Crews were busy inside the Derby Parking Garage Saturday anchoring slabs of aluminum composite panels to protect the public from the (potential of) falling concrete.
In a press release issued Friday night, Mayor Anita Dugatto announced employees from IDA International on Roosevelt Drive in Derby would be doing the work “to protect the public safety of persons who use the garage and the economy of downtown Derby.”
But not everyone is on board with the work.
On Sunday, Aldermen Carmen DiCenso, a Democrat, and David Lenart, a Republican, toured the garage with members of the Derby Parking Authority and questioned why the mayor (a Democrat) decided to scrap a plan hammered out by the city’s legislative body.
“I just don’t understand why we’re jumping the gun here. We gave the parking authority a directive last week,” DiCenso said.
The Board of Aldermen ordered the parking garage closed Feb. 27, after an engineer hired by the parking authority told elected officials that parts of the structure should probably be off limits to the public.
In addition, DiCenso attended the Feb. 27 meeting with a 2-foot piece of concrete that had fallen off the ceiling.
On Tuesday, March 4, the Board of Aldermen unanimously tasked the Derby Parking Authority to come up with a written plan for addressing 64 spots in the garage where concrete could fall from the ceiling. The authority was to submit a plan to the Aldermen, which the Aldermen were to approve or reject — and then do the work to implement the plan.
The idea was to purchase netting and put it on the ceiling at various spots, and to put down cones to keep the public and vehicles away from other trouble spots. In all, about 34 parking spaces were affected.
It’s unclear as to precisely why the mayor abandoned the Aldermen’s course of action. She was unavailable Sunday.
But, Dugatto may have wanted to speed the situation along.
The nets were to be special-ordered to the tune of $4,000 and would have taken at least two weeks to arrive, said Joseph Moore, the chairman of the Derby Parking Authority.
“I think she’s in a lot of pressure by the restaurants and businesses to get it open again,” Moore said.
Judy Szewczyk, a Republican who serves on the Derby Board of Apportionment and Taxation, used her Clearly Derby Facebook page to complain about the situation. Szewczyk’s husband, Tony, is a member of the Derby Parking Authority.
“Who is paying for this? It is not in the City budget. Who approved this? Is there a structural engineer who has approved this procedure?” she asked, via her Facebook page.
Tom Harbinson is the co-owner of IDA International, Inc. on Roosevelt Drive in Derby.
He said his company decided to help the city after the mayor reached out. The aluminum composite panels were anchored using metal large metal screws deep into the ceiling.
It’s a perfectly safe and effective way to set up a barrier from spalling concrete and the public, he said.
The panels were donated to the city at no charge. The city will be receiving a bill for labor. The amount of money wasn’t known Sunday.
Harbinson took to Clearly Derby’s Facebook page over the weekend to assure the public that the panels were not “glued” to the ceiling, a representation that circulated on social media Saturday and Sunday.
Harbinson also posted before and after pictures showing the work that had been done Saturday.
Moore, of the Derby Parking Authority, pointed out the work being done had not been officially signed off by an engineer — something the Board of Aldermen had ordered.
Harbinson said the city can spend thousands of dollars on an engineering report if it so wishes.
“This is not meant to be a fix that says ‘OK, we’re done here, we can step away from the parking garage for the next five or 10 years,’” Harbinson said. “There are obviously some issues with that garage that need to be addressed.”
Only about six or so panels had been affixed to the ceiling by Sunday morning.
Long-term, the dilapidated structure needs some $7 million in major repairs. The city has been discussing seeking voter permission to borrow the money to pay for the work.
IDA International specializes in facade work. The company has worked on everything from the Good Morning America building in Manhattan to the Toys ‘R Us store in Times Square.
Harbinson said IDA International was willing to step in because they wanted to help the community, particularly fellow businesses that have been affected by the parking garage closure.
“We’re a business in town that recognizes the value of that parking garage to not only the community, but other businesses in town. It’s impacting the business community and so we’re stepping up, while minimizing the cost to the city.”
The Derby Parking Authority has scheduled a meeting for 6:30 p.m. tonight (Monday, March 10) in Derby City Hall to discuss the matter further.
The Derby Board of Aldermen has a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 11. There was talk Sunday of adding the parking garage to the agenda.