Local government taking proactive steps to solve some nagging problems

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 November 2014 at 12:00 am


File photo – A dredging barge is near the breakwall at the end of the Oak Orchard channel when the harbor was dredged in August for the first time in 10 years. Orleans and other southshore counties may pool their money and buy dredging equipment to ensure the harbors stay open.

Local government leaders are devising proactive solutions to help solve some long-festering problems. They deserve a pat on the back and I’m happy to give it to them.

Consider the following:

County will tackle bridge projects

New York State and the federal government used to be counted on to help pay the lion’s share for bridge replacement projects in Orleans County. Those bridge projects could top $1 million or more. The federal government would pay 80 percent with the state covering 15 percent. But those dollars have been in short supply in our county.

There are less federal and state dollars for bridge projects and the money tends to go to bridges with higher traffic counts in more populous counties.

We have aging infrastructure in our county. Many of the 70 county-owned bridges are at least a half-century old. Without a bridge replacement plan we could face a lot of blocked off roads in the future, delaying residents, emergency vehicles and commercial trucks. That would threaten public safety and the economy in the county.

Rather than waiting on the state or federal government, Orleans County leaders came up with their own plan for replacing six bridges in the next three years. The county will bond the project using low-interest financing to get the work done.

The following bridges have been identified for replacement, starting with two in 2015: a bridge from 1934 over Beardsley Creek on Waterport-Carlton Road in Carlton, and a bridge from 1968 in Barre over Manning Muckland Creek on Oak Orchard Road.

Other bridges to follow include one from 1959 in Kendall on Carton Road over Sandy Creek, a bridge from 1936 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on East Scott Road, one from 1928 in Ridgeway over Fish Creek on Culvert Road, and a bridge from 1956 in Kendall over Sandy Creek on Norway Road.

The bridge work will cost $5 million and is part of an $8 million bond that will also include culvert work, new roofs on county buildings and other infrastructure work.

Southshore counties may dredge harbors

The Oak Orchard Harbor should be dredged every six years to make sure sediment in the harbor doesn’t build up, making the channel impassable for boats. The harbor was dredged in August, the first time in 10 years using federal recovery funds from the Sandy Superstorm.

The federal government is directing dredging funds to commercial harbors and not to recreational harbors like Oak Orchard. However, that harbor is critical to the county’s recreational and sportsfishing industries.

The harbor generates $7,087,101 in economic activity for Orleans, resulting in 117 direct and indirect jobs. It also yields $283,484 in sales tax revenue for both the county and the state, according to a consultant, Frank Sciremammano of FES Environmental and Marine Consultants.

Rather than wait on the federal government and Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the harbors, the southshore counties may pool their funds and buy dredging equipment to keep 19 harbors open. Buying the equipment would result in annual $23,655 share from Orleans County. That seems like a small price to pay for the economic and recreational activity at the harbor, as well as the peace of mind in knowing it will stay open.

Holley finds partners to help revive old school

It’s a dominant landmark on the east end of our county, but it’s been left to wither and rot for the past two decades. The old Holley High School remains a solid structure despite the neglect, and officials from the Landmark Society of Western New York believe the building is worth saving and renovating.

The Landmark Society and Preservation League of NYS are working with the village to get the school on the state and national registers of historic places. That would make a rehabilitation project at the school eligible for 40 percent in tax credits. That could be enough to make a project, perhaps senior apartments, financially feasible for a developer.

Holley Mayor John Kenney deserves credit for connecting with the preservation groups and for seeing potential in the site. (The Preservation League is providing a $5,000 grant to help Holley with its application to get the school and Public Square on the state and national registers.)

Albion and Holley pursue LDCs for distressed properties

Eight homes in Holley were abandoned after a leak at the former Diaz Chemical plant more than 12 years ago. The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed those eight houses safe. But they remain empty and under EPA control.

The village is working to form a local development corporation that would take ownership of the sites and work to sell them. That is a proactive move by Holley. The funds from the housing sales could be used to advance other community projects. The LDC could also have a role in the redevelopment of the old school.

The Village of Albion is also working on an LDC to target distressed housing. The LDC would have a specific focus of either taking down or rehabilitating run-down homes. The LDC could also seek and accept grants and partner with other agencies.

In both cases, Holley and Albion are developing a framework to address difficult problems.

It’s good to see the government leaders being proactive and not reactive to some of our challenges.