Approval process for funding of quiet zone chugs along slowly, deliberately

VOORHEESVILLE — God created the universe in seven days, Irish and Chinese laborers completed the transcontinental railroad in six years, Voorheesville is now in the sixth year of trying to install four-quadrant gate systems for quiet zones at each of the the railroad crossings on Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue.

All parties are on board, but the pace of approval for the funding is glacial — 18 to 24 months, in fact.


“It is because our state government is very careful about how our residents’ tax dollars are spent,” said Catherine Fahey, chief of staff  for Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy.

The most recent estimated cost for the project is about $400,000.

Albany County has requested the full amount from the state through Senator George Amedore, according to Vinny Nicosia, the senator’s director of public affairs.

This changes to how the project would be funded.

As recently as Monday, Jan. 22, Robert Conway, the mayor of Voorheesville, told The Enterprise that $220,000 would come from Albany County, of which Voorheesville would be responsible for 20 percent, or about $44,000; the remaining $180,000 would have come through grants from Fahy ($80,000 through a grant application submitted by New Scotland) and Amedore.

Nicosia said that the $80,000 applied for by Fahy will be used toward the total cost of the project, leaving $320,000 funded through Amedore’s grant.  

The Enterprise contacted Conway upon learning of the change in funding sources and he said that there had been a changeover with some of Amedore’s staff and something may have gotten lost in that transition and, once the senator’s office realized the discrepancy, the office took it upon itself to put in for the total amount.

Doug Breakell, Amerdore’s chief of staff, said that the mayor may have been mistaken; funding had secured before there was any turnover in the senator’s staff, and that the senator is waiting for the grant paperwork to be returned from the county.

Now that it is known funding is available, there will be a detailed examination of the project for final approval.

Once an application is completed, it first goes to the Ways and Means Committee for approval; then to the Division of the Budget; and on to a state agency — for Voorheesville, it is the Dormitory Authority — where it undergoes a more extensive review, and is signed off on; the application then goes back to the Division of the Budget for its final approval; and it is then that the contract can be executed.

Many years have elapsed already; so what is a municipality to do?

Conway said that the village is exploring a pay-as-you-go arrangement with CSX, the company that operates the rails, where Voorheesville would begin to pay CSX with village funds until the money from the state and county arrives.

“In my mind, the biggest hurdles have been taken care of, which is lining up the funding,” Conway said. “Now, it’s just a matter of having that funding wend its way through the state process.”

But Fahey told The Enterprise that pay-as-you-go is not recommended, because, until an application is approved, it is not a certainty that the municipality will receive the funding.

New Scotland is a municipality that has had experience paying for a project up front and waiting to be reimbursed by the state.

To date, outlay costs for the Hilton Barn project have totaled about $332,000; of that, $200,00 will be paid for by grants from the state — eventually.

At last November’s New Scotland Town Board meeting, Supervisor Douglas LaGrange was authorized to execute a grant disbursement agreement for a state and municipal facilities grant of $125,000 for the Hilton Barn relocation. At the meeting, it was noted by LaGrange that the grant had been applied for two years earlier, through Fahy’s office.

LaGrange told The Enterprise this week that the town decided to move ahead with the project, in part, because of the approval process and because the town had a healthy balance in its parks fund.

Just having Fahy on board to sponsor the application gave the town confidence it could get the grant, he said. Then, as the application successfully moved through each step of the process, LaGrange said that “exponentially increased confidence in getting the grant.”

Each successful step of the process gave the town enough assurance so that it then felt comfortable enough to borrow money from one of its fund balances to begin financing and starting the project, LaGrange said.

Steven Schreiber, the chairman of the Committee for a Quiet Zone in Voorheesville, a grassroot group of citizens, which has been advocating for a quiet zone since 2012, struck a cautiously optimistic tone this week, acknowledging that the process is working — which is good news, “but the bad news is that you have to wait and wait,” he said.  

The way the railroad crossings on Main Street and Voorheesville Avenue are currently configured, a train has to blow its whistle when it comes through town.

By installing the four-quadrant gate system at the two railroad crossings in the village, according to federal guidelines, these crossings could become quiet zones where engineers do not have to blow their whistles as they roll through the village.

Schreiber told The Enterprise this week that the problem of having 50 trains rolling through Voorheesville daily affects many different facets of the village.

It’s a problem for business, he said, as the village seeks to develop Main Street, it needs to address the noise.

Schreiber also said that property values could be affected by the train noise; saying that there have been studies that show as train noise increases, property value decreases.

Public health is a concern as well, Schreiber said, the railroad runs right by a playground that gets hit with a full blast of 110 decibels, about the same noise level as an industrial riveting machine.

These concerns are all in addition to the village residents who live close to either of the crossings and endure horn blasts all day.

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