|Somehow, they never can get it right the first time, or the second, or the third.... But, don’t worry, it’s only taxpayer money, and taxpayers love to give their cash to needy consultants to do the same thing over and over and over again.
The John Daly Boulevard extension project is more than 10 years old, has cost over $500,000 to date, and the first of its three phases is yet to be concluded. In other words, this road project is a typical Dyster project: it lingers and lingers and costs more and more, but never gets completed on time or within budget.
The project, in theory, would see John Daly Boulevard extended north toward Pine Avenue with the end of the extension intersecting Pine Avenue near Wedge Liquors by Eighth Street.
Sounds simple enough, right? The work doesn’t require bulldozing any homes, doesn’t call for sewer lines or utilities to be uprooted or relocated, it’s pretty much a simple line from here to there. But as it so often is in Mayor Dyster’s City Hall, the simple act of getting from here to there in a straight line is never simple. And for that reason the Daly project is a perfect symbol of the Dyster administration: it fails to run straight, it costs more than it should and the taxpayers always foot the bill.
A recent Daly Boulevard change order would increase the city’s payment to Stantec Consulting Group, Inc. by $102,000 and bring the total cost, to date, to $532,000.
Sources at ground zero in City Hall have informed us that City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka is tired of all of the work change orders (on all projects) he’s been asked to sign off on during his tenure. To put it diplomatically, the rumor is that many of these change orders appear to be nothing more than “churning the account,” that is, doing work over and over in a little different way in order to drive up costs.
When the council questioned their latest change order and refused to pay the bill at the Jan. 22 council meeting, both Dyster and DeSantis ended up being quoted liberally in a Gazette story, laying the blame for the additional expense and indecision on the road design squarely at the feet of the city engineering department and past administrations.
The facts of the case are as such that it has been Dyster and DeSantis who have delayed the work and caused costs to escalate due to their meddling, second-guessing and incessant changing of their minds. What should have been a simple cut through to Pine Avenue has become a situation where the mayor and planner have repeatedly moved the Daly-Pine intersection a couple of hundred feet either east or west as they try to make up their minds.
This repeated movement - of only a couple hundred feet back and forth on paper – has sent the road designers back to the drawing board and their billing department back to their adding machines time and again.
While Dyster and DeSantis spun hard in the Gazette to make the council appear as obstructionists, bringing a nearly completed project to a halt, the truth of the matter is quite different.
The work being done now is Phase One preliminary design work, and it has risen to over a half-million dollars. While Phase One is debated as to final cost, Phase Two is nowhere in sight. Phase Two would be the actual final design of the road at a ballpark cost of another $500,000.
What’s Phase Three you ask? Well, that would be the actual construction of the road…the asphalt and concrete for at least $3,000,000 more.
The reality today, as you read this, is that Phase One is not done and the project has been on the books for over a decade. Because it’s more than 10 years old, the feds have had to give the city an extension to get the thing completed. Will it get done? And how long will it take to get done? And how much will it cost to get it done? Who knows?
The one thing for certain is that the John Daly Extension project is but one more in a long list of Dyster - DeSantis projects (court house, train station, Lewiston Road, LaSalle Waterfront Park, Underground Railroad Interpretive Center, Legends Park, Old Falls Street “store fronts,” South Junior, Hope VI, etc.) that keep consultants and contractors employed at the expense of city taxpayers through questionable change orders.
What was the initial goal of the Daly extension in the first place? It was to link downtown to Pine Avenue in order to help traffic flow and encourage commercial development.
It looks like all of that was lost in the never-ending game of change orders and escalating consultant fees in Mayor Dyster’s City Hall.