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Look back: State funds lined up for Haiti Island – The Citizen

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MENTZ — The town is expected to receive $1.7 million in state funding that will replace the deteriorating Haiti Island bridge, state Sen. Michael Nozzolio announced Tuesday.
The money will come from a transportation account earmarked for bridge rebuilding projects. Mentz wasn’t pegged to receive funding until 2011, however Nozzolio worked with the town, Cayuga County Legislature and state Department of Transportation officials to get the money released as soon as possible.
“On Saturday I had a very important meeting with the residents of Haiti Island,” Nozzolio said by phone. “It was very clear that we needed to do a lot and we needed to do it quickly.”
On Tuesday night, the Mentz Town Board unanimously approved a request for the county Legislature to accept the emergency funding. A special Legislature meeting is planned for Thursday.
“There’s been a lot of action since the senator was here, I can tell you that,” Town Supervisor Jack O’Neil said to a roomful of mostly Haiti Island residents at the meeting.
The board also awarded a $67,500 contract to Slate Hill Constructors, Warners, to remove the troublesome portion of the Haiti Island bridge.
The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic July 28 after a portion of the bridge’s original framework dropped into the Seneca River, essentially blocking the 60 or so residents on the island from water and fuel delivery and limiting emergency services. The bridge has since been reopened to all terrain vehicles.
The board received three bids for the immediate bridge project that will add three tension cables and remove debris, a portion of the original bridge deck and the dangerous overhead truss.
Project engineer Matt Schooley approached a half dozen contractors after the town declared a state of emergency on the island last week. Of those, three were unavailable and Slate Hill was the lowest bidder, Schooley said.
The work should bring the bridge back to its pre-closure 15-ton rating that will support vehicle traffic while the town waits for replacement construction to begin in 2009 at the earliest. Slate Hill should begin its work, which will likely be paid with loans, next week.
“It’s amazing what can happen,” island resident Tom Ralph said. “Why hasn’t this been happening for the last 17 years?”
The Bailey bridge was installed within the shell of the old structure as a temporary fix in 1990, when a snow plow broke through and plunged into the river.
Nozzolio also is waiting for a reply to a letter addressed to Gov. Eliot Spitzer requesting an emergency declaration for the island. An emergency declaration could get the assistance necessary to stabilize the bridge while construction of a replacement begins, he said.
The replacement has been estimated at about $2 million, slightly more than the available money.
“We’re going to be fighting hard on a couple of fronts,” Nozzolio said. “First, to work with the town to bring that cost down.” 
— Compiled by David Wilcox

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