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Aurora must pay for East Aurora bridge repairs, judge rules

When village bridges are falling down, it’s the town’s problem.

That is what Supreme Court Judge John Michalek told Aurora this week, ruling that the town was responsible for paying to repair bridges in East Aurora.

The Aurora Board still has to vote on whether to appeal, but the village won this installment of the suit filed almost two years ago.

Repairs on eight bridges over Tannery Brook, estimated to cost about $6 million in total, were in limbo because the town interpreted state law to mean the bridges were the village’s responsibility if the village maintained them, such as through services as plowing snow.

The village’s prevailing view relied on a 1909 law, putting towns in charge unless a special vote declared otherwise.

“Just because we plowed the bridges, cleared the grass or whatever, that doesn’t say that the bridges are in our possession,” said Village Mayor Allan Kasprzak.

He was gratified by Michalek’s decision.

“We’re not trying to milk anybody. We’re not trying to hold any scimitar over anyone’s head. … We need help because our infrastructure is crumbling here,” he said.

Town Supervisor Jim Bach said Aurora was ready to go ahead with the repairs, to be paid for with a $50,000 state grant.

That was the same amount that Kasprzak said East Aurora spent on legal fees.

Bach said he had to check on the town’s legal costs. The full board would have to vote on whether to continue the suit, but he was inclined to let Michalek’s judgement stand. “I don’t believe I would vote for an appeal,” Bach said.

“I’m happy it’s over with,” he said. “The laws between towns and villages are so ambiguous. The only way to clarify it was to get a judge’s opinion. … Now we can address the infrastructure that needs to be addressed and go forward.”

Aurora Highway Superintendent David Gunner said he was glad that bridge repairs, which he would oversee, seemed closer to happening.

The bridge near his house on Whaley Street has been crumbling, and the aging one on Fillmore Avenue has closed.

“Now we can move on with making plans,” said Gunner. “It’s not going to happen overnight. The Town Board will have to come up with the funding.”