Editorial: It may not be luxurious, but city will still get a parking garage

Saturday, March 03, 2018

OK. So maybe Greenfield will have to settle for a parking garage that looks like a parking garage. It is a little disappointing that the city may not be able to afford some of the nicer architectural flourishes that would make the long-awaited Olive Street project better blend in with its neighbors. But sometimes you do have to settle for what you can afford.

In this case, what Greenfield taxpayers can afford — as determined by their City Council — is about $250,000 more than the original $2.5 million the city put up toward the $10 million price tag. The state is paying the rest, which we always felt was only fair as the expanded courthouse operations on Hope Street has placed a heavier demand for parking in the neighborhood, having eaten the courthouse’s own parking lot.

The extra money is less than half of what Mayor Bill Martin asked for, however, which was $529,271.

According to Martin, the project has nearly exhausted its contingency fund of about $600,000, and the project is roughly $139,000 over its $10 million budget.

The overrun came from unexpected underground work involved in moving major utilities that were under the garage site at a depth between 20 and 22 feet. Also, the contractor encountered a former livery stable stone foundation about 20 feet in depth, which had to be removed.

While arguing for the $529,000 contingency, Martin noted that the city is less likely to burn through its contingency as quickly now that the construction will move above ground when work resumes in the spring.

“We feel that 80 percent of the risk has been removed now that we are above the ground,” he said.

The funding is coming from FEMA reimbursement related to damage done by Hurricane Irene in 2011.

The council was split on whether to give the mayor all he asked for, but finally settled on the compromise amount, with former council president Brickett Allis arguing the city needs “to live within our budget.”

“I understand we want this to be this beautiful Taj Mahal of parking garages,” he said during discussions, “But it’s a parking garage.”

At-Large Councilor Ashli Stempel, favored the full amount, arguing there should be additional contingency money in place.

“This is not a result of any irresponsibility on the town’s behalf,” she said. “It’s irresponsible to have no contingency.”

Maybe not, but money appropriated tends to get spent. If unavoidable contingencies arise, the town does have more of that FEMA money that it could dip into later — if a majority of the council is convinced.