From the May 7th Chapel Hill Town Council agenda:

We estimate the following budget is needed to continue carrying out the implementation of the Lot 5 project in accordance with the Town’s responsibilities under the Development Agreement through June 30, 2008:

Environmental Remediation: $240,000
Construction Management Services: $150,000
Professional Services: $65,000
Peer Review Honorarium: $5,000

TOTAL: $460,000

Note how last months quote of $232,000 for environmental remediation has climbed to $240,000. Also, as I expected but not as reported by Council (until now), the anticipated additional cost of construction management ($150,000), legal and geologic services (really part of the remediation) and a reward to Dean Malecha.

I asked Council to publish a breakout of these costs several times this year. I’ve also asked for a concise listing of what we’ve spent on Stainback (the development consultant) and other services getting to this point.

Still no response.

Some on Council are getting better and better at stonewalling and running out the clock to get their way. Clever strategy if you see governance as a game. Terrible policy if you believe in an educated and informed public.

Mayor Pro Tem Strom essentially tabled my recent petition asking for the financial analysis of the remediation effort. Why? I assume to avoid what we both know – this projects costs are going nowhere but up.

Whatever analysis the Town has done on remediation or consultancy costs should be published immediately. The Council owes the citizenry a public airing of that work prior to approving this years budget and possible tax increase.

How enthusiastic would folks be about a boondoggle of a project that’s added significantly to their tax burden? Not much, I imagine. But if that’s going to be the case, Council, no matter the electoral consequences, our citizens deserve an honest appraisal.

Here are the details:

Environmental Remediation: The Town recently commissioned a Phase II Environmental Assessment for the Lot 5 site. Based on the report by Environmental Consulting Services dated April 2, 2007, we estimate the cost to the Town for environmental remediation is about $240,000. Under the terms of the Development Agreement, the Town would pay for the marginal cost of removal of contaminated soil; that is, those costs related to environmental remediation above and beyond Ram Development Company’s normal construction cost of hauling soil off-site.

Construction Management Services: In accordance with the Manager’s recommendation to Council on February 12, 2007, the Town would contract for services related to design review and construction management of the parking deck and public plaza to be constructed on Lot 5. We would potentially hire someone in the fourth quarter of 2006-07 to undertake detailed plan review. Work would continue through initiation of construction, estimated to occur in summer, 2008, and completion of construction, estimated to occur in 2010. We estimate a budget of $150,000 would be needed for these services.

Professional Services: We estimate a budget of $65,000 is needed for additional professional services, including environmental testing and legal services.

Additional environmental testing is related to the Town’s environmental remediation responsibilities in the Development Agreement. In addition to the Phase II environmental assessment, we would expect to engage a geologist during excavation to monitor soils. The requested budget would give flexibility to undertake additional tests or studies. We estimate additional funds will be needed for legal services related to negotiation and implementation of the Development Agreement through June 2007, and for additional limited services in FY 2007-2008.

Peer Review Honorarium: We propose an honorarium of $5,000 for Dean Marvin Malecha’s work related to the peer review of Ram’s proposed designs. The Town’s original letter of agreement with Dean Malecha contemplated such an arrangement (please see Attachment 1). To date, the Dean has led nine peer review sessions with Ram Development Company. Written reports accompany his pro bono work. We anticipate he will conduct one additional session later in the project design process. The honorarium would go into a scholarship fund at the NC State School of Design.

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