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BDC still working on rail spur efforts

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MASSENA - Business Development Corporation for a Greater Massena officials are still working on efforts to create a rail spur that would connect Massena’s industrial park to the already existing CSX rail line that runs through the village.

BDC Executive Director Thomas Sullivan told board members Thursday that board member Paul Rufa, who was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting, has been talking with Dennis J. Elias from Erdman Anthony Engineers, and they were still gathering information.

“It’s typical back and forth information with the town on what needs to be done,” Mr. Sullivan said.

In a letter to BDC board members, Mr. Elias said at this point they are waiting for a “sidetrack agreement” and cost estimate, which he said they would need to review and respond to quickly with any comments.

A sidetrack agreement is an agreement between a property owner and a railroad company that adds specific exclusions to the coverage provided by a liability insurance policy. The “sidetrack” refers to an expanse of railroad track that runs through the property owner’s land. Liability insurance protects the assets of a company, such as a railroad company, by paying insurance claims and legal expenses. The provisions in a sidetrack agreement limit the liability of the railroad company.

Mr. Sullivan said a number of individuals have met to “make sure everything is on track,” but they would need to address their insurance liability.

“We’re going to have to alter our budget. We have to have increased liability insurance. General liability doesn’t cover what CSX requires. We could see some increase in our general liability number. Next month I should have a better number,” he said.

Mr. Elias said that once they receive the sidetrack agreement and cost estimate they could move forward.

“NYSDOT (New York state Department of Transportation) will also need to review the AFE (cost estimate), which could take a couple of days. If there are no issues, we will need to request funding from the RVRDA (River Valley Redevelopment Agency),” Mr. Elias said.

Once the BDC receives the check from the RVRDA, they will submit it to CSX along with an executed agreement, he said.

“This will get the project scheduled with CSX and will put the ball back in their court,” Mr. Elias said.

He said, from the BDC’s end, they will need to determine if they have enough funding to complete the scale work and finalize the design for the scale, which will involve electrical work and an entry to one of the Curran Renewable Energy buildings, as well as the specifications.

Once that’s done, Mr. Elias said, the final package will need to be reviewed by the Department of Transportation, Northern Border Regional Commission and St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency for comments.

“The design process should take about two weeks and the final review should also take two weeks. After that, we can advertise the project for a three-week period and open bids,” he said.

Mr. Sullivan had told board members during their previous meeting that they hoped to start construction this spring and have a completed rail by next fall.

Phase I of the project, which has an estimated price tag of $942,000, would connect the Massena Industrial Park to the railroad. A proposed Phase II would loop the rail spur through the entire industrial park, including several vacant properties in an effort to make those parcels more marketable.

Mr. Sullivan had previously told board members that Phase I was paid for through a series of grants and with the assistance of a “bridge loan” from the RVRDA. The bridge loan for $250,000 was provided to the BDC to pay for expenses associated with the project that must be paid up front. The loan will then be paid back when reimbursable grant funds from the Department of Transportation, Empire State Development Corporation and Northern Border Regional Commission are received.

The BDC received a $65,000 grant from the RVRDA for engineering expenses, a $209,000 grant from the Empire State Development Corporation, a $318,600 grant from the state Department of Transportation and a $123,500 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission.

Mr. Sullivan said that, at this point, they were focusing on Phase I. He said their thinking is, “Let’s get this project moving before we start looking down the road. Let’s get this thing rolling first.”

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