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CSSP to Resubmit Proposal in 45 Days

Trustees, residents seek clarification on state grant

St. Paul’s was yet again the hot-button topic of the board meeting held at Village Hall last Thursday. Garden City Mayor Donald Brudie announced that the Committee to Save St. Paul’s (CSSP) will resubmit a proposal to preserve the historic village building more than two weeks after presenting its updated plan to the board and requesting trustees sign a letter of support for a $400,000 state grant.

At the Oct. 20 board meeting, the mayor announced that he received a letter from Committee to Save St. Paul’s President Peter Negri stating their intention: “This letter referred to the proposal submitted on September 9, 2011 regarding the Committee to Save St. Paul’s and the Garden City Historical Society’s proposal to preserve St. Paul’s for public use. We are in the process of updating our proposal and will resubmit to the board within 45 days.”

As a result of the news, Trustee Dennis Donnelly made a motion to withdraw a new business item on the village board agenda requesting a referral of the latest proposal of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s to an interdisciplinary Architectural and Engineering forensic and consulting firm Erwin-Lobo-Bielinski, PLLC, to review compare and evaluate the CSSP plan with submissions and report back to the board of trustees their findings.

“That becomes a moot point since there is no proposal currently in front of the board and, hopefully, we can work with the committee to come up with a reasonable proposal that we can all look forward to,” Donnelly commented.

Trustee Nicholas Episcopia asked for additional information about the updated proposal. “What is the nature of what the Committee (CSSP) is going to do and submit to us?”

Mayor Brudie cut the short the discussion by saying the questions were beyond the scope of the matter at hand. “We haven’t seen their new proposal, so you are speculating. We don’t know but they are asking for an adjournment to come in and present something in addition,” Brudie said.

Episcopia further probed the subject asking if the CSSP would present their proposal with the same group of consultants and contractors as before. Trustee Andrew Cavanaugh said he had conversations with Peter Negri and confirmed it will be the people who have been involved to date plus additional parties.

At the Oct. 6 board of trustees meeting, five trustees declined to vote on a letter of support for a $400,000 grant needed by the CSSP to keep the project moving forward.

During a period of public commentary, former trustee and chair of the Mayor’s Committee to Save St. Paul’s Tom Lamberti said he was ‘stunned’ by the recent developments.  

“I can’t fathom what happened so maybe you can offer some explanation other than the fact that you received a letter. There have been three iterations of the Committee to Save St. Paul’s proposal, starting in June 2010, and there have been minor changes as we’ve gone along…So what happened?” Lamberti inquired.

Lamberti additionally reminded the board that the village already hired an architect for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). “There is an Appendix M, which goes into great detail reviewing the CSSP proposal on June 2010, which is 90 percent unchanged.”

Mayor Brudie assured Lamberti that all of the issues he raised will be addressed in the future. “We haven’t made any decisions,” Brudie said.

At the last board meeting, trustees and the CSSP agreed to allow Garden City’s counsel five days to review the documents for legal issues that may arise. The board was expected to vote on the letter of support for the grant at a special meeting, but it was canceled.

Resident Jerie Newman commended Trustees DeMaro, Donnelly, Daughney, Episcopia and Quinn for refusing to sign the letter of support before having all the facts. She asked what the counsel had found out about the parameters of the grant.

The mayor said, “I don’t think that I would ever accept a state or a federal grant for village, municipal property because they virtually could control you on all your decisions…there are a lot of strings attached in these grants. So I didn’t see any point in holding a special meeting to discuss the grant. That’s why the meeting was canceled.”

Counsel Gerard Fishberg additionally clarified that the one thing that stood out as a concern was a requirement that the village sign a preservation covenant as part of the grant.

“The point was, as the mayor indicated, there would be an awful lot of control by the state in making specific decisions on how the project would be undertaken and what materials might be used and that could have very much affected the price of the project,” Fishberg concurred.