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Village board to decide whether to borrow funds for Aluminum Trail repairs

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MASSENA — When the village board meets next month, it will decide whether to borrow money to pay for repairs to the footbridge over the Grasse River on the so-called Aluminum Trail.

According to a memo from Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad, the village would have to borrow $239,200 to finance its share of the project, which carries a total cost of $1,681,000, most of which will be paid for through a Federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant of $1,153,800.

Mr. Fayad said the grant was awarded based on a projected cost of $1,143,000 for the project, which originally was to include an extended walking trail that stretched from East Orvis Street across the Grasse River footbridge to Liberty and Stoughton avenues, then head from North Main Street to the Massena Water Intake on Route 131.

That project has been reduced to an overhaul of the footbridge and work to the bridge approach on both sides.

While designs for the project have been completed and the Department of Transportation would like to put the project out to bid in September, Mr. Fayad said he would like to see the bidding process postponed.

“I think it would be better to postpone that until the winter months when the contractors are a little more hungry,” he said, adding that since the project is using federal funds, the village will be required to make the new bridge handicapped accessible.

Trustee Patricia K. Wilson said she would support getting the work done.

“I’ve been in communities where they have trestle bridges like this,” she said. “They’re very nice.”

And while that may be the case, Mayor James F. Hidy said, Massena’s bridge is in pretty rough shape.

“It’s in dire straits,” he said. “We have a good opportunity here. Costs are only going to increase.”

Trustee Francis J. Carvel said the village was sold on the project because it was going to receive $185,000 from the New York Power Authority to help cover the cost.

When asked if the village still was going to receive that money, Mr. Fayad replied, “I would say no.”

Ms. Wilson said that since the project has changed, the apparent lack of assistance could be simply because those outside entities haven’t again been contacted for help.

Mr. Carvel said it was his understanding that Alcoa was going to provide the aluminum needed for the project, and MED was going to “do wiring and anything electrical that needed to be done.”

Should the village opt not to spend the money, it would lose the grant, as well as the $288,000 it already has invested in the project.

“If we walk away from it, it’s like we’re pushing $288,000 off the table,” Trustee Timothy J. Ahfeld said.

“And we’ll still have an aging footbridge,” Mr. Hidy said.

Since Mr. Fayad suggested pushing the bidding back, Ms. Wilson suggested tabling the decision for a month to allow village officials to reconnect with agencies that previously had promised assistance.

“I know MED is still on board with us,” Mr. Fayad said, adding he and Mr. Hidy will reach out to Alcoa to see where it stands. Mr. Hidy also said he would reach out to the Power Authority.

“Let’s put it on the agenda for next month,” Mr. Ahfeld said.

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