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Morgan apartment complex delayed over power line snafu

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A housing project that is expected to ease the housing shortage for military families is gridlocked in the town of Watertown.

National Grid forgot to design power lines connecting to a sewer pump station at the Preserve at Autumn Ridge, under construction off County Route 202 north of Sam’s Club.

Developer Morgan Management, Pittsford, was on schedule to complete four buildings in May. That will be delayed from two to four months, the developer discovered last week, because National Grid needs extra time to redesign the pump station that was planned in the original blueprints.

National Grid “left out a big part of the project — the pump station that was included in our original package we gave to them,” said Kevin J. Morgan, the developer’s vice president. “We never knew they left it out of the design. They said, ‘it’s going to cost you a lot more money, and we won’t be able to give you power by late 2013 if we use your plan.’”

To design the station the way the developer had wanted in its original plans — moving it to an area where an access road isn’t needed — would mean the power won’t be ready until September, the energy company reported, while redesigning the station would allow that portion of the project to be done by late July at the earliest.

The four buildings are part of the four-year project’s first phase, which calls for 244 two- and three-bedroom units to be done by fall 2014. In total, 60 buildings with 394 units are planned.

The delay will affect about 15 tenants who have signed lease agreements to move into apartments this summer, said Mr. Morgan, who described working with National Grid as a frustrating experience. He said the developer has called National Grid’s headquarters in Massachusetts numerous times and received no response from account managers assigned to the project. It has switched managers twice to correct that problem, he said, but the quality of service hasn’t improved.

“We wouldn’t get any response, and eventually you have to try to find someone else to return your call,” he said, adding the problems started last fall. “The ability to schedule their installation is taking forever. The process is obviously broken, and it ends up hurting developers and costing them a lot of money.”

In this case, he added, “it ends up hurting the military, which is starving for quality rental housing we’ve been tasked to provide.”

Asked about the delay, National Grid spokeswoman Virginia J. Limmiatis told the Times on Monday that the company aims to finish electrical work by July, cooperating to do so with general contractor DGA Builders of Rochester. That July deadline would delay the project by about two months. She said the energy company “continues to work closely with DGA Builders to monitor the situation. We just continue to move forward.”

The project received a 10-year tax break to provide market-rate rental housing for local residents and military families at Fort Drum, which was approved by Jefferson County, the town of Watertown and Watertown City School District. In an effort to speed up National Grid’s timeline, the developer has reached out to the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency and the Development Authority of the North Country to inform them about the delay.

“We’re hoping that, between those two organizations, we have some horsepower to get this process moving and have buildings ready to occupy in May,” Mr. Morgan said. “We’re not going to be able to provide places for families these are rented to until we get gas and electricity.”

Donald C. Alexander, JCIDA chief executive officer, said a meeting has been scheduled this week with all parties involved in an attempt to iron out problems with National Grid.

“The delay isn’t helpful when we need to respond to the military’s housing needs,” he said. “We want to try to sort out what issues are involved, to raise visibility about the project and try to get (National Grid) to react at a greater pace. All of the people I’ve spoken to understand the urgency of the matter and what’s at stake.”

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