The long-awaited Manville Road streetscape and civic space project has once again been put on hold after fiscal uncertainties caused by the pandemic have driven Pleasantville officials to postpone the work until 2022.
At last week’s Village Board work session, the board unanimously approved an extension offered for the work from the state Department of Transportation. The village had previously prepared the necessary forms for the project to submit to the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and a Request for Proposal (RFP) from contractors by Dec. 31.
By extending the project’s timeline, the village now expects to post the RFP by November 2021 and have work begin in Spring 2022.
Village Administrator Eric Morrissey said the DOT extension would allow time to make any adjustments to the project.
“The DOT has offered us an extension on the project given the uncertainty that COVID has brought about on the economic side of things,” Morrissey said.
The initial estimate, including the civic space, was about $3.5 million. But sharply escalating construction prices in other local municipal projects over the past year have increased the projected cost of the Manville Road portion of the work. In July 2019, the village voted on a $2.6 million bond resolution so they could borrow up to that amount if needed.
“Due to the stratospheric build-up of public works projects, the project is likely going to cost us over $4 million,” Mayor Peter Scherer said. “I’m not in favor of going ahead with a project that would cost the village $2.5 million in bonds in the current (economic) environment. I’d love to see it happen but at the moment I think it’s too rich for our blood.”
The DOT has already awarded a $1.5 million federal grant for the Manville Road work and the village had planned on providing a 50 percent match. The project would remove the Memorial Plaza slip lane leading to Manville Road and replace it with a right-turn lane, a new traffic light and crosswalks, and a civic space and pocket park.
Complicating the board’s decision is the potential $3 million expense to fix or rebuild the Village Pool. Former village trustee Jonathan Cunningham, who surveyed Pleasantville residents on that project last fall, reminded the board of the bigger picture of the village budget.
“You need to figure out if the (village) budget incorporates the pool project and then tell the residents how you envision it,” he said.
Cunningham added that if the board agreed to spend more than $4 million on the original Manville Road and civic space plan, then they should go ahead with the bid and not ask for an extension.
Trustee Nicole Asquith, who was sworn in to her second three-year term last Tuesday evening, suggested exploring other options for the planned public space.
“To me the biggest hindrance to having a public space right now is that it’s not the time for a public gathering of any sort,” Asquith said. “But there would be ways to explore creating a civic space with a smaller budget.”
One idea is to limit the scope of the civic space project. That would require altering parts of the village application to the DOT while keeping some of the existing specifications and engineering models.
Morrissey said changing the scope of the civic space work might prolong the process, and a different plan could jeopardize losing the grant, which is predicated on existing plans.
Fitting the plan to match available funds was also suggested. Trustee Joseph Stargiotti suggested breaking the project into three phases.
“We can complete the south end by Grant Street, the intersection and behind the war monument and save the rest of the project for later,” Stargiotti said. “We can always apply for another grant.”
Newly sworn-in Trustee Paul Alvarez agreed with requesting the DOT extension.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of residents and many are divided on what we should focus on,” Alvarez said. “Some are saying we don’t need to fix it (Memorial Plaza) while others say we should give more to the pool. We’re going through a difficult time with the virus and with one more year we can figure out what direction we’re going to take.”
Once the DOT extension is granted, the village expects to discuss details of how the project might change.
The village had hoped to start the Manville Road streetscape this past spring and begin construction on the civic space next year.