After nearly two years of construction, the Popham Road fire station’s renovation is starting to wind down.
The board of trustees voted 6-1, with former Trustee Matthew Callaghan dissenting, in January 2017 to approve plans for the project.
Scarsdale-based Grigg and Davis worked on the project alongside general construction firm, Specialty Construction Systems Inc. of Mount Vernon, who was hired for $2,246,400.
However, like many construction projects, there were modifications and changes that led to an overrun of the budget.
When first reported in 2017, the costs were partly covered by a $3.5 million bond; the rest of the funding came from the general fund balance.
Due to the overruns and the Wicks Law, the project costs went up by about 18 percent, or $700,000. So, the final cost of the project came in at $4.7 million.
That resulted in the board voting on three separate resolutions May 14 to approve change orders and transfer funds for the project closeout.
“That increase is within industry practices because of the Wicks Law,” said director of capital projects Paul Zaicek.
The Wicks Law requires separate contracts for general construction, electrical, mechanical and plumbing work for any project expected to cost more than $500,000. It requires four prime contractors for each job, and it’s required to provide separate and costly bonds and insurances.
Mayor Marc Samwick said this law further complicates construction work by necessitating the village to coordinate the progression of work between the contractors. Typically, when hiring a general contractor, that contractor is responsible for bringing on subcontractors for plumbing, electric and mechanical work under its own control for its own fee.
“State law prohibits villages from utilizing design/build construction contracts, which encourages efficient design and construction,” Samwick explained. “This project team works in tandem from design to construction completion.”
Not having access to utilizing that team leads to overruns and additional costs.
According to nyconstructionlaw.com, efforts to repeal the Wicks Law since it was enacted in 1912 have failed, mainly due to the organized and effective lobbying of mechanical and electrical contractors and trade unions.
Samwick said he met with a regional representative from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to talk about the difficulties that are presented when taking on a construction project.
While he said he doesn’t believe change is near, Samwick said the village remains committed to fighting for the right to employ better construction mechanisms and improving its infrastructure.
“We must continue to invest in Scarsdale’s critical infrastructure through continued capital projects,” Samwick said.
Zaicek said the firehouse project is nearly complete and should be move-in ready within the next month. A cleaning company came through the building to do a full cleanup and the village facilities department and fire department personnel will begin installing furniture.
Doing some of these projects in-house gives the village an opportunity to save money. For example, by doing the installations the village saved $30,000. Zaicek said the village is also responsible for buying and installing all finishes for the second and basement level, which saves $120,000.
Now, the village is tying up loose ends, doing a final check of the fire alarms, sprinkler and communications system, before moving in.
The construction project’s original goal was to fix structural issues, such as a eliminating a depression in the driveway caused by the basement underneath, and enlarging the garage door to 14 feet tall by lowering the garage slab by about 3 feet. There will also be a space for a dorm and lockers for women.
“We had two safety concerns, structural issues in the driveway and issues within the apparatus bay itself due to the increasing weight of the apparatus,” said Village Manager Steve Pappalardo in a previous Inquirer article.
Grigg and Davis looked at the building in the preliminary stages of the renovation project and were officially brought on to work on the project because of their experience with structural engineering.
The firm has worked on firehouses in Hastings, Millwood and Valhalla.
In addition to the structural changes at the Scarsdale station, there will be improvements on the electric lines, plumbing, piping, water lines and new fire sprinklers as well.
During the time the fire station was closed for renovations, firefighters for the Popham Road fire station were based at the public safety building on Fenimore Road.