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Watertown City Council may award contract for zoo project

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The Watertown City Council is expected to award a contract to an Adams Center construction company tonight to complete the pavilion project at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park.

DEW Builders submitted $228,628, the lowest bid of the seven companies that turned in proposals, to the city’s Purchasing Department. The other base bids ranged from $253,657 to $479,700. When the bids were opened March 7, city officials said they were pleased.

In February, city officials had projected the cost of the pavilion, which would replace the old aviary structure, was going to jump to $435,000. The contractor would tear down the aviary, install a concrete slab and supply the city with a pre-engineered, 50-by-50-foot cross-shaped metal pavilion.

Construction is still slated for early spring.

Council members will take on a heavy agenda tonight. In addition to the zoo project, they are expected to discuss:

n The ongoing controversial zoning amendment that prohibits nonrelatives from living together in a residential neighborhood. Last week, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he planned to bring the issue up after meeting with Planning Department officials about the zoning flap.

In a 3-2 vote in January, the council approved the zoning change after Deborah A. Cavallario, a Thompson Boulevard homeowner, complained her neighbor had his fiancée and two friends living with him in his single-family home in their Residential A district.

That has since led to a torrent of criticism from people who think city leaders are trying to regulate lifestyles and living arrangements.

n Passing an amendment to New York Air Brake’s tax break for its 748 Starbuck Ave. facility, allowing the company to pay property taxes based on current assessed value rather than the amount agreed to in a mid-1990s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement. According to the 2012 tax rates, payment to the city would decrease by $11,036.

n A report that vandals are damaging the fences placed on the hill and at its bottom to prevent Thompson Park sledders from being injured. Parks and Recreation Department employees have had to repair the fences on several occasions.

Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner wants to install a permanent chain-link fence on the upper hill to prevent injuries.

n A new two-year contract with City Clerk Ann M. Saunders, who would receive a $3,500 pay raise for the agreement that would run from May 1 to April 30, 2015. She would be paid an annual salary of $58,500, up from $55,000 when she was hired in July 2011.

n Holding off on approving a memorandum of understanding regarding the federal urbanized area designation. In a memo Wednesday, City Manager Sharon A. Addison said the Metropolitan Planning Organization vote will be delayed until a special March 26 meeting, when council members can discuss the MOU with state Department of Transportation representatives.

The city is working with DOT and Jefferson County on the project required by the U.S. Census Bureau.

After gathering information during its last survey, the Census Bureau declared the greater Watertown area, which includes parts of Dexter, LeRay and Carthage and has a population of 57,840, an urbanized region.

The designation might affect federal funding and economic development, especially with public transportation and roads, according to city officials.

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