Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, July 19, 2010

Could real cost of Tepper's basement top $1.6 million?

Asm Jerry Green joined state and local officials in toasting
the Tepper's redevelopment project.

Mystery swirls endlessly around Plainfield's Tepper's basement renovation project, not least what the total cost is going to be.

After the Robinson-Briggs administration was able to frustrate the Council's intention for a public tour of the premises during its 'retreat' in the closing days of June (see my post here), the Courier's intrepid beat reporter, Mark Spivey, was able to get into the Horizons building in an effort to inform the paper's readers of just what the city got for its $460,000 'plain vanilla box' (see story here).

But now, I'm wondering what the total is the Robinson-Briggs administration is prepared to sink into this evidently bottomless pit.

The administration has a resolution (R291-10) on tonight's Council agenda to submit an application to the state's UEZ grantors requesting $800,000 in project funding to implement 'Phase III' of the city's proposed closed circuit surveillance system for the downtown business district. (Quick quiz: How much was spent on Phases I and II and when?)

City has already applied for $345,000 for the CCTV project.

In the meantime, we are still waiting to hear on the Robinson-Briggs administration's request for $345,000 in ARRA (President Obama's Stimulus program) funding for 'the rehabilitation of vacant and unfinished space to establish a CCTV monitoring center...'

(Note that the space in question -- the Tepper's basement -- had had $460,000 in federal monies spent on it by this time, but was still being described by the Robinson-Briggs administration as 'unfinished'.)

These three grants alone total more than $1.6 million. Would that be enough to make a publicly presentable basement?

The Council needs to insist that it gets to make a thorough inspection of the Tepper's basement -- and the media should be invited to tag along.

As for the cancelled tour from the Council's retreat, the Courier reports (story here) --

...[t]he council ... continues to await a tour of the space that was requested months ago. Robinson-Briggs said the tour was scheduled to take place during the council's recent retreat, but it was postponed because several council members were not in attendance...
But the Mayor misremembers.

There were, after all, members of the public present at the Council's 'retreat' when Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson explained there would be no tour.

Williamson did quite a bit of tapdancing in denying the tour -- beginning with asserting that [Public Works Superintendent] John Louise needed time to 'make it presentable', and then suggesting that 'the landlord may have reasons -- of safety -- why the general public can't be allowed in', and only lastly offering that since there were only three councilors present (McWilliams, Mapp and Carter) that it would be better to postpone the tour. (Quotes are from my notes taken that day.)

Who is 'the landlord'?

The space has been dedicated to the city in perpetuity, so is the city not the landlord?

Secondly, the 'safety' issue needs to be cleared up. What safety issue?

The building has 75 apartments, mostly occupied, and must have a certificate of occupancy -- meaning that it must be safe and habitable. Additionally, the fire department is responsible for assuring that fire codes are met.

Presuming these are all current, what possible safety conditions could there be with simply taking a stroll through the 'plain vanilla' basement?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

Again, we get shade from our mayor and administration on this issue and accountability when it comes to spending money. Our mayor seems to spend the tax payers' money like it was inexhaustible. There is a limit and soon I hope the citizens of Planfield will be at an end with this corrupt administration.

Rob said...

Remember ... it could be worse.. it could be the "free" Senior Center on Front Street....
--- Isn't it sad, in Plainfield we have to base financial stupidity on what's worse than the previous or next simpleton maneuver....

Anonymous said...

It seems as though access is being denied. Someone ought to get the keys and go have a look. This is not the Mayor's property. It is the people's property.