Elevator repair duty changes hands

City redevelopment authority responsible

Despite the prior belief of both parties, the Altoona Redevelopment Authority — not Amtrak — is responsible for repairing the broken elevator that runs between Amtrak’s mainline platform and the pedestrian bridge over 10th Avenue to the Altoona Transportation Center.

That discovery — made by Amtrak attorneys and confirmed by the authority solicitor — could further delay repair of the elevator, which has been out of service since July and was not expected to be fixed until next month anyway.

Authority officials were planning to check out potential courses of action, including:

– Requesting permission from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to use Community Development Block Grant money for an emergency repair, which would eliminate the need for formal bids.

– Using CDBG money in normal fashion, which would require formal bids.

– Using of CDBG money as part of a larger accessibility project for the 33-year-old Transportation Center, which would require time-consuming project planning plus bids.

– Asking city officials for the repair money — perhaps from its overly large reserve fund.

Eastern Elevator has already offered to do the work for Amtrak for $35,000 and has custom manufactured a cylinder for the elevator jack to replace the one that failed a pressure test, causing the shutdown, according to Lee Slusser, the city’s community development director.

The formal bid requirements not only threaten to extend the elevator’s downtime significantly but also to put Eastern’s custom-made piece of equipment at risk of going to waste — although if it comes to bidding, the firm presumably would be motivated to be competitive, given the investment it’s made, officials said.

Amtrak could make the repair and bill the city “for the sake of getting it fixed,” suggested authority member Matt Pacifico, the city’s mayor.

But CDBG bid requirements would generally prohibit that, Slusser said.

The authority could obtain overall accessibility improvements with CDBG funding, while still getting the elevator done quickly, by using separate contracts, said authority Chairman Richard Fiore.

That would make the project more unwieldy, because of the need for separate bids, Slusser indicated.

The accessibility issues at the Transportation Center, which is owned by the city and managed by the authority, include lack of signage and lack of a rescue area, according to Slusser.

The authority has trouble handling exceptional maintenance issues, which are becoming increasingly frequent, according to Slusser.

It has never been included in the city’s capital budget, he said.

Maybe the city can set aside funds for the 33-year-old center in its budget for next year, Fiore said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.