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Alex Bay pushes back $1 mil riverwalk one last time

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ALEXANDRIA BAY — With a state deadline approaching, the village is pushing back its million-dollar riverwalk project one last time.

Construction is slated to begin next April — instead of this summer — with an anticipated completion in December 2014.

Since securing a $935,000 federal grant administered by the state Department of Transportation in 2009, Alex Bay delayed the riverwalk several times to redesign what was initially a mile-long trail connecting the downtown business district to the St. Lawrence River.

The grant money came with a five-year completion deadline, and village officials initially wished to seek construction bids for the project in July 2009.

Alex Bay’s riverwalk was first pushed back to summer 2010 due to some minor holdups with the state-mandated approval process with the DOT.

As the village was getting ready to move forward again in August 2010, River Hospital — which owns a majority of the waterfront that the village had proposed to build the trail along — refused to sign an easement allowing work on its property siting “safety concerns” at its emergency access dock.

But when village officials asked its engineer to remove River Hospital’s property from the project plan, the hospital announced that it would be investing its own funds to redevelop its waterfront so that it can be a part of the project again.

Project engineers with Prudent Engineering, East Syracuse, went back and altered the path for the second time to include River Hospital’s shoreline again.

Once a new plan was submitted with an updated cost estimate, Alex Bay realized it had exceeded its initial budget — from the initial $1.1 million to roughly $1.4 million — because of the redesigns and delays.

A few taxpayers threatened to petition and kill the project altogether in early 2011.

That movement did not gain any momentum, but village officials decided to scale back their “Cadillac” plan to what they now call a “baseline project” with a shorter trail to keep the project within budget.

The revised riverwalk was less than half the length of the initial path, but the village hoped to once and for all complete the project and perhaps expand it in the future.

A new project was proposed to the public in May 2012. And River Hospital, once again, refused to grant the village an easement to conduct work on its land because of what local officials later said was a misunderstanding caused by a “lack of communication.”

Still, it took nearly 11 months since then for the village board to “fine tune” the project plan yet again to finally get the hospital board’s blessing in writing.

Now, it appears the village is back on track.

Mayor Danielle L. Jury — who was a political newcomer when she joined the village board as a trustee in November 2009, at the start of what turned out to be a lengthy journey — said the final project plan is now pending DOT’s approval.

According to the final riverwalk plan, the 2,181-foot trail — which varies in width, ranging from 5 feet to 14 feet — begins at the business district from the intersection of James Street and Howell Avenue.

It continues north to the shoreline in front of River Hospital, crosses through Scenic View Park to Fuller Street, then to Church Street and loops back to James Street.

There will also be a “connecting segment” along Fuller Street between the street’s intersections with Church Street to Market Street to make it a continuous walkway, according to the plan.

The project’s latest total cost estimate is $1,015,191.

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