By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA — The long-time-coming Clinton Park gazebo is now complete after a year of construction, city officials said. The first wedding was held at the structure a few weeks ago, but despite the successful build, the process hasn’t come without criticism.
Many residents have questioned how the gazebo, which was originally set to be complete last October, took an extra 11 months to finish.
City Engineer Jason LaMonaco said unexpected setbacks caused the delay and the contractor dealt with them accordingly. The majority of the holdup was due to problems with the foundation of the structure.
“The entire base wasn’t solid like we thought it was,” he said. “So we had to do modifications on the columns and the railings for the project.”
Contractors then waited for the ground to freeze to complete some construction on the structure, but didn’t have much luck when the area experienced a warmer than usual winter. The ground never froze, and workers gave up on the original plans and completed a total restoration of the foundation, pushing the bulk of the structural work to the spring.
The completion comes after squabbles with the contractors to finish up items on the city’s punch list — like the tightening of a railing and paint work. Eventually, the contractor agreed to do the work. But the disagreement over who was responsible for the repairs delayed the project an additional few weeks.
Although the project took longer than expected, the budget for the reconstruction was only $3,000 over the original goal. Initial bids put the undertaking at $69,000, and in the end, it cost $72,000.
“Typically we expect 10 percent change orders,” LaMonaco said. “The issues that we ran into created a time delay more than an actual dollar amount.”
Taxpayers shouldered most of the burden for the project, and although a fundraiser did help, it didn’t come up with the kind of funds organizers were hoping for â€” only raising about $3,000.
The structure appears very similar to the old gazebo, which collapsed in 2010 and injured two workers in the process. Modern materials were used this time around. The columns are steel, instead of the original wood, and have a fiber glass shell for appearance purposes.
“We did have a committee that included the city clerk to make sure the structure was as close to the original as possible,” LaMonaco said.
Mayor Ron Pilozzi announced a grand opening ceremony scheduled for Oct. 19 at the Common Council’s Sept. 18 meeting, but Pilozzi took some flak from the meeting’s attendees, with one resident asking what year the ceremony would take place in.
Despite the criticism, Pilozzi is excited about the October event.
“We are looking forward to it,” Pilozzi said. “It is beautiful at night lit up, and it has a better sound system built into it than we ever have. It’s great to be able to stand here and say it is done.”
Pilozzi said the organizers of the fundraiser, including John White, are in charge of the coming grand opening. Even with the injuries occurring on city time and delayed construction, Pilozzi is proud of the city’s rebuilding of the structure, which has been around in some form or another for decades.
“It’s like being a boxer,” he said. “You get knocked down and get back up again.”
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.