LAKE PLACID - The town of North Elba plans to negotiate with an engineering firm as it moves closer to breaking ground on a multi-use trail alongside the railroad tracks between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the town board conditionally approved a resolution to enter into contract talks with Creighton Manning Engineering of Albany.
Town Supervisor Roby Politi said Councilman Jack Favro and former Councilman Chuck Damp, who is helping the town with the trail project, along with representatives from the Adirondack North Country Association and the state Department of Transportation, recently interviewed several engineering firms.
"As a result of the interview process, the committee has recommended that we proceed to contract negotiations on the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake multi-use trail with Creighton Manning," Politi said.
Creighton Manning, Politi said, is familiar with the Lake Placid area. The firm has been involved with the Greater Lake Placid Transportation Study, as well as reconstruction of Mirror Lake Drive and River Street. The group is also involved with the ongoing reconstruction of Old Military Road.
Damp said the planning committee started with five engineering firms and received "expressions of interest" from three. Those firms were interviewed, and the committee used a score sheet to narrow the field.
He said the score sheet helps establish the firm's familiarity with the area and grades things like experience and reliability.
"It was close, but Creighton Manning brought some things to the table the other firms didn't," Damp said.
"Now, what they do is they'll put together a more detailed timeline and talk about costs," he added. "Then, we go to contract. The board will have to approve the contract as negotiated."
Damp said all of the firms interviewed indicated that the $3.2 million in grant funds, as well as the local match, will be enough to get the project done.
One firm said it could minimize wetland impact by crossing the tracks in certain places, although Damp said that kind of thinking is "premature at this point." The state Adirondack Park Agency permit would need to be amended to let the trail cross the railroad.
"We're going to use the permit as the guideline," Damp said.
Damp said there was also discussion of using an abandoned sidewalk on Old Ray Brook Road as part of the trail.
"We're certainly receptive to that type of thinking, nobody is digging their heels in the sand," he said. "We have a permit that addresses wetlands and a mitigation plan that's been approved. Do we really want to go back there and make changes? I don't know."
Damp said the town is making progress on the trail project.
"It's slower than I'd want it to be, but we've got to do it the right way," he said.
"We're pushing real hard," Damp added. "By 2013, our window comes on the first grant. If we're not showing we're fully committed, that creates some challenges."
Damp said Creighton Manning will make sure preserving grant funds is included in the scope of the project.
"That will be one of the key focuses: This is what we can do to preserve those funds and make sure we comply with what the rules are," he said.
Damp said that "God willing, we're going to start digging in the spring."