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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 2, 2009

First step in $6M project
Runion plans to hire study of stormwater system

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Stormwater problems that have plagued McKownville for over 30 years may finally get some attention. Supervisor Kenneth Runion announced on June 29 that he will propose comprehensive engineering evaluations for the area at the July 7 town board meeting.

The stormwater system has been an issue in McKownville for at least 34 years, the amount of time Don Reeb, president of the McKownville Improvement Association, has been involved with the organization. The concerns have become more urgent over the past three or four years, as flooding and sinkholes have gotten more frequent and abundant, Reeb said. He e-mailed members of the neighborhood association, urging them to attend the July 7 meeting, to encourage board members to approve funding engineering studies, as a first step.

The project has not moved forward because it will be so costly; according to Runion, the total price tag from start to finish is somewhere around $5.75 million.

The town has applied for stimulus funds for the storm water project, but Runion said there has been no word on that front.

“It’s important that we move forward on the project because the problems are getting worse,” said Runion. Due to the large funds necessary for completion, he said he plans to break the project up into phases.

First on the agenda is retaining Delaware Engineering to conduct engineering evaluations, at a cost of $75,000 for McKownville, and $35,00 for Blackberry Estates.

“If we don’t get the study or basic engineering done, we have no options,” Runion said.

Since 2007, basement flooding and sinkholes have been increasing in McKownville. A basement wall collapsed in a home on Providence Street due to flooding in August 2008, resulting in $15,000 of damage, and in the past several months, at least two sinkholes have appeared in residents driveways.

Josh Merlis, who lives on Knowles Terrace, said a hole, eight to 12 inches in diameter, formed on his driveway about eight weeks ago.

“Peering down into it, the hole continues for some distance under my driveway. It is literally just open — a small child could be inserted and crawl around under the driveway,” said Merlis, at the time.

A very similar sinkhole appeared in a neighbor’s driveway as well, Merlis said, and it is his belief that the problem stems from an old sewer line that has had substantial issues over the last two years.

Runion said sinkholes have appeared in other locations between Fuller Road and the Albany city line, on the north side, which is where the first phase of the project will be concentrated.

A dilapidated state storm sewer system runs in the area and along Route 20, contributing to the problem, and, Runion said, his hope is that the town will start working in the area, and thereby call the state’s attention to the problem.

“If we get moving on this, hopefully the state will get involved, and that would significantly reduce the cost burden on the town,” said Runion.

Other cost reduction tactics include using town workers for some of the labor, wherever feasible, such as laying pipes. Runion said some of the work is out of the realm of what town workers are capable of, but if they can do even some of the job, it will result in less spending.

Once the engineering studies are complete, Runion plans to request that the town board authorize a million-dollar bond issue to start construction of a stormwater sewer system.

“I’m just very grateful that this is happening, and very optimistic about the project going forward. I know the residents of McKownville are too,” said Reeb, who has put a lot of time and effort into making residents concerns heard.

“I think that the work that residents have put in has influenced this decision. I’m very pleased,” Reeb said.

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