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Residents' concerns addressed on Parker-Fries sewer project; First phase is ahead of schedule and under budget, officials report

From light poles to trees, several issues needing attention were raised Thursday by residents of the eastern part of the Town of Tonawanda, where the first phase of the Parker-Fries sewer replacement project is heading into its final months.

The fifth -- and last -- public meeting about the $30 million project, part of a multidecade overhaul of the town's sanitary sewer system, was held Thursday night in Kenmore East High School. Just a few dozen people were there; the drop in attendance from previous meetings was attributed, in part, to the hockey and baseball games taking place.

"The good news is that we're ahead of schedule," said Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana. "We're also under budget."

Construction began in the summer of 2010 and was projected to take through next June.

Though some excavation and tunneling work continues in the southern area of the construction zone, the worst of the traffic disruptions are over, said Ken Maving, the town's director of water resources.

"I can gladly say that most of those restrictions have now been lifted and most of the detours open to traffic," he said.

"We are digging another launch pit in the middle of Maplegrove [Avenue]," Maving said. "That's really the only pipe that still needs to be put in the ground."

That work will continue through mid-December, Maving said. Early next year, the sewer lines will be hooked up, with the time needed to connect each point taking from a couple of hours to a couple of days to a week. After that, remaining paving and concrete work will be done, as well as restorations as needed.

Replacement of the town's aging sanitary sewer lines was necessitated by sewage overflowing into storm sewers, and nearby waterways, getting the town into hot water with state and federal environmental regulatory agencies.

With work nearing completion, residents presented concerns relative to their neighborhoods:

*A resident of Maplegrove Avenue, noting that the trees on the west side of the street were "decimated" during construction, asked what would be done to replace the 100-year-old maples that inspired the street's name.

Young maples, with trunks measuring 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, will be planted. "You can't go much larger than that because of the size of the right of way," explained Jack Schifferli, the town's forestry foreman. "We're trying to put in the largest tree we can."

*Another resident noted that the street light at Maplegrove and Eggert Road is missing. National Grid plans to replace it, he was told, and the utility also is aware of other street lights in that area that aren't working.

*A Parker Boulevard resident brought up a problem with the concrete sidewalk in front of her house.

Preconstruction photographs were taken in the neighborhoods and can be examined to determine whether the problem was caused by the construction, according to Jim Milks, chief inspector for project engineer Conestoga-Rovers & Associates.

*A resident of Fries Road asked when construction of phase two of the project will begin.

Maving said the plan is to put phase two out to bid by the end of the year, with bids coming back in late January. "We are hoping to start construction -- in April of next year," he said.