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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 29, 2010

A drop in the bucket?
$500K from DOT will start $7M project to ease flooding in McKownville

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A $500,000 grant awarded to Guilderland last Friday by the state’s Department of Transportation will begin a $7 million project to ease flooding problems that have plagued McKownville for decades.

The stormwater system has been an issue in McKownville for at least 34 years, the amount of time that Don Reeb, the president of the McKownville Improvement Association, has been involved with the organization. The problem has gotten more urgent over the past four years, as flooding and sinkholes have gotten more frequent and abundant.

In 2008, the Plant family, who live on Providence Street, had a basement wall collapse due to flooding, which resulted in $15,000 of damage. Last year, at least two separate sinkholes appeared in McKownville residents’ driveways. Josh Merlis, who lives on Knowles Terrace, had a sinkhole eight to 12 inches in diameter form in his driveway last summer, and a very similar hole appeared in his neighbor’s driveway.

Last July, the board voted to award Delaware Engineering a contract to study the stormwater drainage system in McKownville, for $75,000. The study was recently completed, at the same time that a $500,000 grant to begin the project was granted to the town of Guilderland.

The grant was awarded on July 23, through the state DOT’s Multi-Modal Program. The program was authorized by the governor and legislature in 2005, as a five-year, $350 million reimbursement program to provide funding for authorized transportation capital projects.

Local project owners or sponsors must apply for the funding by providing a detailed description of the project, and Supervisor Kenneth Runion said Guilderland’s application was advanced with the help of state Senator Neil Breslin.

“I think the McKownville problem is one that cries out for help. It’s ongoing, and it damages people’s homes and their quality of life. It’s imperative to find a resolution,” Breslin told The Enterprise yesterday. He said he talked with several people from the state’s DOT and told them that the situation was dire.

The project description says that the $500,000 will be used for “Design and construction of Western Avenue drainage and storm sewer systems in the McKownville neighborhood, from the north side near the University at Albany uptown campus, to the Krumkill Creek on the south side of Western Avenue.”

Runion said the funds will be used to start “phase one” of the project. According to the report from Delaware Engineering, the total cost of the stormwater project will be roughly $7 million. Delaware Engineering will present the results of its study to the town board at a September meeting, and recommend the best way to spend the first $500,000, Runion said.

The report states, “The hamlet currently has a limited stormwater infrastructure system…In addition, the hamlet is bounded by areas that have been subject to a great deal of land development over the years. The associated increase in impervious surfaces and structures in a concentrated area may have contributed to changes in the water table or in groundwater movement over the years.”

Reeb maintains that the Albany Nanotech Institute, at the corner of Fuller Road and Washington Avenue extension, is the development causing the most stormwater problems in McKownville.

At a meeting at Nanotech on July 22, to discuss the reconstruction of the intersection of Fuller Road and Washington Avenue (see related story), Stephen Janack, vice president of marketing and communications, read a prepared statement criticizing Reeb and asserting that the Nanotech development had no effect on the stormwater problems in McKownville.

Reeb responded that the campus was built on formerly vacant land near McKownville, and that Nanotech’s stormwater run-off is directed to the south and into McKownville. Reeb is asking fellow McKownville residents to write to county and state representatives expressing the urgent need for change in McKownville. (See related letter to the editor.)

Some of the recommendations for improvement included in the report from Delaware Engineering are a construction of a network of catch basins; residential sump-pump connections; underground conveyance piping; and surface swales to redirect stormwater to a series of small downstream detention basins.

Runion said the first phase might include laying some of the initial piping.

“This project is too big to do all at once. We are just going to have to do something meaningful with the money we got,” said Runion. He said he hopes to get more funding through the Multi-Modal Program in the future, and that he has talked to Congressman Paul Tonko about potentially receiving federal stimulus funds to help complete the rest of the project.

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