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Cost of proposed zoo pavilion soars over $400,000

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The cost of replacing the aviary at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park with an open-air pavilion has jumped to more than $400,000.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham confirmed Saturday that the zoo project would cost $435,500, but that includes several amenities that would be added to the $202,000 price tag for the pavilion structure itself. City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk said the amount for the structure has escalated from the $170,000 for a similar pavilion built in the J.B. Wise parking lot last year.

The cost also increased because of changes that would be needed in the underground electrical system at the zoo. Conduits and electrical outlets would have to be relocated to accommodate what was requested by the zoo, the mayor said.

Despite the added costs, Mr. Graham said, the city should move forward with the project. He said he made a commitment last year to the Thompson Park Conservancy, the group that runs the zoo, after an indoor educational facility was scrapped because its projected cost had risen to more than $1 million.

“I said I would support it, and I will support it,” Mr. Graham said, adding that it will be up to the rest of the City Council members to decide whether to proceed.

Mr. Hauk will make a presentation Monday night at the council’s work session. The final engineering drawings also will be unveiled Monday night.

The project would include stone-faced columns, a roof, an audio-visual system and a wall to accommodate that system, and landscaping. The open-air pavilion, which would be in the shape of a cross, would be used for events such as classes, presentations and private parties.

Engineering and demolition of the existing A-frame, metal aviary would be completed by city employees, Mr. Graham said.

The $435,000 figure “was not too different than what was thought,” Mr. Graham said. When the project was changed from an indoor structure to a pavilion last summer, council members had wanted to spend $320,000, which was the original projection for the educational facility.

In the fall, however, members agreed to spend no more than $500,000 on the pavilion and hoped the cost would be less than that.

The mayor said he believes the final product will be a popular addition to the zoo. “It’ll be a nice facility,” Mr. Graham said.

Depending on the City Council’s response to the plans, bids may go out in late January, contracts could be awarded in February and the aviary’s demolition could begin in early spring, Mr. Hauk said.

When members of the Thompson Park Conservancy first brought up replacing the aviary, they asked for a basic pavilion that they thought would cost about $40,000. City Council members initially balked at demolishing the 30-year-old aviary, describing it as an iconic structure. Today, it is closed to the public, home only to a pair of turkeys.

On Monday night, council members also will discuss a proposal for a $6,500 electric vehicle charging station to be placed on city property. National Grid approached city officials with the idea, which would cost the city $650 as well as the cost of the electricity used by owners of electric vehicles.

City Manager Sharon A. Addison also is expected to make a presentation about her plans to hire a human resource assistant at City Hall.

The work session starts at 7 p.m. in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall, 245 Washington St.

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