5M project delayed Westmere FD fires contractor


GUILDERLAND — Two years after residents approved a $5 million bond for a new firehouse, the Westmere Fire District has fired the project’s contractor.

Construction that was slated to end in November might now drag on until late spring or early summer, and the cost of the project may go up.

The contractor, Florida-based DooleyMack Co., was terminated based on a number of issues with the project, including inadequate paperwork, failure to pay subcontractors, and problems with the quality of work, according to Sean Maguire, fire commissioner.

The board of fire commissioners voted to terminate the contractor at a special meeting in January, with a vote of 3-to-0, and two absences.

“Some of the board members couldn’t be there due to prior engagements, but there was a pretty good understanding that this was the right decision,” said Maguire, who made the motion to declare DooleyMack in default on the contract for a number of reasons.

DooleyMack did not return a call seeking comment.

The Westmere Fire District proposed the new firehouse early in the winter of 2010, although discussions about updating had begun in 2005.

The original building, at 1741 Western Ave., was constructed in 1956, and has had five additions in the past 54 years. When the district began reviewing the updates necessary to the current firehouse, it concluded that tearing down the original structure and building a new one it is place would cost less.

In March 2010, 254 people, out of the 377 who voted, approved the $5.27 million bond required for building the firehouse. The bond resulted in a tax increase of 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for those that live in the fire district; the increase went into effect in January.

“We will not ask for any additional funding,” said Maguire, explaining that the residents of the district won’t be faced with another bond approval despite the extension of the project.

“We’re really counting every cent to make sure this gets done on budget — not on time anymore, but on budget,” Maguire said.

The prime contractors, DooleyMack Co., were required to put up bonds and have the backing of an insurance company. Maguire said that, when the fire district made the decision to fire the contractor, it triggered the obligations of the insurance company, which guarantees that the project will continue to have financial backing.

“We had already notified the insurance company of some of the problems we were having, and it is working with its construction representative to keep some of the same sub-contractors on the job and make sure the project is completed to the extent of the contract,” said Maguire.

The new firehouse will increase in size from 15,000 square feet to almost 22,000 square feet, and is being built several feet further back from Western Avenue. The new bays will be 14 feet wide rather than eight feet, and the building will have energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, more office space, modern meeting rooms, and separate men’s and women’s showers.

The garage behind the firehouse has already been completed, but the firehouse still needs work.

“It’s disappointing to have delays on the project,” concluded Maguire, “but this is nothing too alarming.”

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