H’town banks on FEMA to cover retaining wall project

SARANAC LAKE – The town of Harrietstown hopes the Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover most, if not all, of the cost of replacement of a retaining wall along the Saranac River behind the Harrietstown Town Hall.

Town officials recently submitted paperwork to the federal agency to reimburse the town $185,000, which represents their first payment to the project’s contractor, Luck Brothers of Plattsburgh. Luck Brothers is expected to submit another invoice for roughly $80,000. The company bid $264,000 on the project.

Town Supervisor Mike Kilroy said FEMA has promised to give the town at least $207,000.

“As soon as Luck turns in their second one, I’ll submit it,” Kilroy said. “It’s going to be about $80,000 something. They may give us all of it, and I’d be happy if they do. They might also say, ‘Here’s your $207,000. That’s all you’re going to get.’ I’m just going to keep submitting until they say stop.”

The original retaining wall was damaged in April 2011 when the river, fueled by a combination of heavy rain and spring snowmelt, overflowed its banks. Getting it replaced took more than three years. Town officials have said that’s because the project required a long list of approvals from numerous agencies including 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.

Work on the new retaining wall finally started in June. Town Code Enforcement Officer Ed Randig said Thursday that the project was “basically complete” except for some paving work and the installation of a railing.

“We restored the River Walk,” he said. “All the bedrock is completed and we’re waiting for the grass to grow.”

Town officials noted that the wall is much taller than the one that was there before. One board member joked that it looked like a fort.

“The turret and the cannons are coming in next week, and we’re going to have a re-enactment of the French and Indian War,” Randig quipped.

The town borrowed $330,000 for the project last year based on estimates from its consultant, North Woods Engineering of Saranac Lake. In addition to the new retaining wall, the town has also spent $28,000 to remove a utility pole behind the building and put up a new one. Another $26,000 was spent on a new generator for the town hall.