Guilderland to get $2.4 M for water infrastructure

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

People “turn a faucet and expect water to come out,” said Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber. The town just got a $2.4 million state grant that will help ensure that continues to happen.

GUILDERLAND — The town is set to receive $2.4 million for a $4 million water project that will set up a permanent connection with Rotterdam and will expand municipal water to West Old State and Fuller Station roads as well as replacing an old water tower in Fort Hunter.

The governor announced the grant on Thursday as part of a $255 million statewide investment.

“This was a very pleasant surprise,” said Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber on Friday, calling it a “groundbreaker.”

He stressed that the town has saved funds to pay for water improvements so new taxes will not be levied to cover the difference.

“It’s the first grant we’ve received for water in decades, and it’s one fell swoop,” said Barber. He contrasted this to a series of grants the town has received to deal with stormwater in McKownville.

“We got every penny we asked for,” said Barber of the just-announced funding.

The town first starting seeing the need for more water in the spring of 2016 when the city of Albany had problems after a large sinkhole cut off a water main, said Donald Csaposs, Guilderland’s grant writer. The town had relied on the city for water emergencies.

“Albany had been our emergency backup for years,” said Csaposs. “They have all that water up there in the Alcove Reservoir and they sell their excess.” Because of Albany’s 2016 water problems, “We went on very severe restrictions,” said Csaposs.

“Rotterdam and the city of Schenectady sit on top of the Great Flats Aquifer — one of the largest aquifers in the country; it’s extremely powerful,” said Csaposs. “That may be why Edison put by the GE factory where he did. And why the locomotive factory was in Schenectady. They both require a lot of water.”

Csaposs went on, “At the same time, we had been talking internally about capital needs in Guilderland. The tower in Fort Hunter off of Carman Road was getting old. Also, we wanted to provide water to more of Guilderland not served with municipal water.”

Casposs said he met in February with Timothy McIntyre, Guilderland’s water superintendent, to talk about about capital projects.

“I came back to my office, clicked on my email, and there was this grant program,” said Csaposs. “Sometimes timing is everything.”

Three projects

The three different projects funded by the grant will be built at different times, Barber said.

Guilderland already has an emergency water connection with Rotterdam, Barber said. “Now we’re working on a permanent connection, which requires a pump station,” he said. “You don’t have to run it through a filtration plant,” Barber said of water that will come from the pump station. “You just use chlorine at the source.”

This is cleaner and more efficient than the water that comes from Guilderland’s major source, the Watervliet Reservoir, he said, adding that the town also has wells.

“We’re trying to diversify our water sources as much as possible,” said Barber. “Rotterdam has an abundance of water.”

He also said, “Our demand for water will keep growing. Every new house that’s built has a sprinkler system.”

The new pump station has already been designed so it will be built by next year, said Barber.

The water lines will follow, he said. “We’re doing looping,” Barber said of how the new lines will fit in with the current system. “You don’t want stagnant water,” he said, describing what happens if water lines aren’t looped.

“The biggest item, dollar-wise, is the tank replacement. My best guess is that will be a couple of years,” said Barber.

Funding

The funding agency for the project is Environmental Facilities Corporation.

While the state grant is to cover $2,372,863, the project is estimated to cost $3,954,771. The difference — of about $1.6 million — is to be funded locally, Csaposs said.

Barber said, “The town already has reserves for these purposes … There will be no borrowing. I give our water superintendent, Tim McIntyre, credit. He squirrels money away.”

Barber said the town, as part of its regular budgeting process, sets aside roughly $200,000 every year for water reserves and another $200,000 for sewer reserves.

Water reserves currently total about $1.5 million, he said, and there is another $6.1 million in a fund balance for water.

The reserve, Barber explained, is for specific projects while the fund balance is a “rainy-day account we use throughout the year.”

Similarly, Guilderland has set aside funds for its sewer system as well. The sewer reserve totals about $2.5 million and the fund balance is about $4.2 million. Additionally, Guilderland has a $1.5 million fund for sewer capital improvements and another $1.4 million for sewer equipment.

“The governor’s staff called and said we submitted a stellar application,” said Barber. In addition to crediting McIntyre, Barber said that he had contacted Rotterdam officials, and that Delaware Engineering “did the nuts and bolts.”  He said, “It was a collective effort .... A few very talented people made this happen.”

He noted that, since water lines are buried underground, most people don’t think about them. “They just turn a faucet and expect water to come out,” he said.

Csaposs concluded by saying how pleased he was to get the grant against stiff competition. “We thought we had a good story to tell — that’s what grant applications are,” he said. “The key component is we could be a resource for other municipalities. We would be able to supply water to Albany if they needed it.”

Casaposs noted that Guilderland already has emergency interconnects as well with the village of Voorheesville and the town of Bethlehem, and that water can flow “both ways.”

“This benefits everyone,” he said.

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