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Hohl’s of Tonawanda is likely contractor for Lockport’s Flight of Five

LOCKPORT – A Town of Tonawanda company submitted the only bid that was under the allotted $1.81 million budget for the reconstruction of part of the 19th-century Erie Canal locks to working order.

Hohl Industrial Services bid $1.74 million for the work, outbidding the only other contender, BVR Construction Co. of Churchville, which bid $1.9 million.

Shane Mahar, spokesman for the New York State Canal Corp. and Thruway Authority, said Friday that the Canal Corp. is analyzing Hohl’s bid. After that, he said, the offices of the attorney general and comptroller will have their say.

Assuming all goes well, Hohl then would receive its contract and have 10 days to start work.

“We estimate that construction will start in the last week of August or the first week of September,” Mahar said.

The plan is to install gates and equipment to open them on Locks 69 and 70, two of the Flight of Five stair-step locks that survived as a spillway after the other five original locks were replaced by two massive steel locks 99 years ago.

The city believes restoring the 19th-century locks, numbered 67 through 71 by the Canal Corp., would be a substantial tourist attraction.

Plans are afoot for a replica packet boat to demonstrate how the locks worked, and for interpretive signs, though funding hasn’t been lined up. There isn’t enough money available for restoration of all five locks, which would cost roughly $10 million, so work will be done only on the middle lock and the one directly above it.

The main source of funds for the work was money left over from a $2.6 million federal grant obtained by then-Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds in 2005. Bergmann Associates, the engineering firm that drew up the plans, was paid from that grant.

In addition, there have been some foundation grants, and the city has borrowed $380,000 for the project. It will be responsible for operating and maintaining the restored locks, which is estimated to cost $100,000 a year.

Bidders for the construction work on Locks 69 and 70 were asked to put in alternative bids that included extras, such as railings and restoration of two stone footbridges over the Flight of Five. However, all of those bids exceeded the $1.81 million budget, the highest by $678,000.