PODCAST: Welcome Center, City Contracts debated by taxpayers

Concern about cost and process.

In Geneva, residents and taxpayers alike have been asking questions about the Finger Lakes Welcome Center, since a pair of investigative reports were published by WHEC-Rochester, and the Geneva Believer.

Both highlighted exorbitant costs in some aspects of the buildout, which was executed through a joint-effort between the state and city of Geneva.

“It started with some FOIL requests,” explained Jim Meaney, who was a guest on Inside the FLX this week, who was responsible for putting together the second investigative report, featured in the Geneva Believer. “[WHEC] found that a lot of items seemed to be extremely overpriced – like bathroom signs.”

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The timing of the WHEC investigative piece worked into the Believer’s own investigative reporting throughout the summer. “I had actually already been looking into Massa Construction,” Meaney explained. “I was looking at the portion of the construction at the Welcome Center that Massa had completed on behalf of the City.”

Meaney said that some ‘eye popping’ numbers revealed themselves.

Another concern, according to Meaney, was the hiring of a firm known as Jack Morton Worldwide. It’s a brand experience company that has been hired by Hollywood to design flashy sets. They were hired to design the FLX Welcome Center, which raises additional questions about cost and intent.

“Of course, everyone wants it to be visually impressive, but there has to also be an accountability factor,” continued Meaney.

The Welcome Center controversy, though, as unique as it may seem – showcases a repeated problem for the city of Geneva, and similarly sized municipal entities. As Meaney moved through the acquisition process, looking to find out more about contracts between Massa Construction and the City of Geneva – he was given a strange answer to some.

“We don’t have them.”

That was the response from city officials to parts of his FOIL request, which looked to find the details of contracts between the City and Massa Construction.

Meaney says that the City hasn’t had an answer. “This information should be readily available to the public anyway, and while it gives me purpose at the Believer, this information should be available to everyone.”

Listen to Meaney’s entire appearance on Inside the FLX in the video window above, or listen to the podcast below in the audio-only player.