Saranac Lake DRI construction begins at William Morris Park

MJ Raymond Construction workers shred evergreen trees at William Morris Park in Saranac Lake on Wednesday. This was the first work to be done in the village’s public projects funded through the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant it was awarded in 2018. The street smelled strongly of sweet pine when the chipping was going on. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Construction on this community’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects started Wednesday at William Morris Park, where the Adirondack Carousel is located, and other public projects are expected to begin in the near future.

The state awarded Saranac Lake the $10 million in DRI grants in 2018, and after four years of planning, the physical work started this week.

“Oh, it’s great to see projects finally moving forward,” Village Community Development Director Jamie Konkoski said. “Shovels in the ground, I think, is what everybody waits to see and when you finally get there that’s when it becomes real.”

Construction started with demolition, including removal of a gazebo, walkways, fencing, trees and vegetation. The entire intersection near the park smelled strongly of pine on Wednesday as workers chipped evergreen trees.

The brick paver walkway with donors’ names etched into the bricks leading to the carousel will be saved and re-installed, Konkoski said.

The Adirondack Carousel will remain open through construction at the park.

Adirondack Carousel Executive Director Sara Francis was worried the construction might keep visitors away because of the noise. But on Wednesday morning, it was “busier than usual.” Large groups of families rode the painted animals, bought trinkets and souvenirs, or just sat and watched the construction.

Francis said the July 4th holiday weekend probably contributed to this business.

The village got $4.3 million through the DRI for public projects.

The village is paying for the construction and will get reimbursed by the state for the costs through the DRI grant.

Luck Brothers, of Plattsburgh, won the $3.3 million bid for DRI public project construction but a subcontractor, MJ Raymond Construction, of Saranac Lake, was doing the work on Wednesday.

A new winding sidewalk at William Morris Park will connect the entrances on Bloomingdale Avenue and Depot Street. New fencing will expand the lawn space in the park and a bio-retention stormwater area will be built. And there will be new landscaping around the park.

Konkoski said the village is separately planning on adding accessible playground features, including permanent musical instruments.

William Morris Park was the first project to start because it was ready to go — it has no outstanding easements or permits, according to Konkoski.

Konkoski said contractors and village staff will have their first bi-weekly meeting on the DRI today. She hopes to determine when the next projects will start at this meeting and said she’s been anticipating a schedule from the construction contractors soon.

Other projects close to ready

Konkoski said work at Ward Plumadore Park is ready to go, but this park has been scheduled for work in the second year of construction because currently the mural at the next-door parking lot at the Rusty Nail is being refurbished and replaced this year.

Konkoski said the bathroom addition to the parking lot next to Berkeley Green is also ready to go, but construction may not happen yet because the village does not want work to disrupt the park during “peak season.”

She said the Woodruff Street project from Church Street to Bloomingdale Avenue is almost ready to go. Several utility poles need to be relocated, which will require coordination from National Grid, Verizon, Slic and Spectrum, which all have lines on the poles.

Konkoski said a Main Street and Broadway urban forestry project just needs an easement from the landowner at the Grand Union grocery store to plant a tree there. She said the owner of that property has stayed the same through the Tops Markets-to-Grand Union changeover.

But the changeover has caused a “glitch” with the River Walk project, which travels through the land. Back when the grocery store was Tops Markets, it had been awarded an Energize Downtown Fund grant from the village through the Franklin County Economic Development Corporation.

Konkoski said Tops had construction documents and went out to bid. The project was “queued up,” she said. But Grand Union was not interested in continuing with those construction documents.

“They wanted to do their own thing,” Konkoski said.

Grand Union turned down the grant because to create new documents on a short timeline would have been too fast. It was unfortunate timing and circumstances, Franklin County EDC CEO Jeremy Evans said. But he said the money from the grant — around $75,000 — has been added back into the grant’s pot and distributed to several other projects.

The public can find updates on DRI projects at https://bit.ly/3ykJRvo.


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