The way I see it the administration had a choice … Planning Department Commissioner Bill Dunne or City Engineer Russ Reeves.
The two have clashed on more than one occasion and even came close to fist-a-cuffs at one point. This time, it appears, the administration made up its mind and went with Dunne because Reeves apparently had had enough and submitted his resignation earlier this week.
The latest dust-up revolves around the demolition of 12 buildings at the old King Fuels site in South Troy. The project was through the Local Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental body where Dunne serves as executive director.
In his resignation letter dated Monday, Reeves said engineering work was done by non-engineers and that the demolition crew had come close enough to a main gas line putting public safety in grave danger. As such, since he is the city engineer, he said his license was also in danger should anything have happened. There are a number of ancillary stories depending on who you talk to, but that’s the gist of it.
I’m not saying who is wrong or right, but despite the two not hitting it off the process at King Fuels has been ongoing and, to say the least, convoluted.
-On June 7, 2013 the LDC, which owns the King Fuels site, requested bids to take down 12 buildings. The RFB included performing an asbestos survey, asbestos abatement and the removal of all friable material.
-Before the bids were due on June 20, 2013 the LDC withdrew the RFB, citing the need for an asbestos survey first. The FRB clearly states the contractor who is awarded the bid would need to perform the asbestos survey but the lack of one is the reason it was withdrawn.
-In November, 2013, according to LDC minutes, two of the buildings were condemned and were to be taken down by emergency decree. The board said it had set aside $200,000 for the demolition and were entertaining three bids with the award eventually going to Provincial Contracting Services. Since the buildings were vacant for at least a couple decades, it’s unclear why the emergency demolition was necessary on the isolated, unpopulated site.
-In December, 2013, according to the minutes, Dunne told the board demolition could not proceed on two of the buildings – it’s unclear if it’s the two buildings mentioned above – until Reeves obtained an engineering report.
-In January, the LDC Facebook page shows photos of a company knocking down the former Benzoil building, one of the 12 listed in the June, 2013 RFB. The January minutes also mention an engineering report related to two of the buildings and to a gas line – presumably the one mentioned above that sparked the latest Dunne/Reeves pissing match.
-On March 1, a Saturday, the LDC again requested demolition bids using a website called BidNet, a site that charges either by the month or the year. The bids were due on March 6 and Casale Construction was low bidder out of five companies and was awarded the contract. Work on the site was ongoing until last Friday when it was shut down because of the gas line. It has since picked up again. Here are the TLDC March minutes. I'm awaiting the answer to a FOIL request to see the particulars of the RFB.
-When Reeves submitted his resignation he cited the gas line and public safety as the most recent threat to his engineering license, but he also referred to the controversial King Street demolition where patrons of Bombers were seen coming and going while the asbestos ridden building next door was demolished as per emergency decree. He was asked for an emergency demolition permit but refused, according to sources, so the demo was ordered by Fire Chief Tom Garrett while Reeves was on vacation.
-Reeves was invited to Albany by the FBI to talk about that project as well as redevelopment of the Scolite property and the controversial construction of sidewalks in North Central.
-Dunne is front and center in all three projects and some Democrats are wondering how much longer he will survive in his present position.
-The Council, according to President Rodney Wiltshire, is set to look into what transpired at King Fuels and it will be interesting to see if they utilize subpoena power.
-Reeves met with Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan and Corporation Counsel Ian Silverman Tuesday morning.
-There are fears in City Hall that the administration will go after some of those close to Reeves, for what reason I’m not sure but the fears are very real.
-I don’t think this one is over yet. Never let it be said I don’t have a knack for the painfully obvious.