By ANDY GARDNER
MASSENA -- The village will either have to spend more than a half million dollars to make the Aluminum Trail project happen or be stuck reimbursing the state nearly a quarter million dollars if they can’t make it work.
At the Aug. 15 village meeting, the Department of Public Works superintendent told the board that the state is making the village pay an extra $50,000 for an asbestos study at the footbridge. The idea was formed about a decade ago under then-Mayor Ken MacDonnell. It was supposed to go from East Orvis Street to the Intake. After a decade of inaction, it has been reduced to improvements at the footbridge, which connects Liberty Avenue to East Orvis Street.
DPW Superintendent Hassan Fayad said the asbestos study needs to be done by an engineer with NICET certification, which means the person would have to be hired through the state or from a private firm.
“It’s almost painful to discuss this project,” Fayad told the board. “Today what were looking at, the village’s share with the initial engineering costs, of $546,000.”
Fayad said if they don’t act by 2019, they will be out $252,000 after reimbursing the Department of Transportation for grant money that has already been paid to the village to reimburse money they have spent so far.
“So you’ve got $252,000 worth of drawings?” Trustee Tim Ahlfeld said.
In a phone conversation the day after the meeting, Fayad said the village has spent a total of $315,000, which includes money reimbursed and not reimbursed.
“Thus far, we have spent $315,000 roughly, to date. Of that $315,000, 80 percent of it, or $252,000, was given back to us by the federal government,” Fayad said Aug. 16.
He said it has mostly gone to engineering costs for the initial three-mile project and several subsequent scaled back versions.
“We’ve been kicking this can down the road for so many years that we scaled back that project. We asked DOT, ‘Can we scale it down just to the bridge?’ and they said yes,” according to the DPW chief.
He is trying to stay positive but thinks they may not able to finish the project.
“It’s really been a long road with this project. I feel we should make a decision on this thing. We’re going to lose time anyway.” “we have one more constriction season if the board feels they want to pursue it.” “I’m hoping the portion we have to give back, I’m hoping they’ll forgive us. Whether or not that’s going to happen, I don’t know,” according to Fayad. “We spent the $65,000 toward engineering cost, and we had cost in renewing sidewalks … all the way up to Owl Avenue. Hopefully the federal government will see the efforts we put forth.”
The deadline for the village to act is approaching fast.
“The drop dead date is 2019, so we need to … have a construction season of 2018, next year, everything’s got to be put together, inspection performed by end of year,” Fayad said at the Aug. 15 meeting.
Village trustees at the meeting indicated that they are not feeling good about the trail.
“Money grab,” Ahlfeld said.
“This whole thing from day one was a money grab,” Trustee Francis Carvel said. “This thing, right from the start, was a nightmare.”
“What a mess,” Deputy Mayor Matt Lebire said.
The board agreed to table the discussion until their Sept. 5 meeting.