By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Lawsuits, radioactive material, and a difficult contractor have made for an interesting — and often frustrating — saga for the city and residents of Lewiston Road.
The effort to repair the long-neglected stretch of road that winds through the city’s DeVeaux neighborhood began four years ago. The road opened to two-way traffic again in mid-December.
Mayor Paul Dyster said he can remember problems with the road’s surface since he lived there as a grade school student.
“This is something that’s been on the city’s to-do list since I was a kid and it’s going to be done sometime early next summer,” Dyster said. “I think that’s a positive.”
The city remains embroiled in a legal battle with Man O’ Trees Inc., the company that won the original bid for the project but was kicked off the job by the city this fall. The company’s owner David Pfeiffer, claimed that the many delays in the project were the result of inaccurate estimates from the city and its engineering consultant Wendel Duchscherer Architects and Engineers of the amount of radioactive material that had to be remediated for the project.
When the city told the company to move forward with the project, the company claimed that it had an ethical responsibility to remove all radioactive materials, and the city stopped paying because of the massive spending overages that were being racked up for the company.
City officials complained that Man O’ Trees was exaggerating the amount of material in an effort to make the job more lucrative. Eventually, the city was able to break its contract with Man O’ Trees and hired Accadia Contracting to finish the job.
Dyster said that while contractors are moving into the last stages of construction, the court battle could potentially continue for years — but residents will be happy to have the construction completed.
“I think everyone has been generally pleased since we brought the new contractor on board,” Dyster said. “I think the people who live there can see the difference on the ground level.”
Council Chairman Sam Fruscione is one of those people. He’s a DeVeaux resident.
He said that the recent progress has helped long-suffering residents who have been frustrated by limited access to their homes.
“It shows that things could have gone very quickly in the first place,” Fruscione said.
Since the new contractor signed on and the road project began moving forward again, Fruscione said he has seen many houses that have been on the market for a long time with “sold” signs in the front yard.
“We’ve seen a lot of progress,” he said. “The property values will begin to go up again.”The Gazette is counting down its top 10 stories of the year through New Year's Day. The list: • 10: Tumultuous year for Falls air base • 9: Airport takes hit with Direct Air shutdown • 8: Lewiston Road's rough ride to repair • COMING TOMORROW: A tasty treat for the Falls