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Ogdensburg funds additional Shade Roller pollution investigation

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OGDENSBURG — The City Council authorized more expenditures to study pollution on the former Standard Shade Roller site along the St. Lawrence River, but not before some members vented their frustration over the pace and the cost of waterfront development.

The council passed a $60,090 amendment to a $364,225 agreement with Barton & Loguidice of Syracuse for engineering services related to the demolition of buildings and investigation into hazardous substance contamination at the site. Part of the additional funds will go to the construction of monitoring wells to determine the source and extent of pollution.

“In my 10 years, any time you’re dealing with contamination it works this way,” said Kit W. Smith, director of public works. “Until you get into the ground, you don’t know what they put in there 50 years ago.”

Councilman R. Storm Cilley said the cost of the wells should have been included in the original scope of the project.

“It seems like every project they do they’re coming back for additional fees,” he said. “I’m getting the impression that we’re getting low-balled in the bids. Just once I’d like a project to come in at the estimate.”

In the course of demolishing and cleaning up former industrial sites, additional pollution is often discovered as work proceeds, Mr. Smith said.

“The building demo revealed some remediation work,” he said. “There were contaminants found; it works that way in all the projects we’ve had. They knew there was going to be additional work; this sort of project moves in phases. This is what the DEC and the EPA want.”

Mr. Smith said the site was still in the investigation phase and it might take additional time before the cleanup began.

“We started with 12 boring sites; now we’re dealing with 100 or more,” he said. “We’ll probably go through two, three more steps before the cleanup.”

Mayor William D. Nelson noted that the original scope of work is the product of state and federal agencies that provide grants to fund the project.

“The state develops the work plan,” he said. “The driver at the scene is the Department of Environmental Conservation.”

City Planner Andrea L. Smith said the additional cost will come out the grant funds dedicated to remediating the properties.

Mr. Cilley, who has been a council member for three years, complained that there was little evidence of progress cleaning up city-owned waterfront parcels and moving them to market.

“We’re not making any progress; I don’t see it,” he said. “Why aren’t we saying to developers, ‘Come in here and make a proposal?’ I’m interested in getting something down there to bring in tax dollars, but I’m not seeing any progress.”

Three concurrent programs to plan development at the sites — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Area Wide Planning and Brownfields Opportunity Area programs and the New York state Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan program have yielded a wealth of studies, schematics and public input, said Mr. Cilley, but have yet to lead to development.

“We are continually doing these studies and have reports come back to us and we’re not acting on them,” he said. “The plans I’ve seen presented here are totally out of our reach. Until we have some jobs, until we have more of a tax base, we’re in the dreaming stage.”

Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley shared that sense of urgency.

“We need something to produce jobs and taxes,” he said. “What have we done that has actually created jobs and development here?”

Ms. Smith urged the council members to take a long view on waterfront planning.

“I respectfully disagree; we have made progress,” she said. “The last thing this community wants is to get shovels into the ground prematurely. We want to make sure we take this opportunity now to get it right.”

A majority of council members took her view.

“We may not see development until the economy turns around,” said Councilman William D. Hosmer. “When it does, we’ll be ready.”

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