By JAIME STUDD
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Renovations to the village municipal offices are in full swing as the building's entire first floor is slowly transformed into a brand new, state-of-the art work space.
Among the renovations under way are the installation of a brand new HVAC system, a complete electrical system upgrade, the installation of a new phone and Internet system, smoke detectors and additional insulation.
In addition, the entire first floor of the building is being transformed, employing a new layout that will include additional office, meeting and storage spaces, new bathroom facilities and the inclusion of a common hallway that will serve both sides of what once was a completely segregated first floor.
Though included in Fonda Mayor Bill Peeler's original proposal, new windows were deemed not to be necessary.
Peeler said he also had to hold off converting the building's second floor into a large multi-purpose meeting space because the cost of the elevator that would be required to make the space handicapped accessible far exceeded what was budgeted for the project.
"We kind of squashed that for now, but as we move forward into the future, as we have the money, my plans include completing the upstairs one hundred percent and then making that available for use to the public as well," Peeler said. "I'd like to see some Red Cross classes come in and things of that nature. Then we'd be able to hold our meetings upstairs and then we would be able to subdivide the downstairs meeting room that we will be using into additional office space or whatever type of facilities we need."
It's a project that Peeler says has been long overdue, with no significant work having been performed since the building's construction in 1955.
Chief among Peeler's priorities for the new facilities were technological upgrades to the building's wiring to allow for increased Internet capabilities.
"They offer a lot of training, but it's a lot of training that involves travel. I get at least one invitation a day to some type of thing that's going on somewhere," Peeler said. "What I'm hoping is that we'll be a little bit a head of the curve if they start offering more things on the web."
"They (village employees) would actually be able to go into our meeting room and bring it up on the TV screen and be able to do it right there," he added. "Moving into the future, I think that's going to be important."
Peeler said the original layout of the offices themselves also posed problems.
"The way it used to be done was my office was the meeting space, so if I had anything confidential in nature, it was set out in the open," Peeler said. "We wanted to get away from that."
The layout also proved troublesome when the village board needed to conduct an executive session because it required members of public to leave the room.
"Two months ago it was raining and we had to go into an executive session early before we got started with the general meeting," Peeler said. "We actually went into the DPW garage so that we could discuss the issue without them having to go out into the rain."
"My hope is, depending on what happens with the fire department and this and that, what we might do is, once we get the meeting space to the second floor, once that's affordable for us, then what we could do is take that meeting space downstairs and divide it into offices for the fire chief or the DPW supervisor or things like that," he added.
Peeler also identified an upgrade in the villages phone system as integral to the upgrades, saying the entire village currently shares a single phone line for several offices, as a well as a fax.
The new system will include three separate phone lines, as well as a designated fax line. Each official will be designated their own extension.
Peeler said the entire project is being funded with $40,000 that had been set aside by former Mayor Kim Flander and the village trustees for just that purpose
"They had set aside $10,000 dollars for just replacing the air conditioner. What I was able to do is for $15,000, I was able to put two new heating systems in and two new central air conditioning systems," Peeler said.
There was a new system installed for each of the building's floors.
An additional $30,000 was set aside for the interior work
"They already had $30,000 and that was just to remove the wall, to make it one big meeting space," Peeler said. "My first meeting, I said 'you guys have how much there?"
"I said 'we've got to rethink this because for $30,000 I can pretty much renovate this building," he added.
Throughout the project, Peeler said, he has identified a number of ways to keep the costs down, including using the leftovers from a state contracted project, and using employees of the village's department of public works to perform the work.
Peeler said he has actually hired skilled laborers on a per diem basis to complete some of the work.
Peeler said he also rejected all of the bids received in May from design and engineering firms to draft the plans for the project.
"We sent it out to bid. The lowest one received was $30,000 for architectural drawings alone," Peeler said. "This all came from my head."
Ultimately, Peeler said, the hope is that the work being performed will result in future savings to the village.
"The other thing we're looking at too is, we're at the minimum going to be putting T8 lighting throughout. If we can get the reimbursement for it, we're looking at putting LED lighting in all the office spaces," Peeler said. "Off the top of my head, depending on the efficiency of these furnaces and stuff, and with the new insulation, we're probably looking at a payoff within two or three years. And then, moving forward, that will allow us to continue saving money."
Peeler said he hopes to have the majority of the project completed by the village board's November meeting, and completed in its entirety by the December meeting.