Town needs to move forward with Penfield plans

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:

In the past several weeks, as I have been around town, many citizens have expressed frustration and concern with the progress related to Penfield Pavilion.   

While it is not common for members of our board to express concerns directly with the paper, given the high level of discussion on this topic and angst in the community, I thought it appropriate that I share my views.

Penfield Pavilion is in danger of being out of commission for a third straight summer next year and I feel the indecisiveness in this matter warrants explanation.

All of us understand that Sandy wreaked havoc on the beach area, and it takes time to recover from such devastation. I believe more than two years is too long. The rebuilding should have begun by now. Why the delay?

The Penfield Building Committee was formed by the administration, approved by the Board of Selectmen and received final approval from the RTM on Nov. 25, 2013 — 13 months after the storm.

Given the importance of Penfield and the beach to town recreation, the committee should have been appointed far sooner.  This delay was the first in a series of decisions that have now put yet another summer in jeopardy.

The committee has done a great job, considering the thicket of engineering challenges, neighborhood concerns, cost restraints, flooding issues, insurance reimbursement negotiations and FEMA regulations they had to cut through.

They thoroughly reviewed more than a dozen different options and their report was ready for a crucial Board of Selectmen presentation on Oct. 1.  The committee settled upon option seven, which is also the plan that I personally favor.  It is moderate in size, scope and cost, and preserves a major town asset and the neighborhood’s quality of life with a reasonable budget.

Unfortunately, other parties were unprepared. The first selectman was supposed to present his own findings and the chief fiscal officer was tasked with a financial analysis. Neither of these reports were ready last month, and the presentation had to be postponed.

They are not alone. The town-hired FEMA consultant exacerbated the delay by not having final figures available. This situation may seem to absolve the town officials, but in my opinion, one could have drafted a proposal including a range of FEMA contributions and moved the process forward, especially since the consultant has been in regular contact with the first selectman’s office.

The construction schedule is estimated to be eight months. Given this reality and the delayed presentations, even with no construction issues, it is likely Penfield will not be open until after July 4, meaning two of summer’s biggest weekends may be lost. Meanwhile, the property continues to deteriorate and residents continue to pay for an unusable building.

This did not have to be. Both administration reports consisted mainly of readily available data, much of it based on historical information. The missed deadlines last month, combined with the delay forming the committee, make it difficult for the Board of Finance and the RTM to consider the proposal in a timely manner, pushing reconstruction past Memorial Day.

The first selectman is like the CEO or quarterback of the town. All decisions eventually go through his office. The project has been waylaid by indecision and lack of leadership. Eventually, the quarterback has to call a play to move the ball forward, but the administration has consistently decided to punt or call time out.

Kevin Kiley

Member

Board of Selectmen

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