Mayor: Easton Intermodal Will Cost More Than Planned
Third Street transportation project costs rise by $5 million.
It’s going to cost Easton $5 million more than originally planned to build the intermodal facility, Mayor Sal Panto told city council Wednesday night.
Costs for construction have risen from $20 million to an estimated $25 million, though the mayor said there are ways the difference will be made up for, and also that it's hoped some costs might be reduced along the way.
"It's our goal to sell the 45,000 square foot building to a developer and have them own and operate the building. The incentive would be a grant from some of our $12 million in grant money to offset some of their costs," Panto said.
In the event Easton can't make up the extra money for construction, the city will wait until the time is better to build on the two properties, he said.
"We will not do the project unless it makes cost sense...This project doesn't move forward unless it's cost effective," Panto said. "I can assure you I don't want to put any one in debt."
As it stands now, construction is expected to begin in June of 2013 on the South Third Street project, on the site of the former Perkins restaurant and Marquis Theater. That's a year later than the city originally planned.
The three-story facility would provide 15,000 square feet per floor, including a bus station with bathrooms, vending area, and a lobby along with a restaurant and retail on the ground level, the high school hall of fame museum on the second level and office space on the third floor.
Panto said the property will generate an estimated $1.3 million annually when developed, but that will still be $20,000 to $30,000 short of the break even point for the first four to five years. The city bought the land for $3 million in 2010.
"Personally, I wouldn't mind that because I think we can make it up in other places," Panto said, but he added the city will be working on the numbers to fix the likely shortfall. "Our goal is to be revenue neutral...We have not stopped looking for grants either.”
Additionally, the intersection at Third and Ferry streets, along with the surrounding area will be improved as well, with traffic calming on Third and benches and a parklike atmosphere, Panto said.
"It will have the type of streetscape we'd like to have in the whole city but can't afford it," he said.
In the worst case scenario, if the right tenants and/or developer to make the entire project financially feasible can't be found, the city would wait on the full development of the property, but the most needed parts would still go forward.
"The worse case scenario is just the deck. I'm not married to this project," Panto said. "Where the surface parking lot is that is where we would put a temporary building to pay for (bus) tickets."
"(The Third Street) parking deck is now 46 years old. It had a life of 40. ..we're spending $150,000 a year,” Panto said. "What we cannot do is wait until this parking garage is no longer available. In talks with Crayola, they are very concerned they have a parking deck."
As planned, the new parking deck at the intermodal facility is to be cast concrete and should have a life of 60 years.
Lou Ferrone, president of the Easton Parking Authority board said a new parking deck is a priority no matter what.
"We're spending another $100,000 this year, and that may give us another five years, maybe."
In other matters, West Ward resident Terrence Miller addressed city council regarding their decision the previous evening not to consider adding churches to the local noise ordinance.
Miller, a neighbor of the Church of God on Walnut and Ferry streets in the city's West Ward, said his absence from the council's workshop meeting Tuesday evening was due to a miscommunication, and he'd taken a recent email with Councilman Jeff Warren to mean he shouldn't attend.
Warren clarified that he'd meant that he and other council members wouldn't make a decision whether to take action on the matter until they'd heard church members' point of view.
“It was a miscommunication. In the spirit of cooperation, certainly I've spent months on this, over a year. If anyone has shown the willingness, it's me,” Miller said. “I have written letters, I've met with the church. I've tried to find resolution. I think as a resident I'm owed more than a single meeting.”
“It is going to hamper that church's ability to worship, and that is the bottom line,” Warren told Miller. “At this time, we're not going to be doing anything from an ordinance standpoint...and I can tell you I do not support creating an ordinance that calls for a specific (decibel) level because it would hamper that church's ability to worship.”
Other council members supported Warren's position. Councilman Ken Brown suggested it might be a season issue.
"They only have 20 people in their congregation," he told Miller. "You also spoke eloquently as though you represented people in the neighborhood. I haven't seen one neighbor, other than yourself, come to that mike."
Miller emphasized he is a Christian and said he's donated money and helped repair pews.
"This is about a church disrupting a neighborhood. I don't expect it to be 105 decibels in my living room. I'd like to have my in-laws over and maybe worship in my home,” Miller said, adding, "The church needs to take personal responsibility.:
Miller asked if he has to start a petition to convince council it's a neighborhood issue.
Councilman Mike Fleck said the council had given the matter ample time, considering members plan to visit again in warmer months.
"I thought it was much quieter than the church I go to,” said Fleck who recently attended services to see the situation firsthand. “If it is a seasonal problem, we'll find it out."