More work on 100 Seneca going out to bid soon

The Venango County Economic Development Authority heard another update on the 100 Seneca at Cornplanter Square project at the panel’s monthly meeting Tuesday.

Emily Lewis, the executive director of the authority, said a building infrastructure package and masonry stabilization project at the downtown Oil City property will go out to bid at the end of the month, and the bids will be opened in February.

The estimated cost of the infrastructure work is $3.2 million, and the masonry stabilization is projected to come in at $200,000.

Lewis noted the costs were estimates, and more exact numbers won’t be known until the bids are opened.

The proposed timeline for construction on both aspects of the 100 Seneca project is spring into early summer of this year.

The build-out of the fifth floor will need to go out to bid soon because the work must be completed by March 2023 to comply with grant requirements, Lewis said.

She said the authority is looking at ways to reduce the costs of building out the fifth floor, which is estimated at $1 million, such as re-evaluating the proposed finishes and furniture.

The panel is also discussing finishing two-thirds of the fifth floor soon and leaving the last third in the back of the building that overlooks Oil Creek unfinished at this point.

Lewis said she is in the process of applying for a grant for the first-floor build-out and is looking at other grant funding sources as well.

“We have a tenant willing to make a significant private investment and create jobs,” Lewis said, noting the importance of building out the first floor as soon as funding can be lined up.

The authority also entered into an agreement that would have Jason Ruggiero, the former director of the county planning commission, continue his work on the 100 Seneca project.

Ruggiero would handle grant writing and project management services as part of his new role with Spark Community Capital LLC.

“Having Jason Ruggiero cut out in midstream was not a good idea. This is a good deal for the (authority) and for taxpayers, said Sam Breene, chairman of the authority board. “Ultimately it is a cost savings as we will be paying him much less than what we were paying him as planning director with how much time he spent on this project,” Breene added.

Lewis said “we need some redundancy built into the system. No one besides me knows the day-to-day processes, and that is not good.”

Ruggiero was planning commission director for 10 years before leaving the county last month to pursue other opportunities. He was involved in a number of county projects, including 100 Seneca.

Lewis said Ruggiero’s services would be used on an as-needed basis.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, Taylor Mosher, the teacher at the eAcademy, said the academy received $4,000 from a private donor who wants the money to go toward field trips and technology for the program.

Mosher said she may get a printer for the classroom with some of the funds.

She also noted that another private donor has been found to sponsor a student from Cranberry School District.

The program has lost two students as one moved to another district and the other chose to go fully remote and dropped the program, Mosher told the board.

Breene, who is chairman of the county commissioners, was reappointed authority chairman Tuesday. Bill Moon was reappointed vice chair of the authority, and Bonnie Summers was reappointed secretary-treasurer.