LAKE PLACID - The town of North Elba is hiring an engineering firm from Albany to develop plans for a recreational trail between this community and Ray Brook.
The town board voted unanimously Tuesday night to enter into a contract with Creighton Manning LLP, pending approval by North Elba's attorney, Ron Briggs, who told the Enterprise Thursday he has recommended that town Supervisor Roby Politi sign the agreement.
The North Elba Pathway Project will be done in two phases. The first includes a parallel trail alongside the train tracks between Lake Placid and Ray Brook; the second phase will bring the trail the rest of the way to Saranac Lake.
Politi said Chuck Damp, a former councilman who is helping the town with the trail project, told the board at a recent work session that costs for the first phase are down significantly. The stretch from Lake Placid to Ray Brook was originally estimated to cost about $3.1 million, but that figure has since been reduced by about $700,000 to approximately $2.4 million.
"We basically came to the conclusion that unless the cost dropped to a number that we could live with, below $2.5 million, we were concerned about proceeding," Politi said. "As a result of discussion and other inspections of the site, those numbers are now feasible."
Politi said the savings can be attributed to the elimination of a trailhead design that would have cost about $150,000. He said big savings were also realized by decreasing the height of gabions, stone-filled cages that are used to stabilize slopes and protect against erosion, alongside the proposed trail. Early plans had gabions measuring 8 feet in height. Politi said that was excessive, and in some areas they've been reduced to 4 feet.
Under the contract with the town, Creighton Manning would be paid no more than $224,707 for the engineering work, Politi said. Briggs, the town's attorney, said he received a copy of the 59-page contract around noon Tuesday and didn't have a chance to review it before the meeting. He planned to read it Wednesday and report back to the board.
Briggs said Thursday he didn't have any issues with the contract.
Politi told the board it could wait to approve the contract until after Briggs reviewed it, or approve it subject to his review. North Elba currently has about $3.2 million in grant funding, and Politi said the town needs to report progress on the project to the state or risking losing its funding.
"I do know that the state is bearing down in terms of wanting to get this going," he said. "If we don't get started by Dec. 31, it's done. We lose it."
Councilman Jay Rand made the motion to approve the contract subject to Briggs' review. The board voted 4-0 to approve the motion; Councilman Derek Doty was absent.
In September, Damp wrote in an Enterprise Guest Commentary that the community would need to raise about $875,000 for the project's local match on the grant funding. He asked people to support the effort by donating money or in-kind services.
Politi told the Enterprise that fundraising efforts have been successful so far, but he didn't have figures. Damp was out of town because of work on Thursday and couldn't be immediately reached.