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Pact to help city obtain grants OK'd

The Olean Common Council has given the final go-ahead for an agreement with TVGA Engineering of Elma, authorizing a needs assessment of each department for the purpose of seeking federal and state grants.

Mayor David Carucci assured aldermen meeting Tuesday that the fee, not to exceed $25,000, could be found in the city's budget and that the needs assessment will help locate money to fund some projects. The city will pay TVGA nothing if no applications are filed, he said.

Public Works Director Ashok Kapoor pointed out that the arrangement does not give TVGA a percentage of grants. But the aldermen, who interviewed the firm in July and then held more discussions with TVGA representative Dave McCoy during an August committee session, asked McCoy again for assurances that the agreement would not lead to unlimited costs.

McCoy said billing is based on past experience with similar clients and projects, with task order costs to be estimated from the level of effort needed. There are no guarantees that the city will obtain a grant. The task orders will be approved by the Council.

"It's about a one-year anniversary since the economy crashed. The landscape for funding has changed. We have contacts [among grant-making institutions], and we can take the pain out of some of these things. And we will make you look good," McCoy told them.

Council President Ray Wangelin, Ward 3, cast the only no vote, commenting after the meeting that he doesn't believe TVGA will seek out the smaller grants under $10,000, and he fears the firm will charge the city $25,000 per item.

Among other matters, Aldermen Linda Edstrom, Ward 4, and Earl McElfresh, Ward 1, cast the only votes against using the contingency fund to pay $8,400 for last week's controversial mosquito spraying. Also, the Council approved an application for a $50,000 state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation grant to paint the Fannie E. Bartlett House.

During a committee meeting that preceded the Council session, aldermen were briefed on the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board's draft plans for a truck-rail transmodal freight facility in the former Norfolk-Southern switching yard on 17 acres north of Constitution Avenue. The phased project could eventually result in the widening of Constitution Avenue but will ultimately result in an intermodal container operation and a satellite marine terminal, served by a nearby "business logistics park" with a foreign trade zone designation. Southern Tier West, the Southern Tier Extension Rail Authority and the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad are collaborating on a $20 million grant request from the $1.5 billion federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant program.

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