The Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees narrowly approved a measure to seek professional services for a planned sidewalk overhaul project.
The Rebuild Saranac Lake Sidewalk Replacement Program aims to replace and upgrade multiple sidewalks throughout the village, according to trustees.
During Monday night’s regular board meeting, trustees voted 3-2 to allow village Manager John Sweeney to solicit bids from qualified engineers to help with project design and implementation.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau rarely votes on action items during village meetings, but cast the deciding “yes” vote after trustees reached a 2-2 impasse.
Prior to the vote, Trustee Allie Pelletieri told his colleagues the village is capable of handling the sidewalk project itself.
“I’m a little bit disappointed in this,” he said. “I personally think we do enough outside contracting and it costs us a lot of money. I believe that we have the professional people on hand – that’s what we hire our manager, our department of community development, our treasurer, and the DPW people to do this. I do not believe that sidewalks are rocket science and we should be able to handle them.”
Pelletieri notes the village has handled other projects he says require more expertise than building sidewalks – things like laying down water and sewer lines.
“Unless I’m missing something here, I believe we should do this in-house,” he said. “We actually put the program together and decided what ones we were going to abandon and what ones we weren’t – I mean if we had the technical knowledge to decide what we were doing there, I think we can continue with the job.”
Trustee Jeff Branch says the village doesn’t need an engineer to assist with the project and adds that it’s better to save the “thousands of dollars” and put it toward the sidewalk construction instead.
But Mayor Clyde Rabideau and village Manager John Sweeney say Department of Public Works employees don’t have enough time to design and oversee the project.
“The reason for this is primarily time,” Rabideau said. “I don’t think we have the resources to do all the sidewalks and the regular public works jobs the guys are regularly assigned to. There’s just no way we can accomplish everything all at once – there’s no way. It would take a decade for them to catch up.”
Sweeney says projects that cropped up due to spring flooding, ongoing street work, and water meter installation have village workers tied up elsewhere.
According to Rabideau, laying sidewalks isn’t rocket science, but he said having an experienced contractor doing the work eliminates a number of potential issues.
“You can finish concrete too much, you can let it dry out too fast – there are so many variables to making concrete great,” he said. “Having a professional on the job – that’s all they do – overseeing it, it deserves at least seeing what their proposals are. Because there’s a lot more to it than just throwing down some concrete and letting it dry out in the sun.”
Rabideau joined trustees Tom Catillaz and John McEneany in voting for the resolution. McEneany noted that trustees aren’t bound to accept any bids if they come back too expensive.
Pelletieri and Branch voted against the measure.
The total overhaul is expected to cost around $1 million – it will be paid for with a 10-year bond.