It took going all the way to the Pentagon, but the village of Fredonia will not be charged by the Army Corps of Engineers for plans they won't be implementing, saving the village around $58,000 and allowing an important project to move forward.
The problem is with Canadaway Creek, which has eroded the surrounding land near the wastewater treatment plant more than 100-feet in the past 50 years. Continued erosion could threaten sewer lines and access roads, making the village's project critical to local infrastructure.
The project is listed as a priority for the Army Corps of Engineers because continued erosion of the bank could jeopardize the integrity of the sewer main that runs along the creek and would then cause raw sewage to flow into the creek and potentially into Lake Erie.
Village of Fredonia mayor Stephen Keefe said when the Army Corps of Engineers first started on the erosion project in 1999, Mayor Pagano began the process of evaluation in the trunk line problem, which is the main sewer line to wastewater treatment plant.
"The Corps looked at the creek, came up with a plan and later decided the plan was not a good plan, and that their original blue print wasn't a good blueprint. It went right on the creek bank," Keefe said, and explained the new proposal was to build a trench on land.
In 2005, Congressman Brian Higgins came up with a grant to begin work on the project and Keefe said the Army Corps wanted to work on it.
In 2009, the Corps and the village of Fredonia signed a Project Participation Agreement to construct an approximately 720-foot long trench filled revetment along the left bank of Canadaway Creek.
"Then they sent a bill they included prices that were part of the original plan. At that point our attorney, Sam Drayo said those plans had never been implemented and a contract had never been signed, and we as a village couldn't pay those fees," Keefe continued.
"With the grant, we're responsible for matching 35 percent, so 35 cents on every dollar we have to pay. So before I even took office, Sam set up a meeting with the Army Corps, invited me to come along, (and others) and we discussed the costs associated with the project," Keefe explained.
Keefe said according to Corps at that point, no modifications could be made to the bill, even for items that were never implemented.
"What it finally came down to, is they walked away from the contract. Sam pointed out the expenses weren't fair and equitable and we just couldn't pay for things we wouldn't be receiving under contract," he added.
Keefe said they went to senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer and Congressman Higgins.
The representatives wrote to the Army Corps of Engineers in March and urged that they waive certain costs that would allow the project to move forward.
"It all ended up at the Pentagon under Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, who finally came back and said they'd discontinue those expenses which the Army Corps itself deemed unfit," Keefe said.
The total project cost was reduced by $207,468 saving the village over $58,000 in local payments for the project.
Schumer said he is also happy with the outcome.
"After 50 years of continued erosion in the village of Fredonia, we are pleased that the Army Corps has heeded our call and will reduce the costs for the Canadaway Creek Erosion Project, providing much needed relief to Fredonia taxpayers. This decision helps pave the way for this much-needed project to move forward and will allow federal resources to once again flow to this effort," he said.
Gillibrand echoed Schumer's sentiments.
"This reduction in cost will provide much-needed relief to the village of Fredonia, and will allow a critical project to move forward after more than a decade of deliberation," Gillibrand said. "I commend the Army Corps for their decision and hope that the erosion at Canadaway Creek can be immediately addressed to protect the health and safety of Fredonia's residents."
Higgins said team effort was behind the successful outcome.
"Working on behalf of the local community we brought everyone to the table and as a result of that discussion the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to waive certain costs of the Canadaway Creek Stream Bank Erosion Project," Higgins added. "This wouldn't have happened without the hard work of the village leadership, who tirelessly fought to protect the interests of taxpayers while working to resolve the erosion problem."
Keefe said most of the praise belongs to the village attorney.
"I think the hero here is Sam Drayo. He was the one who was very diligent in his approach to this. Everybody that was involved with it he wrote and detailed exactly what happened. He did an excellent job. Brilliant job," he said.
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