Altamont board approves study of emergency water connection to Guilderland

– From Google Maps

A proposed interconnection project would allow Altamont to tap Guilderland’s water supply in emergency situations. The $900,000 project would involve installing a pump station and about 6,000 feet of waterline from Phillips Hardware Store, along Route 146, to Armstrong Drive. At its May meeting, the Altamont Village Board of Trustees voted to authorize a study of the interconnection but withheld voting to apply for a grant that would put the village on the hook for fronting the entire cost of the project.

ALTAMONT – Having been notified of a partial-funding opportunity to connect Altamont to Guilderland’s water supply for emergencies just weeks prior to the trustees’ monthly meeting, Mayor Kerry Dineen asked the village board on May 1 to authorize $23,000 for Barton and Loguidice, the village’s engineer, to study and then apply for a grant for the project, which would have an upfront cost to the village of about $900,000, of which 40 to 60 percent would be reimbursed by the state, depending on the grant that is awarded.

Immediate board approval was necessary because the lengthy grant application needs to be submitted by July.

The board balked at committing the village to such an expensive project on such short notice and instead voted to pay Barton and Loguidice the $23,000 to prepare the study but not to apply for the grant until after June’s meeting, when the board will have had more time to examine the project.

Altamont provides water to 2,000 residents through 830 service connections, and has an average daily demand of 190,000 gallons, according to its annual drinking water quality report for 2017.

The project, according to Brad Grant of Barton and Loguidice, would involve installing a pump station and running about 6,000 feet of waterline from Guilderland’s nearest water connection at the intersection of routes 146 and 158, near Phillips Hardware Store, along Route 146 to Armstrong Drive.

Grant offered a rough estimate of $850,00 to $900,000 for the project; $600,000 for the waterline and an additional $250,000 to $300,000 for a pump station. The village would be responsible for the entire cost of the project, which would need to be bonded, and would then be reimbursed by the state.

The two grants, the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act Grant Program and the New York State Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure Grants Program, were established, according to Barton and Loguidice’s proposal: “To assist municipalities in support of improvement of drinking water infrastructure … including intermunicipal water quality infrastructure projects … and specifically include projects involving interconnection of infrastructure between municipalities.”

The New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act Grant Program would provide up to 60 percent of the project’s cost; or, the New York State Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure Grants Program would cover about 40 percent.

The state has been generous handing out funds, Grant said.   

He pointed out that Guilderland had been successful on more than one occasion in obtaining grant money, and, now the town has interconnection with Albany, Bethlehem, Voorheesville, and just last year with Rotterdam.

For Guilderland’s interconnection with Rotterdam, Grant said that the town applied for an Intermunicipal Water Infrastructure Grants, which would have covered about 40 percent of the $4 million project, but it was the state that determined the project was eligible for 60-percent reimbursement.

Grant said there was little reason to believe that the village would not receive a 60-percent reimbursement.

But still, there was the project’s near-million-dollar price tag.

Dineen said that she didn’t mean to spring the proposal on the board and that, it hadn’t even been on her radar when the board was discussing budgets only a few weeks earlier. But, she did say, “Going back for years, there has been discussion about the importance of having an emergency interconnectedness for a water supply if anything should ever happen to the village’s wells.”

Jeffrey Moller, the village’s superintendent of Public Works, said that there had been four major situations in the past 20 years when Altamont had been close to being out of water, and, with its current storage capacity, the village has three to four days of usable water before it runs out.

Trustee Nicholas Fahrenkopf asked what a connection to Guilderland’s water supply protects the village from. He said that, when the well on Brandle Road went down, the well on Gun Club Road was enough to supply the village for two weeks.

To which Moller replied, “Unless that goes down.”

Fahrenkopf said that there is always something else that could go wrong, but his larger point was that it felt like a rushed decision. The village spent years discussing the purchase of a fire truck, he said, and, that a “back-of-the-envelope” estimate shows that Altamont would be paying the same for an emergency water connection. Last year, the board approved $278,590 for the purchase of a new fire truck.

“A fire truck gets used,” he said, Altamont may never use the emergency connection. “We are talking about a lot of money.”

Dineen said that the connection would be an investment, like insurance. “You hope that you never have to use it; but if you have it, you are sure glad you do for those times that you may need it,” she said.

Fahrenkopf said that the mayor made a good point that, yes, this would be an insurance policy but also said, “If I remember correctly, every year we have to decide whether or not we want terrorism insurance policy, and, you mention spending money on the lighting,” he said of changing village-owned lighting to light-emitting-diodes, “but we talked about that for many years and now we are looking at this cost,” and he hadn’t seen anything about the interconnection proposal until four days before the board meeting.

The rest of the trustees seemed to share Fahrenkopf’s reticence.

Madeline LaMountain said that she was not ready to vote to apply for the grant. John Scally said that he understood Fahrenkopf’s position because it took the board months of planning to purchase a fire truck. But Scally also asked Moller – the person who deals with village’s water problems – if he supported the project. Moller did.

Grant told the board that, even if it decided to authorize the study but not the application for the grant, the report that Barton and Loguidice would produce has values and is “somewhat timeless,” meaning that it could be used in future grant applications.

The board decided to amend the mayor’s proposal.

It allowed Barton and Loguidice to create the report but will hold off until June to decide whether to apply for the grant for the emergency water interconnection project.  


More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.