YORKTOWN, N.Y. – About 40 minutes of last Tuesday’s town board meeting were spent debating the cost of a project that ultimately was approved by a unanimous vote.
The lone councilmember critical of the Granite Knolls recreation complex, which will contain two multi-purpose fields, a 90-foot baseball diamond, and various other recreational amenities, was Councilman Vishnu Patel. The complex will be built on town-owned land at Granite Knolls Park, off Stony Street. For the second consecutive meeting, Patel, reading from a prepared statement, criticized Supervisor Michael Grace for what he deemed a lack of transparency regarding the total cost of the project.
The first phase of the project will cost $3.85 million, which Grace said the town will pay for using money received from Enbridge, a pipeline company that is performing construction in Yorktown for 11 months beginning in October. The board, in a 5-0 vote, awarded the project to the low bidder, Montesano Brothers Inc.
Despite his reservations, Patel said he was voting to award the contract to Montesano Brothers. His vote, he said, was for the children of Yorktown.
“But as your taxpayer watchdog, I will carefully monitor every cent spent on this project,” Patel said. “And when I find that the supervisor has deceived us, you will hear my bark loudly, from town hall all the way to Mohegan Lake.”
Negotiations with Enbridge resulted in $4.6 million heading to Yorktown in exchange for using 3.86 acres of town-owned land, 0.085 acres of which Enbridge will permanently take. The construction will also force the shutdown of Legacy Field.
Two weeks ago, Patel voted against three resolutions authorizing Grace to sign agreements with Enbridge. His reasoning, he said, was because he did not have enough time to review the resolutions.
Grace said there is a difference between being transparent and being willfully ignorant, which he accused Patel of being. He said the project has been in discussion for about four years, in some form or fashion, and for Patel to claim that he has not had enough time to review it is disingenuous.
“I know it was a terrible disappointment to you and the other detractors that [the bid] came in at such a price that it actually made it feasible to do, because you’d much rather have it not [done], because then we couldn’t get credit for doing something great for the town,” Grace said. “But that’s your politics.”
Grace said he has been upfront about the uncertainty surrounding the total cost of the project. On July 11, he told a crowded town hall that if taxpayer money is needed to complete the project, it would be about 10 percent of the final bill.
Though the town appears to have enough pipeline funds to cover the first phase of the project, that does not include artificial playing surfaces, lighting and a pavilion.
On top of the $750,000 left over from Enbridge, the town also received $1.5 million from Spectra Energy (Enbridge’s predecessor) in exchange for 7.5 acres of land in 2015. That money has not been spent yet, Grace said, meaning the town has $6.1 million in-hand to complete the project.
However, according to one of the agreements with Enbridge, the town is responsible for repaving roads that the pipeline company tears up. Grace would not disclose this cost estimate, but told Yorktown News it is “nominal” and said there is “plenty of room” to pay for both the recreation complex and the repaving in that $6.1 million.
“I don’t believe everything soup to nuts is going to cost us close to what we have available to spend,” Grace said at the meeting.
Still, some questioned whether there would be enough money. Ilan Gilbert, Democratic candidate for supervisor, said that, according to his research, artificial turf costs about $800,000 to $1 million per field, and Yorktown will have three at Granite Knolls. Gilbert also said the town board should let residents know that the money could also be used for other infrastructure projects, and not just to build ballfields.
Grace, in response, said the cost of turf has drastically reduced in recent years. He said Yorktown sought unofficial cost estimates for the turf, and one company reportedly said it could install it on all three fields for $1.1 million. Grace expects the cost will be even lower when Yorktown competitively bids the second phase of the project.
Councilman Tom Diana added that Yorktown is also seeking grants to cover a portion of the turf’s cost.