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Contracts' scrutiny causes split votes, tie-breakers in Geneva

Dunkin', leaf pickup, building assessment all OK'd – eventually

GENEVA – A week after Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns voted to break four ties in one night last week, the rest of the contested measures passed the City Council March 18 without requiring a tie-breaking vote.

The three divisive issues from the Committee of the Whole March 11 were a time extension to the development incentive for the Dunkin' at 206 E. State St.; a contract with consultant Studio GC for a city facilities assessment; and a five-year contract with Kramer Tree Specialists Inc.

Burns' cast broke the council’s 5-5 votes for all three, then for the fourth time at a special City Council meeting the same night, March 11, for the Dunkin’ agreement.

But at the City Council meeting on March 18, the contract to Kramer for nearly $2 million was approved 7-3 and the contract with Studio GC for $60,000 was approved 6-4, neither requiring Burns to break a tie.

The Dunkin' agreement

At issue with the Dunkin' agreement, which had been approved in a 6-4 vote last July, was that it did not have a closing in the timeframe required by the redevelopment agreement.

The Dunkin' agreement gave the franchisee a $70,000 grant and a sales tax rebate up to $102,000 to situate a store at 206 E. State St. as a means to spur redevelopment on the city’s east side, officials had said.

Economic Development Director Cathleen Tymoszenko said the closing was delayed because the lender required more environmental investigation into the former gas station site.

Barry Millman of Horizon Realty Services, Inc., a real estate broker representing Dunkin’, said the lender required metal detectors to check that all metal relating to the gas tanks was removed. But because the lot was covered in snow by then, Millman said the testing had to wait.

Third Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg said since the closing was supposed to have been done on Oct. 30, it means they were starting all over again.

City attorney Ron Sandack said the agreement expired because the closing did not occur on time, so the council’s action was not confined by its prior vote to approve.

The facilities assessment

The issue with hiring a consultant to evaluate all the city’s facilities was a question of need.

Fifth Ward Alderman Robert Swanson asked why the city could not do the assessment in-house and save money.

“Why do we need an outside consultant for information we should already have?” Swanson asked.

Nate Landers, superintendent of streets, fleets and facilities, said he was not qualified to evaluate elevators or roofs.

Public Works Director Rich Babica said the issue arose from the public works building's 40-year-old leaky roof.

A contractor gave him an estimate to replace it, “and my eyes about rolled into the back of my head.”

Because he does not have heat or air conditioning in his office, Babica said, “They did an assessment of the HVAC within the public works building and my eyes rolled back into my head again.”

Babica said he met with City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins and determined the city needed a systematic approach to evaluate its buildings: The police department, City Hall, two fire houses, public works – and Tri-Comm asked to be included, and it would pay for its own share.

Babica said Studio GC would be a neutral third party.

“As public works director with 27 years of experience, I can tell you I don’t have the professional criteria or experience to do a city-wide facility assessment,” Babica said. “And then stand in front of the City Council and say, ‘I need a significant amount of money to make these buildings ready to serve the public for the next 30 to 40 years.’”

The leaf and brush contract

As to the leaf and brush collection contract with Kramer, the issue was leaves not being picked up when the weather caused leaves to be frozen into snow-covered clumps that could not be collected – until now.

Kilburg advocated for giving another company that also bid for the contract a chance.

“Give them a portion of the city as it relates to leaf collection,” Kilburg said. “Let them do the east side and let Kramer do the west side.”

Babica recommended staying with Kramer.

Babica said under the contract, Kramer would post a performance bond, and the city would have the right to terminate the contract for cause – with notice – and solicit a new contractor.

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