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'Technicality' Stalls Yorktown Sr. Center Project

YORKTOWN, N.Y.-- The town board voted to reject and advertise for a re-bid for the construction of the Senior Center at Tuesday’s meeting.

A bid was supposed to be accepted at the meeting, held outdoors at Mohansic Golf Course, however concerns regarding the WICKS law were brought up at this week’s and last week’s meetings. The company to place the lowest bid did not initially include a sealed envelope with the names of the subcontractors they plan to use, which they must do under the WICKS law in a project under half a million dollars.  According to the Supervisor Susan Siegel, the construction company did rectify the error but the board voted 3-2 to re-advertise for the bid.

During the first courtesy of the floor, Gil Kauffmann, a member of the senior citizens advisory commission, urged the town not to accept the bid, and Councilmen Jim Martorano, Terrence Murphy, and Nick Bianco, voted in his favor, while Siegel and Councilman Vishnu Patel did not.

“I’m here now to ask you guys to hold off on this bid that you’re going to make tonight. I know it may be a delay in construction of this cultural center, but I’m not happy, I’m not happy with this bid, if you’re going to accept that lowest bid on here,” Kaufmann said.

Siegel explained that the seven bids were opened on June 14, and ranged in price from $389,000 to $711,000. Because the prices of the lowest bidder were so low, the architect checked the references of the company and checked to ensure everything was included in their proposal. The second highest bidder sent a notice of protest to the town days after the bid was opened, saying that the first lowest bidder was violating the WICKS law and had not submitted the proposal correctly. Siegel said the bidder threatened to sue should the bid be awarded to the first highest bidder. The first bidder then supplied the missing information.

“We have had advice and as with most things in life, attorneys can disagree," Siegel said. "Line them up and you’ll get five attorneys and five different opinions. We have had one attorney say you should play it safe and re-bid, we had two other attorneys say this is a technicality and you can go ahead and award the bid. If we award the bid to the lowest bidder, there’s a risk that the second lowest bidder will litigate. If we reject the bid and re-bid there’s a risk that the lowest bidder will sue us because we didn’t accept his low bid. So you can be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

Councilmen Murphy, Bianco and Martorano were in favor of waiting to re-bid to avoid litigation and to do the project the correct way.

“To wait two or three more weeks to stop more litigation is just the right thing to do,” Murphy said. “You have a senior committee member who asked us to come out and not do this. He’s been involved in the project from day one, he knows what’s going on with this project.”

Bianco said he understood Siegel’s desire to get the project underway, but that taking caution was a necessary priority.

“We’re being audited by the state for every little dot and “i”, and that report will be coming out with exactly this type of thing that they criticize,” Bianco said. “We have to do it the right way, the gentleman who was the lowest bidder didn’t have his papers in order, he didn’t have it. That’s very simple.”

Siegel stressed that the town did bid the project properly, and that there were risks either way.

“I don’t feel that I am rushing ahead on this without considering all of the options, I think I have spoken to people, we have spoken to lawyers, we have spoken to the second lowest bidder who raised the objection. I was told that he was satisfied, that the lowest bidder complied,” Siegel said. “I would be prepared to go ahead with the bid. I see risks of litigation on either way we go so that kind of neutralizes itself out. I certainly don’t want to delay the project by litigation, but it’s a risk either way.”

Patel said to delay the project yet again was wrong and it should have been completed a long time ago. “You might as well close it if you don’t have the guts to build it,” he said.

Do you think the town made the right decision to delay the project?

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