Culvert construction halted after city of Ogdensburg raises issues

Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 4:32 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - A construction project in Ogdensburg has come to an abrupt halt. That’s because there’s an issue over whose land is getting dug up and whether it’s home to unmarked graves dating back to the late 1800s.

The land is across State Route 812 from the Ogdensburg airport.

The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is doing a $2.2 million project to improve the drainage of a culvert into the Oswegatchie River.

Construction stopped because of 2 issues.

First, the city of Ogdensburg says it was unaware the project was happening and the land could belong to the city. OBPA Executive Director Steve Lawrence understood city officials wanted more details.

“A little more than two weeks ago, they came out and were concerned and felt they were out of the loop of what was really going on there and they were very concerned about where the construction was going,” he said.

At this moment, the construction project has been put on pause until the OBPA obtains a Department of Transportation permit to do the work.

Meanwhile, city officials say there’s another matter that needs to be discussed. Historic documents from the late 1800s indicate the area could be home to a potter’s field - a grave for 120 unknown or unclaimed people.

Interim City Manager Andrea Smith doesn’t want work to start back up until it’s certain that area isn’t being disrupted.

“We are very sensitive to the fact that there are graves in this location and because we have been unable to find a map thus far, we need and feel very strongly that we need to treat the whole site with sensitivity,” she said.

Lawrence says an environmental review had been done on the land and he feels confident no graves have been disrupted. But work will be stopped until the city is confident.

Until we work things out with the city, we are not doing any work over there until we’ve addressed everybody’s concerns,” he said.

If the project starts back up, the drainage improvement would likely be finished next year.