, the project must move forward. The township was unsuccessful in getting the TIGER 3 grant Township Manager Douglas Cleland spoke of in October.
The concern for Brown and Gould is the township matching the funds by 20 percent, for a project they fear won’t happen, considering how long it’s been in discussion and the impending July 2012 construction date.
Cleland said the extension is to allow for the final agreement to have greater specificity for the construction sequence and schedule, as well as certainty as to what’s being developed. As it stands, a parking garage on the Ardmore Transit Center is in the works, as well as the development of a mixed-use project on the Township’s Cricket Lot.
Proponents of extension are hopeful the township can come to an agreement with Amtrak for developing transit-related improvements and expansion.
“I would love to see something happen in Ardmore,” Gould said. “But no matter how much you support Ardmore, and I do, someone somewhere has to say this is not a practical thing to keep [using] taxpayers’ dollars on.”
Commissioner Cheryl Gelber understood frustrations, noting what she called “the grandiose scale,” the project’s conception had become at one point. However, she still supports the project and the extension because of the current proposed construction plans.
“Now we’re being realistic,” Gelber said.
Other business discussed or voted on:
During the board’s special meeting, a unanimous decision was made to postpone approval of the termination of an unidentified police employee, which was discussed at the Jan. 4 police committee meeting. The issue will be addressed at the Jan. 18 board meeting.
Also postponed was a decision to grant a liquor license transfer from a Norristown business to Peter Vitale, an applicant who wants to turn Ardmore’s former CVS on 44 Greenfield Ave into a microbrew and craft and specialty beer-sampling store called The Beer Shoppe. Vitale met with the Ardmore Progressive Civic Association in Commissioner Steven Lindner’s Ward 4, but concerns and questions prevailed regarding inventory delivery, the quantity of beer a customer could buy or sample and how the business would address potential littering, as well as concerns that customers would bring their beers to drink at nearby Ardmore Avenue Vernon Young Park. The decision to postpone for next week’s meeting was unanimous. Rogan added that there would be a brief building and planning committee meeting to further brief the board on the topic.
The board approved about $285,000 in appropriations for Lower Merion’s six volunteer fire companies. Prior to the vote, the board encouraged donations, volunteer and support.