Legislators approve funding for Friendship project, debate Alfred easement
By Andrew Harris
One of the most important legislative committees in Allegany county government met last week to discuss and approve funding for two public works projects still in the planning stages.
The larger of the two projects, the “Department of Public Works Friendship Shop,” is shaping up and starting to move from the board room to the drawing board. To give an idea of how large this project is, Allegany County will pay $250,000 dollars to Hunt Engineering to create engineering plans that will be used for the bid process. That quarter million dollar bill will be paid from funds already allocated to the project and then another $85,000 from the general fund. The committee approved the request and moved to send the request to the Ways and Means committee for final approval.
Committee members moved on to a more complicated and contentious subject related to the replacement of the Pine Street bridge in Alfred. The bridge, which is the main portal into Alfred University, will be replaced using county funding and therefore falls within the purview of the Department of Public Works. The devil in the details of this upcoming project lies in the state law which requires easements to be secured from adjacent landowners. That process requires a third party to determine the scope and value of those easements to ensure a fair market price. After that determination, the landowner(in this case Alfred University,) may or may not waive that required payment.
In this case, Alfred legislator Phil Curran was clearly irked that the county was being forced to pay Alfred University for the easement. Because the bridge is the main artery for vehicle and pedestrian traffic to campus, the main beneficiary of the project is the university. Another Alfred legislator who was present but not a committee member suggested that the county simply reach out to Alfred University as ask that they waive the assessment. Public Works Committee Chair Dwight Fanton indicated that the request had been made of the University already. Assuming that the university had demanded payment, the committee roll call vote on the measure passed in a narrow 4-3 vote. Inquires with Legislator Curran and DPW boss Justin Henry did not receive a response.
You can read the full conversation in the minutes below: