WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Much debate has been made about the value of federal stimulus dollars going into "shovel-ready" projects throughout the country to either create or maintain jobs in an effort to help the country pull out of what many say is the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. To many in our community, they have yet to see the effect of these stimulus efforts.

But in a building that has become the icon for the Watervliet Arsenal, the "Big Gun Shop," federal stimulus dollars have given the old lady of the arsenal a much needed facelift - and a visible example of how well local stimulus dollars have worked.

For the arsenal, the $1.44 million federal stimulus project that was completed Tuesday meant something other than job creation.

Many of the 136 panels on the 1,200-foot-long building were falling into disrepair, said Derek Sanderson, project manager for the arsenal. "As a result of broken windows, falling glass posed a safety concern to the workforce, cost to heat the building during the winter increased, and rain and snow flowing through the broken windows effected ongoing work," Sanderson said.

Last summer, a Latham, N.Y. company called Classic Environmental Inc. was awarded a federal stimulus contract by the arsenal to replace 136 window panels in the arsenal's historic building where 16-inch cannons were once manufactured for our nation's battleships.

Steve Bradt, arsenal project manager and vice president of Classic Environmental, said the project definitely saved jobs as well as created jobs for the local economy.

"Because a significant part of our projects are directly tied to state government, when the state cuts its budget or withholds funding for schools and communities, which it has recently done, it has an immediate negative effect on our workforce," Bradt said.

"The federal stimulus contract for the arsenal allowed Classic Environmental not to lay off personnel and in fact, allowed Classic Environmental to hire a few more people," Bradt added.

To assist Classic Environmental in this project was subcontractor Thermo-Expert. Thermo-Expert's workers were the ones who actually did the window installation. There was other work required, such as masonry work around the windows, that Classic retained in house.

Lee Scaccia, owner of Thermo-Expert, said this was no easy job like one would find in replacing windows for residential housing.

"Most of the work involved working on lifts and catwalks that were 30-40 feet up and in temperatures that often hit 120 degrees," Scaccia said.

In addition to the difficult work conditions was the difficult planning and coordination requirements due to the uniqueness or historical significance of the building.

The Big Gun Shop is on the Registry of National Historic Landmarks.

"It took us about six months from the time the contract was awarded until we could start work because we had to custom make the window panels, each weighing hundreds of pounds, and then have the New York State Historical Preservation Office approve the prototype before we could begin work," Scaccia said.

As with Classic Environmental, Scaccia said the stimulus project created jobs for Thermo-Expert. He said he was able to add two new workers to his 6-person team.

In addition to job creation, there was a positive economic effect to the local community as a result of the arsenal's stimulus project.

"From buying more than $30,000 of window fasteners from a local Menand's company, to my guys buying their morning coffee from local businesses, there was a lot of stimulus money that flowed through the local community," Scaccia said.

The 136 panels equated to more than 2,400 individual windows being replaced between April and August this year.

Sanderson added that because Classic Environmental and Thermo-Expert had done a difficult job to standard and ahead of schedule, the arsenal has continued with those contractors to replace more panels. These, however, are not part of federal funding.

Nevertheless, as a direct result of the federal stimulus dollars, the arsenal's five-year capital improvement plan to repair the Big Gun Shop's windows was completed in one year, Sanderson said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16