Saratoga Springs picks high bid for EMS/fire station project

Saratoga Springs picks high bid for EMS/fire station project

Heuber-Breuer came in nearly $250,000 more than lowest bidder

Photo of Wendy Liberatore
Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Joseph Dolan speak outside of Saratoga Springs City Hall on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Behind him is Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton and Mayor Meg Kelly. His committee approved a higher bid for the construction of an eastside fire and EMS station. City Council unanimously approved it Tuesday. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

Saratoga Springs Fire Chief Joseph Dolan speak outside of Saratoga Springs City Hall on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Behind him is Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton and Mayor Meg Kelly. His committee approved a higher bid for the construction of an eastside fire and EMS station. City Council unanimously approved it Tuesday. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

Lori Van Buren/Times Union

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The City Council has awarded the long-awaited eastside firehouse and EMS station bid to a Syracuse company that will charge nearly $250,000 more than the lowest qualified bidder, raising concerns among some City Hall employees.

Hueber-Breuer Construction was unanimously awarded the bid of $595,320 on Tuesday night over three other lower-bidding contractors: Sano-Rubin Construction Services at $350,962 and GYMO, DPC at $369,460 and Colliers Project Leaders USA NE at $430,500.

“There was a number of bids and (Hueber-Breuer) wasn’t the low bid,” said Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, who brought the motion on the bid award forward at the meeting. “But public safety (department) wanted to go with (Hueber-Breuer), even though there were lower bids. They said (the others) weren’t qualified to do it. That was their reasoning.”

But a string of internal city emails show that there was concern with going forward with the Hueber-Breuer bid for project director. 

City Assistant Purchasing Agent Stefanie Richards told Assistant Fire Chief Aaron Dyer that she needed justification as to why the department was going with a higher bidder. Richards told him she needed “to make sure we have everything covered for the auditors.”

“With this large of a pricing difference, we need the details please,” Richards wrote him.

She also wondered why GYMO was never interviewed for the job because “they were the second lowest."

In another email, Karen Perrino, of public safety, pressed Dyer to provide her with “documentation/explanation as to why we aren’t going with the lower bidders.”

Dyer, in an email to Perrino, said it was the decision of the building committee, which was made up of Dyer, Fire Chief Joseph Dolan, Assistant Police Chief John Catone and City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis.

Marilyn Rivers, the city's director of risk and safety, was also concerned.

In an email to DeLeonardis she wrote "given the tremendous pricing difference in the responses received ... I remain concerned about this situation. ... Please confirm the review process of the responses received and the award of bid is in no way violated any NYS OGS or NYS Comptroller regulations." 

The construction management bid summary reported that Colliers and Sano-Rubin “have experience in construction of Fire/EMS/Emergency facilities.” But it also noted that Hueber-Breuer has "the most relevant experience out of all the companies that submitted bids ... This experience is invaluable for this project.”

Commissioner of Public Safety Robin Dalton, who shared a portion of the document with the Times Union, said she didn’t want to comment further on the cost.

The city actually got six bids that meet all requirements for the station, two that were higher than Hueber-Breuer from C&L Contracting Corp. at $721,248 and DCI Construction Management Services at $787,120.

Because Hueber-Breuer came on the high end, Franck said he wouldn't have proposed accepting the bid without City Attorney DeLeonardis' pre-approving the deal.

“I’ve been called in by the state on other contracts,” Franck said. “I wouldn’t have moved forward on it unless the city attorney signed off.”  

DeLeonardis said all the bids were "thoroughly reviewed and provided due consideration" based upon the request for proposal criteria.

"While cost is always an important factor, so too is experience and expertise and the evaluations were appropriately based upon the totality of the submissions and information provided during the in-person interviews with the selected firms," DeLeonardis wrote in an email to the Times Union.

The city has estimated the entire project to come in at a cost of $6.7 million and was part of last year's capital budget. On Tuesday, the City Council also unanimously approve the bond for the project, thus said Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan, the money is there to pay for the construction.

The station, that residents on the eastside have wanted for years, is planned to be a 16,000-square foot facility off Henning Road on state land bordering the Saratoga Race Course’s Oklahoma Training Track.

Despite the desire for the station, which would be the city's third, finding a location has been difficult. In 2014, the city agreed to a three-way land deal to secure property on Union Avenue by selling a piece of city property on Broadway. However, the deal was halted by the state Attorney General in 2017 when it was revealed the other two parties, Ben and Joel Aronson, were father and son.

That issue hasn't been fully resolved. In July 2020, Ben Aronson filed suit against the city, seeking to complete the sale of 0.48 acres of land on Broadway to him, claiming the city kept his $1,000 deposit.

That same month, neighbors to the current proposed site, including the Republican mayoral candidate Heidi Owen West, took the city to court to try to reverse the decision to build off of Henning Road. Supreme Court Judge Ann Crowell denied the request, allowing the city to move ahead with the station.

Though Dalton didn't want to talk about costs, she did release a statement on the station's construction, saying it "will enable the city to provide public safety coverage for the long underserved eastern plateau.

"As Commissioner of Public Safety, I will continue to work with council members and staff to ensure that nothing interferes with the completion of this project," said Dalton, one of three people running for mayor this fall. "Delivering long needed services to our fellow Saratogians is proceeding full steam ahead and is closer than ever before.”