Lancaster town officials caught an earful Tuesday night about what some residents termed expensive office furniture for the town’s new public safety building - with figures mentioned as high as $12,000 for furniture for the police chief and several thousand dollars for other desk ensembles.
In the end, though, the board voted 4 to 1 - with just Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli opposing - to buy $312,661 worth of office furniture from the lowest bidder, Buffalo Office Interiors, for the new complex.
“I thought we were supposed to be taking furniture from the old police building, but it seems we aren’t missing a beat” in buying new furniture, said resident Dan Beutler of Depew. “Twelve thousand dollars for a desk is ridiculous and that’s not even all of it, Beutler said.”
Beutler said it’s a waste of money not to use existing furniture that could be taken to the new facility. “Don’t give me The Ritz, when all I need is a hotel,” he said.
Others also questioned the planned purchases - though town officials insisted the furniture and furnishings for the new police headquarters and courts building at 525 Pavement Road are under budget, but did not say by how much.
“Are these desks custom built? Twelve thousand dollars seems to me to be morally outrageous to spend on a desk,” said Tom Kazmierczak. “Are these desks made by Kittenger?”
Councilman Ronald Ruffino, who sponsored the motion that was approved by the board later in the meeting, said he was most concerned that the furniture came in under budget.
“I’m not an interior designer. I’m a banker,” Ruffino said. “They’re underbudget. That’s what I care about.”
Fudoli, who initially said he could see how new and old furniture would not look good in a new facility, said that he and Police Chief Gerald J. Gill Jr. had been talking about auctioning some of the old furnishings.
“Mix and match furniture would not look good. We went with the lowest responsible bidder,” Fudoli said, noting that the purchaser of the town’s Colecraft Building on Walden Avenue is buying some of the town’s old furniture. “I think we’re doing the prudent thing here. We did give a budget to the interior designer. It’s not just one desk. It’s multiple pieces.”
Fudoli, who was not in office when the public safety building project was approved, said that if the town is going to spend nearly $8 million on a building, “Why not spend money to have it (look) uniform?”
But after a handful of residents lambasted the board on the issue, Fudoli voted against the furniture expense saying he changed his mind in light of what “came through this evening.”
The police chief, who arrived late at the meeting, defended the purchases and his desk unit. “It’s a U-shaped office arrangement for my law books and computer,” Gill said, noting that it will contain a book shelf and writing area.
Gill also stressed to the public that there are more rooms to furnish in the new building than ever before. “And , we are transferring a significant amount of cabinetry,” Gill said.
Exact cost breakdowns for specific furniture sets could not be verified late Tuesday, though residents mentioned various amounts to be spent on desks.
The town last March hired Jill Marie Interiors to guide the purchase of furniture and furnishings for the $7 million public safety building, which is expected to open in November and encompasses about 25,000 square feet.
Resident Lee Chowaniec also asked for clarification on the high tab. “It does seem exhorbitant,” he said.
Resident Mike Fronczak echoed the concerns of others. “Who is spending my $300,000 if my elected officials don’t know (much about it)?” he said. “What happened to the old desks? Three hundred thousand dollars for furniture? ... What is next?”