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Changes to CPH expansion plans raise questions

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POTSDAM — The $5.5-million expansion to Canton-Potsdam Hospital’s 49 Lawrence Ave. campus is progressing on schedule, but changes to the stormwater drainage plan may hold up progress as the village reviews their potential effects.

Potsdam has good reason to worry about stormwater. In 2010 the village flooded, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

The planning board has since been vigilant in making sure new construction does not add to the village’s already-taxed stormwater drainage system.

Stormwater drainage was a concern in the hospital’s original plan, which was approved in October. That plan called for water to be collected both in above-ground ponds and in underground reservoirs, where it would slowly seep back into the soil. The revision eliminates these underground containers, instead increasing the size of the storage ponds.

Construction began while design work was still being done in order to finish the project as quickly as possible, according to Potsdam architect Brooks A. Washburn. This led to the revision of the original site plan which has the village worried.

Mr. Washburn is acting as a go-between between for local officials and the project’s main architects, Lavallee Brensinger Inc. of Manchester, N.H.

The building’s foundation has been poured, and construction on the steel frame will begin next week. Work began in December and continued through the winter despite regular snowstorms.

“The building is actually coming along quite smoothly,” Mr. Washburn said.

As long as work continues on schedule, the new facility, which will house ten primary-care physicians and an urgent care center, will be open in August.

The village hired GHD Consulting Engineers, Syracuse, to study the proposed system to make sure it would not further tax the village’s stormwater flows.

The firm submitted a four-page report to the village Planning Board, which asked several questions it said were left unanswered in the hospital’s plans.

“We had some issues that we wanted them to respond to before we accept the design,” Potsdam Office of Planning and Development Director Frederick J. Hanss said.

The Planning Board will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss the report with the project architects.

“We really have a responsibility to do that, as much as we support the hospital’s plans to grow and expand in the village,” Mr. Hanss said.

The Planning Board will not take any action on the proposal Thursday. The revised site plan will need to be approved by both the village and the county, although work will continue in the meantime.

The revised plan will be able to handle the same volume of water as the original at a lower cost, according to Mr. Washburn. He said he understands the village’s worries that improper drainage could cause problems for the whole village.

“It’s all part of a larger puzzle,” he said.

He said he believes once the Planning Board reviews the changes, it will find them satisfactory, he said.

Mr. Hanss said it’s possible the plan is fine, but the village needs to do its due diligence.

“We just need to be sure,” he said.

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