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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 23, 2010

Study says
Funds cover a fraction of $7M needed to solve McKownville funding

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — It could take $7 million to fix the stormwater drainage problems that have been plaguing McKownville for over 30 years, causing flooded basements, sinkholes, and collapsed foundations.

The town has only $500,000 to spend, and doesn’t know what to fix first.

Don Reeb has been president of the McKownville Improvement Association for 34 years, and said the problems with the stormwater have gotten more urgent over the past four years, as flooding and sinkholes have become 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, two separate sinkholes appeared in McKownville residents’ driveways.

In July 2009, the town board hired Delaware Engineering to study the stormwater drainage system in McKownville, for $75,000. The study was completed a year later, at the end of July. Representatives Fred Groeber and Ken Johnson, from the engineering company, presented the study to the town board on Tuesday.

The study encompassed 125 acres, and 500 properties. It identified five areas of concern, and the scope of the drainage problems in each. It especially focused on 60 to 70 individual residential properties that have foundation problems.

A dilapidated state stormsewer system runs in the area, and along Route 20, which contributes to the problem. The pipes are 40 years old, and made of clay, which has deteriorated over time, breaking off into chunks, creating narrowed pipes and blockages, the report says. The soil in that same area is considered a “sandy loam” and it absorbs water like a sponge, preventing it from evaporating, according to Groeber.

Delaware Engineering also found that an underground stream contributes to the high groundwater level. McKownville was basically built on top of the stream, Johnson said.

The study does not provide a specific design for stormwater system improvements, and Johnson said creating a design would take more funding. Some of the recommended solutions, however, include bigger, better pumps; multiple retention ponds; and a way for residents to pump water into the stormwater system.

Creating a “service lateral” for residents means that individual houses, if they flood, would be able to attach sump pumps to pipes and divert the water into the new system. The McKownville houses along Fuller Road, and side streets off of Fuller Road, sit lower than the level of the road, making it nearly impossible to drain water into the road. Most residents end up using a sump pump to get the water out of their basements and into their yards, where it just cycles back in, said Groeber.

“This project will take many sources and many dollars,” said Johnson. The town of Guilderland did receive one grant for the project through the state Department of Transportation’s Multi-Modal program, set up by the governor and legislature in 2005 as a five-year, $350 million reimbursement program to provide funding for authorized transportation capital projects.

Guilderland applied for the grant, and Supervisor Kenneth Runion said the application was advanced with the help of Senator Neil Breslin. However, the funding awarded to Guilderland through the program is $500,000, which is $6.5 million short of the amount needed for the total project.

The town board, at its meeting on Tuesday, asked Delaware Engineering how the $500,000 should be spent. It could be spent entirely in the residential areas that have the worst flooding problems, or it could be spent building retention ponds in each of the five problem areas.

“If I were a homeowner dealing with a lot of flooding, I think I’d want an immediate solution,” Johnson said. He also explained that building smaller retention ponds for smaller areas could be costlier than building bigger retention ponds at the end of the project.

“I would hate to spend the money on retention ponds and not be able to attack the serious flooding issues,” Runion said, agreeing with Johnson. He said the contract for the $500,000 grant allows a seven-year window to spend the money, and there is the possibility that, within a year or two, more funding could become available.

Runion also said the $500,000 could be stretched further if it were used to purchase materials while labor was provided by town workers.

“The next step we will take is getting the design process started,” concluded Runion. “And the most important thing to figure out is how to allocate the money.”

Other business

In other business, the town board voted unanimously to:

— Appoint Gregory J. Weir as superintendent of the transfer station; and

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— Waive fees in relation to the demolition and construction of the new Westmere firehouse and related accessory buildings.