West Seneca Town Supervisor Sheila Meegan had a suggestion: file a freedom of information request for the original documents linked to the bidding for construction of the Burchfield Nature & Arts Center back in 1999.
2 On-Your-Side did just that. Meegan was unwilling to release a recent architect examination on the now-closed Burchfield Center. The report is from an architect hired to do a top to bottom review of the structure. But Meegan suggested much of the information in the report would be in those bidding documents.
It turns out, it was a good tip.
The documents provide the identities of the major players involved in construction of the building, which has a myriad of problems, among them advanced rot in the wood frame, where it attaches to the concrete foundation. As a result, the structure has shifted. In January, hardware was popping off of windows. Shortly thereafter, the building was evacuated.
So, what companies had a hand in in putting up this structure Meegan agrees was "botched"?
From a set of original blueprints, we got two names.
Nussbaumer & Clarke of Hamburg was hired to the engineering on the Burchfield project. They have not responded to our request for more information.
Also on the blueprints, the architect, Louis Design Solutions. The Buffalo firm even has a picture of the Burchfield Center prominently displayed on the company's website. The company declined to comment at this time.
Other documents supplied by the West Seneca Town Clerk's office included the bids for the general contracting job for the structure. This is the lion's share of the building cost.
There were nine bidders. The lowest bid belonged to C H Byron of Amherst at $631,000. 2 On Your Side called and paid a visit to the company offices, but we were unable to talk with the owner, James Frangos.
Later, we got a voicemail from Frangos. The message lasted about a minute. The following is a portion of that message:
“At this point, all we know is that we built that building in ’99 and it was accepted and done according to the specs. And the first we heard of any possibilities of issues was by your news reporting. Seventeen years later we’re learning there’s possibilities of issues with the building. We’re not really at liberty to make any comments or answer any additional questions regarding that at this stage because we have not been contacted by, you know, the town or anybody else."
Among the questions 2 On-Your-Side wanted to ask Frangos was about his relationship with then-West Seneca Supervisor Paul Clark. According to town board meeting minutes, when it came time to vote on giving the construction contract to C H Byron, Clark announced he was abstaining. His reason, C H Byron was a client of Clark's accounting firm.
Clark's out of politics, but still doing accounting work. His offices are across the street from town hall. And in an off-camera conversation at his workplace, Clark expressed surprise at the extent of the deterioration at the Burchfield Center. He also said his business relationship with Frangos and C H Byron played no role in the company getting the Burchfield job.
We also asked Clark about a $250 donation from Frangos to Clark's unsuccessful 2004 bid for Congress. Clark said he did not keep track of who did or did not contribute to the campaign.
Meanwhile, town officials are still milling their options on what to do with a building which may have serious structural problems. "Legal Options" have been discussed. But there is a question whether the statute of limitations may have expired on the law or rule that could be the basis for such a lawsuit.