Harrietstown hall retaining wall project begins

SARANAC LAKE – More than two-and-a-half years after a retaining wall behind the Harrietstown Town Hall was damaged by flooding of the Saranac River, work associated with replacing it is finally under way.

In recent days, town, village and National Grid crews have been doing utility work behind the building, removing a utility pole near the river and relocating the building’s electrical service underground.

Within the next couple of weeks, Luck Brothers Construction will start work on replacing of the retaining wall itself, town Code Enforcement Officer Ed Randig told the Enterprise this week. The Plattsburgh-based company was the lowest of three bidders on the project. The town board awarded the company a $264,000 contract earlier this month.

The retaining wall was undermined in April 2011 when the river, fueled by a combination of heavy rain and spring snowmelt, overflowed its banks. Getting it replaced turned into what some town officials described as a bureaucratic nightmare.

The project required a long list of approvals from, among others, the state Adirondack Park Agency, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At one point last year, town leaders thought they had all the permits they needed, only to learn that DEC sought an additional study of potential impacts the new retaining wall could have on the river and downstream shoreline properties.

Speaking at an Oct. 24 board meeting, Councilman Ron Keough said the town was being “held hostage in a dark-hole abyss” by FEMA and DEC. The study was ultimately completed, and the town put the project out to bid in November.

Keough, in an email this week, said the town recently sent a letter to the organizations that use the town hall, including the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee, advising them that the rear doors near the stage can only be used to exit the building and that no parking will be allowed behind the building. Carnival kicks off Friday with the Coronation of Carnival royalty at the town hall.

“As you know we are endeavoring to preclude any handicapped persons from being inconvenienced,” Keough wrote. “There are not many who use those doors, and only occasionally, but we are looking to help them out by being a ahead of the curve in the event that is what they are used to doing.”

The public is encouraged to use the Main Street entryways to the building. The handicapped entrance at the LaPan Highway side of the town hall will still be accessible during the project, Keough said.