The Peekskill Common Council last week approved a $4.3 million energy performance contract to upgrade several city buildings, but the decision has come under scrutiny.
The 6-1 vote last Monday morning at the Neighborhood Center, one of the facilities slated to receive improvements from Honeywell, took place at the same time a funeral was taking place nearby in Peekskill for former City Manager Patrick Garvey.
Meanwhile, Councilwoman Vanessa Agudelo, who cast the lone vote against the contract, and several residents questioned the urgency of taking the action, suggesting an independent environmental consultant should be brought in to review the details contained in the 319-page document.
“It’s essentially a great plan, but I do think we can make it better,” Agudelo said. “I do believe it is a step forward, but I believe we owe our city to strive for excellence and what we have in front of us is not excellence.”
“There’s no reason to take this expenditure on so early and so immediately,” said business owner Arnie Paglia. “There’s just so many questions and such a need to get this process right.”
Also taking the Council to task was Peekskill mayoral candidate Vincent Vesce and his Peekskill Together team, which issued a joint statement condemning the process and lack of details in the contract.
“Peekskill is suffering from a crisis of transparency that’s now exacerbated by the secrecy surrounding the Honeywell contract and the true cost of an equipment lease purchase agreement that has a 20-year term,” Peekskill Together stated. “As with the closure of the Paramount, Peekskill residents are left in the dark about the truth, and that’s not acceptable in the Peekskill we all want to build. A cleaner environment extends beyond light bulbs. It also means a clean and transparent government that we obviously do not have with the current administration.”
However, Councilwoman Vivian McKenzie said the Council undertook a “very deliberate process” that started with hiring Honeywell in June 2018 to conduct an energy audit. City officials have maintained the work at the Neighborhood Center, Police Station, City Court and Paramount Theater will only cost Peekskill $180,000 over 20 years.
“To me this is a no-brainer,” said Councilwoman Patricia Riley. “What we are getting is phenomenal. I think this is something that is really good for the city.”
“This is a big decision and it’s not one that has been taken lightly,” said Councilman Colin Smith. “I’m comfortable moving forward with this today.”
Backing the Council’s decision was former Councilwoman Drew Claxton and former Peekskill Housing Authority chairperson Nancy Vann.
“These upgrades are so long overdue,” Claxton said. “It will reduce the carbon footprint of the city.”
“This is not the time for delay. It’s time to move forward,” Vann said. “It would be great if all of our energy came from renewable sources, but we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Agudelo disagreed, saying “I’m concerned the CAC is advising us to put a pause on this. I’m not sure we have gathered the answers to all the questions or they have been adequate. We have a wonderful opportunity to work as a team here—a team with our community, our whole city, who want to be part of this process. We can do this the right way.”