Lancaster village officials Wednesday pointed to two town documents identifying the deteriorating Erie Street Bridge, just east of Court Street, as a bridge and, therefore, the responsibility of the town.
The continuing debate over whether the village or town should fix or rebuild the span, which lies in the village, led to a presentation Wednesday evening by village special legal counsel Paul Weiss – who pointed to two references to the town identifying the span as “a bridge.”
The tone of the special meeting on the controversy was not heated – though some officials sidestepped the meeting. Village officials said they want an answer from the town by Wednesday about how the issue will be resolved.
Town Supervisor Dino Fudoli and Highway Superintendent Daniel J. Amatura, however, contend the span is a culvert and is the village’s responsibility.
The public’s safety is an issue, said village officials, who were angered that the town did not respond to correspondence in May from Mayor Paul M. Maute about the problem, which has reduced traffic to one lane on the bridge. The span has a hole through its deck, temporarily covered with heavy steel plates.
“There’s a big safety issue every time someone goes around that bend, so there’s an urgency to resolve this as soon as possible,” Maute said Wednesday.
Estimates from the village’s consulting engineer released Wednesday put total repair costs, including construction and design, at $46,400. If engineering started soon, work could probably be completed this year. A second option, which would mean replacing the span, would cost about $234,000.
“It is a bridge and not a culvert, because this span has no floor,” said Weiss, who noted that the town identified it as Bridge No. 1 – out of six along Erie Street – in an Aug. 12, 1979, inventory of bridges.
Weiss also pointed to July 1958 correspondence from then-Town Highway Superintendent Charles A. Stutzman, who identified the span at issue as a “bridge” and that the town contracted for, and paid for, repairs to the Erie Street Bridge.
“The town accepted responsibility in 1958, so you can only come to one conclusion that the Erie Street span is a bridge,” Weiss said.
“This is our evidence. We believe a court would find in our favor,” said Weiss, who added that had the town addressed the issue with the village in May, timing would not be as critical as it is now to get the span fixed by winter.
John Abraham and Ronald Ruffino, two town councilmen who are up for re-election, attended the village meeting Wednesday and vowed to pass on the information to Fudoli, the town engineer and town attorney.
An angry Fudoli backed out of attending the joint meeting because it was open to the public.
Village officials said the meeting had to be open because there was a quorum of village trustees.