Tupper Lake town board to put dam repairs out to bid

TUPPER LAKE — The Tupper Lake town board on Tuesday voted to go out to bid for Setting Pole Dam repairs and discussed ongoing plans for renovations to Little Wolf Beach and Campground.

Going out for bid for dam repairs was initially tabled during last week’s regular meeting after councilman John Gillis expressed a desire to involve the Development Authority of the North Country, particularly to have the organization look over councilman Tim Larkin’s draft report on the scope of engineering work. Gillis explained that he didn’t do this sort of work, so he wanted DANC, which has partnered with Tupper Lake on multiple past infrastructure projects, to make sure everything in the draft was sound. The board agreed to table it, allowing Larkin time to speak with DANC.

Setting Pole Dam maintains the level of Tupper Lake and helps regulate the downstream flow of the Raquette River. It sits on the river’s outflow from Tupper Lake, between Raquette Pond and the Piercefield Dam near state Route 3.

At last week’s meeting, Larkin explained that during a dive report completed last fall, divers found spalling — cracking and delamination — on the concrete spillway, as well as undermining — erosion — at the dam’s toe. The whole surface will need to be chiseled away and resurfaced, Larkin said.

At the town board’s special meeting on Tuesday, Gillis remained in favor of involving DANC as a sort of “objective auditor” of the process, reiterating several times that the organization is unbiased and would help the town if problems arise during the project. Town Supervisor Rick Dattola disagreed.

“I’m not ready to have DANC do this,” he said. “I think DANC has made it clear that they don’t do dams, (and) they don’t know a lot about dams.”

He went on to say that to get started the town should let Larkin run with the report. When talks with engineers begin, they can decide whether or not to involve DANC, he said.

Larkin said that Thomas Haynes, director of engineering at DANC, did look over the report draft since the last meeting and had little to add.

“I would like to see this run through and then go from there before we hire anybody else,” Dattola said.

Gillis remained adamant on DANC’s involvement while the rest of the board pushed to approve going to bid. Larkin explained that the longer they prolong doing so, the more likely they will miss this year’s state grant cycle.

“There’s no reason to hold this process up,” Councilman Rick Donnah said.

Larkin made a motion to approve going to bid, which Donnah seconded. It passed 4-1, with Gillis saying he wasn’t ready. After the vote, Larkin reminded the board that going out to bid now does not mean they can’t bring in DANC later.

Little Wolf

The board moved on to discuss ongoing plans for renovations at the Little Wolf Beach and Campground. In a recent draft engineering report for the renovations, the estimated cost comes in at $7.3 million.

Possible renovations include adding a lot in the rear of the property to move parking away from the main beachfront; adding hardened surfaces throughout for accessibility; creating six car camping sites; creating new primitive campsites; installing bathrooms; moving the current boat launch away from campsites; and making campsites more uniform in size so most campers can fit.

“We’re just making it more efficient,” Gillis said.

In a phone call with Charles Prior, a senior associate at EDR — or Environmental Design & Research, Landscape Architecture, Engineering and Environmental Services — the board discussed what grants for the project would look like, and how much of the cost would need to come out of the town’s coffers.

Prior explained that grant funding for projects like this can come in at anywhere from 30% to 80% of cost, depending on different factors. One is project readiness, which would require the town to demonstrate it is taking actions to move forward and take the necessary steps, the first of which is to finalize the engineering report.

“You got through multiple rounds … it’s really multiple years or cycles of funding to get what you need in order to make it truly feasible for you folks,” he said.

The board also discussed with Prior completing the project in phases, which he said is not ideal. When you cut a project into multiple pieces, he explained, the percentage of funding receivable in grants applies only to the cost of that phase, rather than the project as a whole. Prior suggested phase talk should be deferred until the town figures out what grants they can obtain.

The $7.3 million estimate was a big point of discussion for the board, specifically concerning investment return.

“It’s a 30-year project,” Donnah said. “You invest in something like this for a long-term return.”

Dattola added that he has difficulty justifying spending that much money on one project rather than many.

“It’s kind of like one part of the big picture … giving Tupper Lake a whole face lift,” Gillis said.

He noted that Little Wolf Beach is directly linked to the Adirondack Rail Trail corridor and that it all ties in together.

To move forward, the town has to accept the engineering draft, as well as a draft environmental report, before EDR completes the next steps. Approval does not mean agreeing to the entire $7.3 million project, but rather allows the project to start moving forward. The board tabled approval for another special meeting next week, so that those steps can be reviewed.


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