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Town to get estimates on repairs to flood damage

August 15, 2011
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - The town of Harrietstown may hire its own engineer to come up with plans to repair town infrastructure damaged in this spring's floods.

The town board agreed Thursday to have Supervisor Larry Miller contact Saranac Lake-based North Woods Engineering to get cost estimates on engineering two projects: replacement of a large concrete and stone retaining wall behind the town hall, and a replacement of a concrete culvert on Coreys Road. The retaining wall was undermined by the flooding of the Saranac River in late April and early May, while the culvert was overwhelmed by the record-high waters of the Raquette River around the same time.

Town officials said they need to present cost estimates on the repairs to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency within 60 days of a meeting that was held in mid-July. Essex, Franklin and 19 other counties in New York were declared a federal disaster area after the widespread spring flooding. The declaration makes federal money available to help pay for infrastructure repair or replacement.

Harrietstown Councilman Ron Keough said there's been "a little bit of uncertainty" about who would do the engineering on damage to the town's infrastructure. He said the village had asked if the town wanted to have its cost estimates done by the engineers the village has hired. Franklin County also has offered help the town, but Supervisor Larry Miller said he's worried about meeting the FEMA deadline.

"The county has promised to help using their engineer, which I believe is the same as the engineer for the village," Miller said. "We have 60 days to have the paperwork in and done, starting back on July 20th when we met with FEMA. But I'm concerned that if something happens where we misunderstood what the county engineer was going to do, and we don't do a complete estimate for this wall, we might miss that deadline."

The county has given a preliminary estimate of $80,000 to replace the culvert, while North Woods provided a $330,000 estimate to replace the retaining wall. Miller noted that an official from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation wants the town to put stone facing on the wall so it fits the historic character of the town hall. That would be an additional cost on top of the $330,000, Miller said.

"I'd like to see the board, if it's affordable, have North Woods do an estimate anyway, so we have our own," he said. "If nothing else, it will be a second opinion. I'd really rather not wait. I don't know how the county engineer is going to be able to do all the estimates they need to do for the whole county and meet the 60-day deadline."

Councilman Barry DeFuria said the town should hire North Woods and have the company coordinate its work with the county's engineering firm.

The board gave Miller permission to contact North Woods, although councilmen said a special meeting may be called to consider hiring the company.

If the town secures funding from FEMA, town officials said it could be used to cover their engineering costs, in addition to the labor and materials for replacement of the wall.

"If FEMA doesn't approve doing the wall, we've got to hire somebody to do it anyway, and we'll need to hire an engineer," Miller said. "I don't think we can wait."

Miller said the town will need multiple permits - from the state Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation, the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies - to replace the wall.

"It's going to take a while to get the permitting because there are so many agencies," he said. "I don't think we'll probably even get to building it next year."

The spring floods, which were triggered by a combination of heavy rain and snowmelt, caused roughly $6 million in damage to village infrastructure. Village Manager John Sweeney said last month that he thinks it's going to take more than 60 days for the village's engineers - AES Northeast and Barton & Loguidice - to provide cost estimates and repair plans to FEMA.



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