AUBURN — The Equal Rights Heritage Center is taking the next step toward completion following the Auburn City Council's approval of two resolutions regarding the project.
Council unanimously approved the site's State Environmental Quality Review and authorized City Manager Jeff Dygert to advertise construction bids for the project.
Part of the environmental review requires city staff to determine what, if any, impacts a project will have on surrounding areas. Initial reviews identified a "potentially moderate to large impact" concerning historic and archaeological resources, as well as transportation. However, both of those impacts were later determined to have no impact upon further review.
The New York State Historic Preservation Office indicated in a letter to the city that after further review of the project's architectural plans, SHPO officials found "no adverse impact on cultural resources."
Similarly, while 80 parking spots will be lost as a result of the project, the city will continue to make improvements to the Lincoln Street parking garage to make up for the lost spots. According to a parking study conducted downtown in April, the parking garage is underutilized and 250 parking spots in the garage go unused on an average day.
When New York state officials visited Auburn on Sept. 15 to announce the official name of the welcome center, they said the plan is to begin construction by March 2018 and and have the center open to the public by the fall.
Councilor Jimmy Giannettino noted that one of the original goals of the city's Historical and Cultural Sites Commission, which was formed over 20 years ago, was to build a welcome center in Auburn.
"It's coming to fruition and it's an exciting time," Giannettino said, adding that tourism brought over $100 million into Cayuga County last year.
Mayor Michael Quill agreed, saying tourism is a "big boost" to the local economy.
Additionally, the council approved to accept a $100,000 state Department of Transportation grant that will allow the downtown Centro bus transfer station to move from Lincoln Street to Dill Street. According to the council resolution, "the relocation of the Auburn Centro bus transfer station is necessary in order to further the Equal Rights Heritage Center project."
In other news
• City council members unanimously agreed to finance the additional money needed to update a portion of the city's water distribution system, also known as the North Street Water Main Project.
During the Sept. 28 council meeting, Director of Municipal Utilities Seth Jensen said the scope of the work has expanded since the council originally voted to fiance the project in April 2016.
The projected cost to reconstruct the city's water distribution system has more than doubled…
"I understand the cost of this project is expanding but it's also important to note that the scope of the project expanded," Giannettino said. "If we're going to do it, I think it's important to do it right and do it correct the first time."
The additional work is expected to cost more than double the project's original budget of $1,045,000, for a total project cost of $2.2 million. The project received a $627,000 grant from the state Environmental Facilities Corporation to help fund the repairs.
The original scope of work included replacing pipes on North Street from Carpenter and York streets and York Street from North to Wiley streets.
The most expensive change to the project involves replacing 1,000 feet of pipes on York Street between Willey Street and the Chase Street extension. This section of pipes was not properly installed, Jensen said last week, and has caused multiple water-main breaks in the area, which has negatively impacted operations at the NUCOR Steel plant. NUCOR officials recently invested $30 million in its Auburn facility.
"An action like this is very important," Councilor Terry Cuddy said. "We're following through on our promise to manufacturing in Auburn."
Gallery: Latest look at Auburn welcome center
A gallery of renderings of the new Equal Rights Heritage Welcome Center in downtown Auburn.
The first three pictures are updated designs that were displayed at Hochul's announcement Friday. The remaining pictures depict the architecture firm's initial plans, which were unveiled in May.