By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- The Massena Village Board of Trustees voted 4 – 1 to bond for up to $300,000 to cover the village’s share of the Aluminum Trail project. Trustee Albert “Herb” Deshaies was the sole dissenter.
The project will fix up the footbridge that spans the Grasse River from East Orvis Street to Liberty Avenue. The work will involve removing the deck and rails of the aging and rusted footbridge, replacing them with pre-cast panels, bicycle rails, and making it handicap-accessible. Public Works Superintendent Hassan Fayad said “plans and specs have been developed.”
When finished, it will have created a bike or foot trail that goes from the old rescue squad building near East Orvis’ intersection with state Route 37, down East Orvis, across the bridge, down Liberty Avenue, and up North Main Street to Owl Avenue.
The board had tabled the bond resolution last month because of financial uncertainty. The federal Transportation Enhancement Program (TEP) is kicking in $1,153,800. The village will pick up $342,200; they have already paid out $57,600. The New York Power Authority has made a “verbal commitment” of $185,000, according to Mayor James Hidy, who added that NYPA officials said they will pay by Jan. 1 upon receiving an invoice.
“We’re waiting for a written, formal commitment,” Hidy said.
Alcoa will not chip in financially, Hidy said, adding that he will seek an in-kind or service contribution.
Although many of the trustees seemed reluctant to approve the bond, they felt it was the way to go. To abandon the project would mean paying $230,400 back to the federal government, plus losing the $57,600 they’ve already paid. This way, they spend roughly the same amount of money and get something tangible.
“It’s either pay the [money] back or move forward and get the project complete,” Hidy said, adding that the village also has the option of putting work crews on the project and deducting labor costs from their share. Fayad suggested that the village may be able write off sidewalk work on Stoughton and North Main streets as part of their share since it is in the original project zone.
“I’m not crazy about going forward and spending this much money… I’d rather spend money and get something than spend half the money and get nothing,” Trustee Tim Ahfeld said. “It goes to show you how a previous board can tie a future board’s hands if not careful.”
Trustee Francis Carvel shared Ahfeld’s sentiments.
“This goes to show you – because you get a grant for a project it isn’t a great thing… it can turn out to be a nightmare,” he said, referring to the project’s sluggish pace and cost to the village.
Deshaies voted nay because he wasn’t happy with the Department of Transportation’s attitude. They have stated that the village has to have its ducks in a row by Sept. 15 when they tore up the Parker Avenue bridge years ago and have yet to fix it.
“I don’t like DOT hanging that on our heads – if we don’t apply by September 15 we might not get it,” Deshaies stated.