Town Hall repairs a long time coming

Parapet problems identified in 2009; DPW commish says town could have moved faster

It had been well over a year after concerns about the stability of the Bethlehem Town Hall parapet had been raised when it came crashing down earlier this week, crushing four cars parked underneath the building's facade.

It was also about 10 months after the funding to repair the parapet, which is original to the 1920s-era building, was first put to the Town Board. As the dust settles, town officials have been left to explain how process and planning difficulties conspired to push the work back past the summer building season.

Board considered parapet in April

In April of 2010, the Town Board considered about $1.8 million in bonding resolutions, included amongst them repairs to the parapet and the courthouse roof.

Records of that meeting and past Spotlight articles show members of the Town Board were in favor of repairing those items. But they show no action was taken at that meeting or the next one, when most of the rest of the bonding packages were approved.

Instead, the next time the repairs came up was Aug. 11, when the board voted to contract with the firm of Barton and Loguidice for design work.

The bond resolution did not only include repair work, though. Packaged with it were upgrades to Town Hall amounting to about $365,000, the majority of which would cover expansions to the comptroller and human resources offices.

This touched off a heated debate on the Town Board. Members said the extra work was unnecessary and sprung on them by Supervisor Sam Messina, leading to a delay on the bonding vote.

Messina then and now characterized the expansions as necessary. Staffing changes left employees without places to work, he said.

"I personally tried to move this forward as quickly as I can with strong recommendations from staff," he said. "Action steps got delayed a little. You have a month or two delay here and there, and pretty soon you're up to six months."

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