Financiers again postpone vote on Penfield Pavilion repairs

Penfield Building Committee Chairman James Bradley, left, and Recreation Director Gerald Lombardo, right, answer questions from the Board of Finance Tuesday night.
Penfield Building Committee Chairman James Bradley, left, and Recreation Director Gerald Lombardo, right, answer questions from the Board of Finance Tuesday night.Genevieve Reilly

FAIRFIELD -- The Board of Finance took a vote this on plans to repair storm-damaged Penfield Pavilion, but the vote was to postpone action on the $6 million proposal until next month.

The 5-4 Tuesday vote to postpone action until the finance panel's Jan. 6 meeting follows the board's decision last month to send the bonding request back to the Penfield Building Committee and Board of Selectmen to reconsider the recommended plan, with the suggestion that a locker wing be added back to the proposal to rebuild the pavilion.

Penfield Pavilion has been closed since it suffered extensive damage from Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, and delays in approving a reconstruction plan make it likely it will remain closed next summer as well.

Since the finance panel's recommendation last month, both the building committee and the selectmen have approved a new option -- 7A -- that includes the east locker wing and is seen as the option most likely to get the largest reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency because it calls for rebuilding the existing structure. The previous option backed by the building committee and selectmen would have eliminated the locker wing, resulting in a smaller building and, according to officials, would likely be allotted a lower FEMA reimbursement.

The drive to postpone action Tuesday was led by Finance Board member James Walsh, who said it would be better to have as much information as possible on the project, particularly regarding any FEMA reimbursement.

"If we delay, we're not losing the (2015) season, because that's already blown," Walsh said, and Chairman Thomas Flynn agreed. "If we vote on this in 30 days, we're not impacting 2015," Flynn said.

The information about the FEMA reimbursement that the board wants is the benefits-cost analysis, which determines whether the damage is greater than 50 percent of the cost of replacement, according to town Fiscal Officer Robert Mayer. Damage costs include the loss of revenue to the town and local business community since the pavilion has been closed.

Mayer said it is possible that FEMA could made a decision on the benefits-cost analysis within the next 30 days. "If that shows a greater than 50 percent ratio, that means the reimbursement numbers are solid," he said.

Should the town receive the maximum FEMA reimbursement for option 7A, those funds, along with $1.75 million in insurance money and a $500,000 state grant, would bring the town's share of the project cost to $943,927. When fully functional, the town would receive income from rentals of the gathering room and lockers, as well as the concession stand and parking.

But Ian Bass said there have been "financial inconsistencies" in the numbers reviewed by the town boards regarding the project. Though he is a member of the Penfield Building Committee, Bass said he was speaking as an interested resident, and not a member of the committee. He voted against option 7A.

"Everything you heard about was money we would hope to get from FEMA is just that -- hope," Bass said. He said the finance board should make its decision based on total construction costs and "if we do get FEMA money, 'woo hoo.' The FEMA numbers are not a 100 percent, or 80 percent or even 75 percent guarantee."

Bass also questioned the use of projected revenues from the pavilion over the next 20 years, which he said is not normally done.

"I'm hoping this board, more than any other, can see through the smoke and mirrors that have been presented," Bass said.

Rick Grauer, head of the Flood and Erosion Control Board, urged the finance board to push for engineering cost estimates to raise the elevation of the bulkhead in front of the facility higher than currently proposed in order to tie it in to a master plan being worked on by his panel for the entire beach area.

Under the building committee's proposal, the bulkhead would be at elevation 12; Flood and Erosion would like to see it at elevation 15. Grauer suggested it would be easier and more cost effective to do that as part of the Penfield reconstruction project. The flood plan is expected to be presented to the Board of Selectmen later this month.

Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo, however, said the flood mitigation plan is a multiyear project and may not even start for several years.