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East Aurora village trustees have hired a Buffalo environmental engineering firm for $108,500 to clean up contamination at the new Aurora Senior Citizens Center, action that had been delayed while awaiting additional testing and remediation.

The Village Board agreed in a special meeting this week to contract with Benchmark Environmental Engineering & Science for environmental remediation at the site at 587 Oakwood Ave., where paint- and petroleum-based contamination was discovered last August.

The three-pronged contract includes $79,500 for interior work involving the bulk of the contamination at the former auto body/collision shop, plus $18,800 to clean up a gasoline spill in the parking lot, and another $10,200 for monitoring ground water in the parking lot.

The board's 5-1 vote comes a week after trustees had given village staff the go-ahead to solicit competitive bids for the cleanup work, if village officials felt that was necessary. The process never went that far.

The vote to go with Benchmark, which the village had already retained for analysis of the contamination, was also supported by Mayor John Pagliaccio. Trustee Patrick McDonnell cast the only opposing vote, saying he didn't like the process. Trustee Christine Peters was absent.

Village Administrator Patrick Richey said the village was instead able to renegotiate some costs from a preliminary Benchmark cost estimate -- ultimately leading to reduced charges. In addition, it should save about four weeks of work time that otherwise would have further postponed the project had the village advertised for bids and gone through the process of hiring a different contractor.

Cleanup expenses at the senior center so far total $146,250, including the cleanup contract and the village's initial $37,750 cost of hiring Benchmark to do additional testing at the site once contamination was discovered. However, the village is counting on using a $90,000 federal community development block grant it just received to help offset the cleanup tab.

Richard Glover, the town's project manager for the senior center renovations, said he is "guardedly optimistic" about getting the project back on track soon. He said he hopes to have town contractors mobilized by Monday so they can resume work on the center once the remediation is complete.

The cleanup is expected to take two weeks to complete, followed by additional testing of the air and ground water, Richey said. Other contractors working on improvements at the site probably can get back on the job by early March, he said.

Richey said the village's Wastewater Treatment Plant determined the contaminated water can be disposed of directly into the sanitary sewer system instead of having to pretreat it. In addition, some testing beyond air and ground water analysis does not have to be done, he said.

"They (Benchmark) felt we would be OK with the additional testing to be done upon remediation," Richey said. Benchmark also renegotiated lower disposal costs with its disposal subcontractor.

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