Darien’s Metro-North commuters should see an upgrade at the Darien Train Station soon; the town is planning to replace the station’s elevators in response to frequent maintenance issues.  Public Works Director Ed Gentile said he would like to replace the current cable and pulley style elevators with a hydraulic model that will be more resistant to the elements.

On Monday, the Board of Selectmen voted to allow the public works director to forgo the traditional bidding process in an effort to get the new elevators installed as swiftly as possible. Gentile noted that the town has had ongoing issues with the current maintenance provider for the station elevators. He said the company uses proprietary parts on the elevator, meaning many of the repairs require the parts to be ordered directly from the maintenance provider.

One of the elevators recently shut down due to a mechanical issue; when contacted the maintenance provider gave an estimate of $24,000 for service to be restored. Gentile believed that number to be a particularly high cost given the ongoing issues and regular maintenance checks promised under the company’s contract. The town spent as much as $11,000 on repairing a single elevator last year as well.

“I have one elevator that’s been down for two and a half weeks. The proposal I got for $24,000 to get it running again caught me off guard,” Gentile told the Board of Selectmen on Monday. “I didn’t believe there was that much damage to the inside of the elevator and if they had been doing their preventive maintenance, I don’t believe we that we should be paying such a bill.”

The need for proprietary parts and frequent calls for maintenance over the last two years led Gentile to pursue hydraulic elevators from a new vendor. The town’s budget for the fiscal year 2018-19 includes $200,000 for replacing both elevators at the station. Gentile said the prospective vendor has worked on the elevators at Town Hall and would be able to facilitate the replacement process. Gentile said the replacement process could take as little as six weeks by forgoing bidding with no setbacks. If the vendor’s bid exceeds the $200,000 budget, Gentile said he would then take the project into the bidding process, extending the turnaround time to three or four months.

Based on Department of Public Works records, the elevators were installed in 2003 as a part of a renovation effort to make the Darien Train Station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because the Metro-North station is located on state land, Gentile has also been in touch with the Department of Transportation Office of Rails regarding the frequent elevator issues and the potential replacement. Gentile told the Board of Selectmen he would also review the contract with the current elevator maintenance company to verify the town’s commitments; the contract was last renewed two years ago.