Erosion continues to be a problem around Canadaway Creek and the wastewater treatment plant in the village of Fredonia, particularly after the remnants of Hurricane Sandy swept through the area.
On Monday, the village of Fredonia board discussed the aftermath of the latest storm as well as ongoing issues with erosion and the plant in a workshop meeting.
Over the years, the village has worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan to address ongoing issues, but the project has stalled over numerous problems, including charges to the village by the Corps for a plan the Corps rejected.
Village Mayor Stephen Keefe and attorney Sam Drayo attended meetings with representatives from the Corps over the summer to try and resolve financial disputes, which eventually involved State Senator Charles Schumer and other statewide elected officials to act on behalf of the village.
After Hurricane Sandy sent heavy rains through the region, more problems arose. "The last storm altered the stream," Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Betsy Sly told the board. "It pushed across over the grassy area up to the stone (abatement system) about 20 feet from the sewer. ... The stream doesn't curve any more. It runs straight toward the sewer," she explained. She brought photographs showing debris and damage, including a picture of part of a large protective concrete block retaining wall which dropped down along the bank.
Because of angles in the creek where it changes direction, Department of Public Works Supervisor Jack Boland said he has seen the direction of the creek flow in reverse after the storm. "I think we need to monitor the situation," he said, and suggested the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), not the Corps, may be able to help assess the problem and allow a permit for temporary protective measures, such as removal of a sand bar which developed after prior changes were made to the creek. "That might give us some breathing room," he said.
"I wish they'd divert the creek again," Sly told the board.
At the last workshop meeting of the village board, members discussed whether or not to pursue the erosion project with the Corps or move on and find a private contractor, while taking the engineering study materials developed by the Corps as fruits of prior dealings with and payments to the Corps. During that meeting, village Administrator Richard St. George explained he estimates the costs to have the Corps do the work would likely be lower than with a private contractor. Despite seemingly high estimates from the Corps, he explained, the village is only responsible for 35 percent of the costs by doing the work with the Corps, a government entity.
Village Attorney Sam Drayo expressed concerns at the previous meeting as well as on Monday night. He said the Corps will not give a time frame on implementation of the project. He doesn't expect work to begin until 2014 and said a Corps representative would not commit to a project time line. A Corps representative told him it was unclear as to when or if government money would be available to start the project, and the Corps would expect the village to pay 35 percent of the estimated costs before the Corps sent the project for bids.
"I've never heard of anything like that - paying for something before the bids even come in," Drayo told the board.
St. George explained the Corps is looking for an answer from the village as to whether or not it is interested in pursuing the project with the Corps so the Corps may begin the process of seeking government money to fund it. "There is no risk if we agree to have them look for the money," St. George said, and added, "Either way, you're going to have to do the project."
He added if the bids come back high, the costs would likely be just as high if the board used a different contractor.
"How do we know they designed this economically?" he asked, and noted billing from the Corps in the past did not account specifically for work done. "All they give us are billing codes and an amount," because the bills are not itemized, he explained.
Further discussion centered on whether or not the board should agree to ask the Corps to move ahead and seek funds for the project, while also soliciting bids from other contractors. "Our obligations to the Corps are a lot less than our obligations to our community," Mayor Stephen Keefe said.
Drayo said of soliciting outside bids, "I think the Corps would think that was a very reasonable thing to do."
The board agreed to continue discussion of options and to contact the DEC to determine if a temporary abatement measure could be started.
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