The Peekskill City Council is scheduled to vote on awarding a $2.6 million contract for the project to , Inc. at tonight’s Common Council meeting.
Peekskill-based Fourmen provided the lowest bid and was rated the highest out of all the bidders who applied for the job, the city’s engineering consultant Chuck Utschig of Birdsall Services Group told the council last week. The City is required by state law to hire the "lowest and most responsible bidder" for public projects.
However, Fourmen is also involved in pending litigation with the City of Peekskill, and the council's resolution to award Fourmen this bid has drawn criticism from some residents and a group also named in the lawsuit.
Fourmen named the city of Peekskill, Westside Neighborhood Association and several other city departments and organizations in a civil rights lawsuit filed in 2009 regarding Fourmen’s Cove Condominium project on Simpson Place. The suit came after the city placed a stop work order on the project in 2007 because the builder went above what was allowed by code by one story, according to a North County News article by Anthony Bazzo.
As litigation continues, the empty and unfinished plywood buildings that stand on a hill above Route 9 overlooking the Hudson are rotted black and considered an eyesore by many in the community.
Tina Bongar, spokesperson of the Westside Neighborhood Association (WNA), says her opinion is that the city and Scenic Hudson, which owns more than half the land involved in Peekskill Landing, are scared of being sued if they don’t select Fourmen.
“Do I think this guy should get this contract? No way, it breaks my heart,” Tina Bongar said, adding that she thinks the community should have had more advanced notice that Fourmen is the lowest responsible bidder before the council votes on awarding them the contract.
For the last three years Bongar and her neighbors have been holding fundraisers to pay their legal fees in the Fourmen lawsuit, she said. They also have growing concerns about the deteriorating plywood structures that are posing safety issues and health hazards, she said. Fourmen had agreed to drop WNA from their lawsuit but WNA chose to stay involved with the suit at a secondary level.
City council members asked Utshig for details on the bid selection process for Peekskill Landing last Monday, but none objected to his recommendation of Fourmen. Utschig said he checked all of Fourmen's references and was still in the process of checking references for Fourmen's up to six sub-contractors on Friday afternoon, according to the City Planner.
“What I personally saw as the difference between contractors, is that the lowest bidder was very well prepared for the interview process,” said Utschig. “(They) had relevant experience and understood the complexities of potential underlying hazardous material we have as an issue here,” Utschig said, explaining why Fourmen was rated the highest in the bidding process.
The WNA asked former City Manager Rick Finn to develop a “Responsible Bidder/Contractor policy” but were “essentially told it would be too much work,” Bongar said. She believes such a policy would prevent companies involved in lawsuits and with outstanding code violations from being awarded additional projects.
The city council will vote on whether or not to award Foreman the contract at tonight's Common Council meeting. Bongar plans to speak on the issue at the meeting and has asked neighbors to do the same.
The is funded by grants from New York State Empire State Development Corporation, NYS Dept. of State and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to cover the costs of this project.
It will include a kayak launch, river walkway, view finders, trellises and sculpture garden paths along 4.4 acres of Peekskill’s Hudson River waterfront by spring 2013.
How do you feel about the city hiring a company with a pending lawsuit against the city a new project?
*Editor's Note: The bid is about $2.6 million, not $2 million. We have corrected the article to reflect this.