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Officials pleased local contractors hired for GM site remediation

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MASSENA - Local officials are pleased that an area contractor won the bid for the next phase of remedial work at the former General Motors Powertrain plant.

Perras Environmental Control, a family-owned excavating and environmental clean-up company based in Massena, was awarded the contract for the next phase of the remediation project at the former GM site, officials for the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response trust announced this week.

“I’m very happy with the next phase of remedial work being awarded to a local contractor,” said Anthony J. Arquiett, county legislator and chairman of the North Country Redevelopment Task Force. “One of the roles of the task force is an ongoing effort to keep as much of the work as possible local.”

Mr. Arquiett pointed out the previous two contractors RACER hired were not from the area.

“It’s about time they gave more (work to contractors) at the local level. We’ve been pushing for many years for more work at the local level,” said Real “Frenchie” Coupal, a task force board member.

Mr. Coupal believes the contract will benefit both Perras and the local economy.

“They money will stay here - that’s the key. We get a piece of (the redevelopment funding), and it’ll help the system out,” he said.

Crews demolished the former automotive plant in 2011, and had spent much of 2012 removing the 20-acre, 855,000-square-foot concrete slab that once was underneath the factory and the contaminated soils below it. That $15.3 million job went to D.A. Collins Companies in Wilton, Saratoga County.

Cleanup crews have not had much trouble with the current phase of work, Environmental Protection Agency Project Manager Anne E. Kelly said. They will occasionally encounter something they didn’t know was underneath the plant, but have been able to overcome those obstacles, she said.

The next phase of the remediation involves the removal of between 35,000 and 57,000 tons of contaminated soil along the lagoons between the former GM plant and the St. Lawrence River, according to M. Brendan Mullen, cleanup manager for RACER, the site’s owner. Perras is looking to begin work in March and have it completed by November of this year, Mr. Mullen said.

Project Manager Bill Callen said RACER received six bids from six contractors, including two local companies. Perras was chosen because they had the lowest bid of any contractor, at $10.2 million, and because they have experience working at that site, Mr. Mullen said.

“The technical approach they have demonstrated shows they can do the work to get the project done,” Mr. Mullen said.

Perras had done excavating work at the site both prior to and after the plant’s closure in 2009, and is currently finishing a project to upgrade the waste-water treatment plant at the site.

“They’ve had a presence on the site for years. They’re always a go-to for work at the GM site,” Ms. Kelly said.

Mr. Arquiett commended Perras for fulfilling the requirements of the contract. “Perras throughout the entire process has shown they have the ability to fulfill the requirements of the contract,” Mr. Arquiett said. “I’m certain this level of work falls within their level of ability, and I would hope RACER would consider them for future phases of the remediation.”

Mr. Mullen pointed out that hiring local is one of the criteria RACER considers in a potential contractor. “The mission of the trust is the revitalization of the areas affected by (the closure of auto plants) and that includes hiring local workers,” Mr. Mullen said. “We’re fortunate to have so many qualified workers here in Massena.”

Central Trades Labor Council President Ron McDougall commended RACER for taking the opportunity to hire locally.

“It looks like RACER is using their resources toward their ultimate goal of remediation and creating jobs in the area,” Mr. McDougall said.

Legislators hope the redevelopment of the site provides a chance for the region to turn a new leaf after the economically-damaging loss of GM.

“Hopefully we and RACER can turn devastating circumstances, with the closure of the GM plant, into something positive down the road,” Mr. Arquiett said.

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