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City asked to foot bill for ash removal Waste disposal issue stalls public housing development project

The Niagara Falls Housing Authority has asked the city to pitch in as much as $3 million to pay for hauling away incinerator ash found on former city parkland slated for a new public housing development.

The request is part of the latest proposal to deal with solid waste found on the site of a planned $72 million housing development that would replace the Housing Authority's Center Court complex with townhouses and bungalows.

Discussions over how to deal with the ash have stalled the project since late August.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said this week that the city was considering the request, but had asked the Housing Authority and the project developer, Norstar Development USA, for exact estimates about the amount of waste and the cost of removing it to a landfill.

"We're committed to trying to find a way forward," Dyster said.

A soils management plan for the construction site previously called for moving about 50,000 cubic yards of ash to a strip of city-owned land south of Centre Avenue next to a rail line to create a berm.

But after discussions with city leaders and officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Norstar has drawn up a new plan in which the ash would instead be taken to a landfill and the city would pick up the cost.

Dyster and the City Council have not yet approved contributing additional money to the project. It was unclear Tuesday what revenue source the city would use if it agrees to the request.

The city already has promised $3 million of local slot machine revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino to the project.

Linda Goodman, Norstar's executive director, said the creation of the berm would have been safe for residents, despite questions raised by city leaders last month about the proposal.

"The berm wasn't an incorrect choice. It wasn't an unsafe choice," Goodman said. "It really was more of an economic choice."

Goodman had previously said the project could not afford the cost of taking the excess ash to a landfill.

"With additional resources from the city, the project was able to afford to truck some of the excess ash off site," Goodman said.

Norstar consultants believe ash found on the former parkland was dumped on the site decades ago from a municipal incinerator that once operated in the neighborhood.

The Housing Authority's planned development includes building 282 mixed-income units in the North End and in LaSalle. The project was awarded a $20 million federal grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOPE VI program.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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