by Autumn Evans
Drainage and road repair work at the Belden Center in the Town of Niagara could happen much sooner and quicker than expected, according to information shared at the Jan. 7 Town Board work session.
The Belden Center project covers about 10,000 feet of drainage and road improvements. The original plan was to take care of drainage and mill and resurface work on Rhode Island Avenue with a contractor, and then work on connecting streets between there and Lockport Road at about 2,000 feet each year.
Now, thanks to grant money received in December, in addition to low asphalt prices and low interest rates, the entire project may be done at once.
In addition to the $600,000 grant awarded to the town last month, it has a 15-year amended community host agreement with the Fashion Outlet Mall for $100,000 each October. In all, the town could spend up to $2.1 million on the Belden Center.
At the meeting, Rick Henry, senior vice president of Clark Patterson Lee Design Professionals, described the background of the project and different routes the Town Board could take in pursuing it.
"I think we have an opportunity to at least look at doing it all this year with a contractor," Henry said.
He said the town should definitely design plans to investigate drainage issues and roadwork on Rhode Island Avenue, which is required in order to receive the grant money. Then, they could look into the cost of completing the rest of the project.
"If we can afford to do more, we'll do it. If we can't afford to do more, then we'll leave it to highway," Henry said.
Having the town's Highway Department cover roadwork would save money, he said, but the work would need to be done over three additional construction seasons in order to not impact the department's other duties.
According to estimates from a few years ago, the cost of roadwork would be about $1.6 million. However, Water/Sewer Superintendent Steve Roberts warned against looking into roadwork before understanding the state of the sewers.
"The sanitary sewer is clay tile and old - and inadequate," he said. "So you're gonna put all this money in all these roads and maybe in the future you're gonna have to dig it up in order to do something with that sanitary."
Henry agreed, saying it was "absolutely part of this evaluation." But, he added, "I'd also hate to see us spend $2 million doing storm and sanitary and not end up doing anything with pavement. We need to be sensitive to all of those pieces."
The town will not get the grant contract from the state until April, but Henry advised the board to be ready before then. They currently have $100,000 from the mall, which Henry recommended they use to do a bond resolution in February. They could then pay it back with the additional $100,000 brought in each year. All board members agreed action must be taken in February, partially because the town is currently getting interest rates under 1 percent.
"If we've got interest rates like that, we've got to do the whole project," said Councilman Danny Sklarski.
"To me, this is priority number one for this board for this year," said Supervisor Lee Wallace. "What has gone on down there over the years needs to be rectified, and it's almost like it's all coming together at once. It seems like we're in a good spot with this."
The board said it hoped to be ready for construction by the spring and it will await a scope of the full cost of the project before addressing a resolution.
Other items discussed included:
•Maintenance of the water tower, which hasn't been cleaned in 10 to 12 years. According to Henry, water towers are supposed to be cleaned every 5 years. The Water/Sewer Department budget can cover cleaning, assessing and adding a mixing system to the tank. Herman said he and Roberts would approach the board in February.
Dismantling the tower was also discussed, but doing so would violate the state Health Department's 10 State Standards.
•Heating in the Parks Maintenance building. According to Highway Superintendent Bob Herman, it gets so cold in the building during the winter that doing maintenance such as painting was challenging.
"It's very difficult to do work in a cold, concrete-floor building," he said. "It is a necessity to have heat in there in the winter months to work on equipment and so forth."
He said previous discussions on the subject have raised concerns about proper management of heating so it isn't overused and wasted.
"This is something that should have been done when the building was built," Councilman Rob Clark said. "We have a project fund that sits over there - we should use it."
"It's just not right that those guys are over there without any heat," Wallace said. "It's just not right."
Herman said he would look into the costs of different heating options.