Transit center chugs to life

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 18, 2012

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The Troy City Council has struck a deal to make a multi-modal transit center a reality.

Councilman Wade Fleming swung the vote to approve a contract with Hubbell, Roth & Clark to construct a transit center capped at $6.27 million, including contingencies, at a Jan. 17 special meeting.

Council members Dane Slater and Jim Campbell, and Mayor Pro Tem Maureen McGinnis supported it. Mayor Janice Daniels, and Councilmen Doug Tietz and Dave Henderson opposed the measure.

Fleming had initially proposed capping costs at $5 million, then $6 million at a Dec. 19 meeting, but the proposals got no support from council members.

In September, the city received an $8.4 million federal grant for the project at Maple and Coolidge that must be allocated within two years.

Fleming explained that after the Dec. 19 meeting, he asked the Troy Chamber of Commerce to commit to a business plan to mitigate operational costs, estimated to be approximately $31,000 a year. He said he met with Planning Commissioner and architect John Tagle, who is a member of the Troy chamber, at his office Dec. 20 to explore building a facility for $6 million. Mark Miller, director of economic and community development for the city of Troy, and Slater joined them.

Slater, Fleming, Miller and Planning Commissioner and architect Tom Strat then met with representatives of HRC Dec. 23 to discuss reducing the cost of the center from $8 million to $6 million.

Fleming said he was unable to attend the Jan. 9 council meeting due to a family emergency and requested that consideration of the matter be delayed until he could return.

“No violation of the Open Meetings Act occurred,” Fleming said. “I offered a compromise, and the door was left open.

“I had not made up my mind until today,” he added.

Michele Hodges, president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, submitted a statement in writing that the chamber would submit a sustainable business model by March 1 aimed to generate a long-term revenue stream over the life of the transit center. Hodges said that possibilities include demonstration projects that generate revenue, educational tools, informational kiosks, vendors and tenants, and naming sponsorships.

“We are confident,” Hodges said. “We see this as a great opportunity to relieve the tax burden on residents. We will not rely on philanthropy. We’re excited to be a part and contribute meaningfully.”

“This is a compromise,” Slater said. “It’s not exactly what I wanted.”

HRC Vice President Walter Alix said the firm looked into reducing costs at its own expense. He said the scaled-down facility will meet federal grant requirements.

Changes to the $8.4 million plans include shrinking the plaza, lowering the height for elevators, reducing the height of the train platform from 300 feet to 200 feet, eliminating canopies on the platform, reducing landscaping, eliminating heated sidewalks, milling down — rather than reconstructing — Doyle Drive, eliminating a green roof and other green features, and changing the design of the 24,000-square-foot bridge leading to the train tracks.

“You still have a very prominent project … an iconic gateway to Troy,” Michael Kirk, of HRC, said.

Troy City Manager John Szerlag said the city will hire a construction manager to oversee the project. “They are given a budget, and that’s how much they have to work with,” he said.

“As long as there are no changes in the scope (of the project), the construction manager is responsible for cost overruns,” City Engineer Steve Vandette said.

Tietz said the chamber’s letter of commitment contained no details. “I can count to four, (referring to the four council members he believed would support plan). “I’m voting no, but I’m cautiously optimistic. We have to move together as a city.”

Reactions of members of the public, who were permitted to comment after the vote because it was special meeting, were mixed.

Rob Carrigan said that there is no high-speed rail infrastructure to support the transit center.

“It’s a train wreck with regard to the system it supports,” he said.

“I’m very disappointed the public didn’t put their two cents worth in before the vote,” Paul Beck said.

“Tonight was groundbreaking and good press,” Cynthia Wilsher said. “If you don’t like it, move.”

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