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A major sewer-replacement project recently ran past Franklin Middle and Elementary Schools in the Town of Tonawanda, and some residents say that turning the area into a construction zone created a hazardous situation for students.

Phase three of the four-phase, $60 million Parker-Fries sewer-reconstruction project has brought truck traffic, stacks of 42-inch-diameter pipes and deep holes from street excavation down Parkhurst Boulevard in recent months.

“Really, my issue was just the volume of children that had to walk out those doors and face those hazards every single day,” said Parkhurst resident Ann E. Burke, who has 30 years of experience in environmental construction.

Burke questioned why the work couldn’t simply wait until summer recess begins June 24. Town officials say that wasn’t an option.

“I know it’s frustrating, and we would have loved to have had them going by the school at a later date, but it didn’t work out that way,” said Michael E. Kessler, the town’s director of water resources.

The contractor, Yarussi Construction of Niagara Falls, began digging March 31 and was two weeks ahead of schedule when crews reached the large school complex, he said.

“Once the contractor has notice to proceed, you can’t tell him to stop his progress, because he’s got to continue to meet his deadline,” Kessler said. “If he doesn’t meet his deadline, we could go after him for liquidated damages.”

But Burke said the town could have extended the contractor’s schedule by whatever amount of time the work would have been halted until school lets out.

“They have the power to change that,” Burke said of the town.

Ken-Ton Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro acknowledged that the project caused some difficulties for students and parents but said that the town and the school district have an otherwise good history of collaborating so that infrastructure projects and the routines of the school day don’t conflict.

He said he understood the reasons given for why the work couldn’t wait.

Franklin – in the morning and at dismissal – already has existing traffic issues, which were exacerbated by the sewer project, Mondanaro said. Town police were brought in during construction to help students and parents navigate the area, he said.

By late last week, excavators had moved on and were approaching Decatur Road and Parkhurst along Lincoln Park, which is a block south of the schools.

The project involves replacing more than 11,050 linear feet of sanitary sewer lines along Parkhurst, from Woodland Drive south to Chelsea Street, and tributary lines along that route.

The project, which began in 2010, is part of a five-part townwide overhaul planned for the sanitary sewer system. The work is necessary, in part, to prevent sanitary sewer overflows from ending up in local waterways during wet weather.

Revised plans call for phase three to be finished by Sept. 5, with curb and road restoration complete by late November, Kessler said. Town officials and the contractor agreed Thursday that restoration of Parkhurst in front of the Franklin complex would be done this summer to prevent any further impact on the schools, he said.

New catch basins and an additional storm sewer line will be installed in Lincoln Park to prevent drainage overflow onto Parkhurst, which caused numerous potholes and other road problems over the winter, Kessler said.

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com