Lehigh Valley

Easton takes step toward building new 4th Street Garage

EASTON, Pa. - A parking garage on North Fourth Street in Easton is getting closer to reality after Easton City Council approved a proposal for professional design services for the garage from Pennoni Associates. The vote was 6-1 at council's Wednesday meeting.

Pennoni Associates, an engineering firm in Bethlehem, will pair with Site Design Group, a Chicago-based architecture firm, for the project. The tab for Pennoni's services will be $270,000.

Councilman Peter Melan, who voted against the proposal, asked if it could be moved to a committee meeting taking place in two weeks. Melan explained that he was concerned with the finances for the garage.

"We haven't seen a request for a proposal (RFP)," Melan said. "For $270,000, I feel like there's hidden costs that we're going to see at some point in the future, and that concerns me."

Easton Mayor Sal Panto said that the Fourth Street garage has to be built before the Pine Street garage can be rebuilt. Panto noted that the new garage has faced numerous delays.

"I know we've delayed this and it's really going to affect the Pine Street garage," Panto said. "We can't take Pine Street down until we have a place to have (people) park."

Melan indicated that he was concerned about costs because the city was on a "hiring freeze."

Panto clarified and said that the city was not on a hiring freeze but rather a hiring review.

"We're not on a hiring freeze," Panto said. "We want to make sure we end up this year, the same as we do every year. The firefighter overtime has killed our budget so we need to cut back in other locations, and some of that is increasing revenue, not necessarily cutting positions."

City Administrator Luis Campos said that the $270,000 would come out of a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program fund (RACP). Campos said that the money has to be utilized or it would disappear.

Melan said that the city would have to pay the $270,000 out of pocket first and then would be reimbursed by the RACP funds.

Melan also wondered whether the city would be going into a contract with Site Design.

Public Works Director Dave Hopkins said that Pennoni would have the contract with Site Design with no obligation to the city.

Hopkins said that careful consideration went into picking out a consultant for the garage. The city used the Pennbid system, which helps match buyers and sellers in order to maintain cost-efficient development, according to Hopkins. He said they spoke at length with Pennoni to make sure they understood the requirements in the RFP.

"They believed they've covered their costs," Hopkins said. "I feel the process was thorough. We ended up with a great proposal."

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