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LOCKPORT – A juvenile driver wrecked a guardrail in the Spring Street tunnel last week, and it will cost the city nearly $10,000 to replace it. A 14-year-old was at the wheel of the car that wrecked the railing, according to Mayor Michael W. Tucker.

Eighty feet of the 200-foot guardrail on the downhill side of the tunnel was ruined, but the entire rail will have to be replaced, said Norman D. Allen, director of engineering and public works.

The railing must be repaired because it separates the traffic lane from a sidewalk within the tunnel, Allen said. Cones and portable barriers will have to be used for up to eight weeks.

That’s because city crews aren’t equipped to carry out this job, so the city must turn to Chemung Construction, a company that has a general contract with Niagara County for such repairs.

Allen said that company won’t have a crew available for almost two months. The estimated price tag of the work is nearly $10,000, Allen said.

Meanwhile, Allen tried to explain to the Common Council why the chipping of downed tree limbs from the Dec. 22 ice storm is proceeding slowly.

Many areas of the city are still piled high with tree branches along the curbs.

“As soon as we clean a street up, people are bringing [downed wood] out of their backyards,” Allen said. “If it doesn’t snow, it’ll take a month or two.”

Another delaying factor is the frequent water main breaks within the city this winter, which forces the diversion of laborers from other duties, such as brush chipping.

Five water mains have sprung major leaks in the past two weeks, Allen told the Council, and another problem caused by freezing and thawing of the ground, winter potholes, also demands attention with temporary patching.

Allen said he has three chipper crews out when other duties don’t intervene, and they are trying to follow the garbage collection routes.

The worst streets for brush seemed to be High, Locust and Pine streets, Allen said, although there are downed limbs on virtually every street in Lockport.

“It’s all along the curb, so it’s not in the way. It just takes time,” Tucker said.

“We need more people doing that," resident Russell Bruning told the Council. “I don’t know where we’re going to get them, being as broke as we are. … We need to get this city back in shape again, somehow.”

He also asked about demolition of buildings damaged by fire.

Tucker answered that the city intends to have homeowners’ insurance companies pay for such removals.

“It costs about $30,000 apiece to knock them down. We’re not going to do it,” Tucker said.

In another matter last week, the Council approved an extension through 2018 of the city’s contract with the Town of Lockport for sewer services.

Portions of the town send their sewage through the city’s system. The town’s bill for that was $596,855 in 2013 and will be $637,660 per year from this year through 2018.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com