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NEW ENGINEERS OK'D FOR SENIOR CENTER SITE

Engineers assigned to analyze the contamination found at a former auto body/collision shop that is undergoing renovations to become Aurora's new Senior Citizens Center have changed faces -- again.

A week after East Aurora village trustees hired a new environmental engineering consultant for a maximum of $29,000 to review the problem and develop a cleanup plan, the Village Board had to rescind the hiring of Conestoga Rovers Associates and go with the next-lowest bidder.

The Niagara Falls-based CRA, which had been hired by the village to review previous engineering work done by R&D Engineering, the Town of Aurora's engineer on the project, notified the village Friday that it miscalculated its cost estimate and couldn't do the work for less than $48,000.

This week, on the recommendation of Village Administrator Patrick Richey, the board decided to hire Benchmark Environmental Engineering & Science of Buffalo for a maximum of $31,000 to handle contamination review and recommend a cleanup plan for the site at 587 Oakwood Ave. Benchmark's estimate would include the cost of any additional testing, Richey said.

The town has bonded $1.2 million for the senior center project, but because the village owns the building and is leasing it to the town, the village is responsible for cleaning up the contamination, which was discovered in August.

It is not yet known who is responsible for the petroleum- and paint-based contaminants. Delia Car Co. ran a former auto body/collision shop there, but the building also was used by the defunct New York Telephone Co. as a maintenance garage. The federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation are investigating.

The delays from the cleanup will affect contractors currently working on renovations.

Town officials are concerned about the impact on the cost of the project. The completion date -- originally targeted as late November -- has been moved to winter.

Benchmark's estimate to the village ranged between $23,000 and $31,000.

"My recommendation is to cap it at $31,000," Richey told the board during a special meeting. That fee does not take into account disposal costs for removing the contaminants.

Some questioned paying another engineer after so much work already has been done on the project.

"We're paying someone $31,000 to tell us about work that's already been done?" said Trustee Donald Nieman said, referring to work previously done by the town's engineer, R&D.

"It's a tough nut to crack," Richey said. "We're just trying to take the most prudent course of action."

Meanwhile, town officials are already feeling the impact of the delayed project, because they are leasing the existing senior center at 641 Oakwood Ave. on a month-to-month basis.

The town had been renting the space for $1,200 per month, but the rent will increase to $1,250 monthly effective Nov. 1. However, October's rent will be $1,500 because of increased legal expenses that the building's owner said she has incurred because of the altered lease arrangement.

The Town Board, noting that it is dissatisfied with paying higher rent, Monday night approved extending the lease at the old site through June 30.

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