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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 18, 2011

To save money
Guilderland and Watervliet mull water consolidation

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — The town could save money and provide water more efficiently by partnering with the city of Watervliet to share the reservoir and split the cost of operations, according to a regional planning commission.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Rocky Ferraro, a representative from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, presented a study on the feasibility of consolidating water services in the two municipalities.

As the governor is pushing consolidation statewide as a cost-saving measure, the CDRPC recommended that further investigation be done into the finances of creating a private, not-for-profit corporation, or an intermunicipal cooperation agreement.

The Watervliet reservoir is owned by the city, but is physically located in Guilderland, and the town uses it as its major source of drinking water. Both the city and town have their own water treatment plants, but Watervliet’s facility is 100 years old and needs updating, while Guilderland’s is 20 years old and had new, state-of-the-art water meters installed in 2009.

Guilderland has a contract in which it pays Watervliet 50 cents per 1,000 gallons of water, with a minimum of 4 million gallons a day. Guilderland bills its residents on a metered system, while Watervliet bills an annual flat rate.

The original contract between the two municipalities was drawn up in 1993, and a new contract was ratified in 2009, with an expiration date of 2028.

“This is a good time to look at consolidating, because, while each municipality has some outstanding financial obligations in relation to water supply services, they are nothing overwhelming,” said Ferraro.

The state, in its efforts to consolidate and promote shared services, funded the CDRPC’s study with a $50,000 grant. The information presented at Tuesday’s meeting was only the first part of a two-part process; the next step is a financial analysis, and that study will require further funding.

“The state is really encouraging consolidation of services and we are hearing that more funding will become available in the fall,” said Ferraro on Tuesday.

Three options narrowed to two

The CDRPC looked at three different types of management structures — public authority, private not-for-profit, and intermunicipal cooperation agreement.

A public authority, created by state legislation, would be completely independent from both Guilderland and Watervliet — neither the city council nor the town board would govern it.

A private not-for-profit agency would be a new entity, and would not require state legislation, but would require corporate papers and the appointment of a board of directors.

An intermunicipal agreement would simply be an agreement between the municipalities to provide services on a joint basis, and it would be governed by the town board and city council.

Three CDRPC representatives — Ferraro, along with Michael Hall and Joe Scott — did a detailed review and analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative, and then independently scored them on a variety of factors, including complexity, costs, balance of power, and permanency.

Overall, a private not-for-profit corporation received the highest score, rating very high on balance of power, comprehensiveness, liability, and flexibility.

Public authority and intermunicipal agreement tied in their overall scores, but intermunicipal agreement rated higher in terms of its timetable, local structural change, accountability, and costs.

“The scores are subjective, and represent our professional opinions,” said Ferraro.

The CDRCP rejected the idea of a public authority, because of its high complexity, high costs, and political impacts, and recommended further study of a private not-for-profit corporation and an intermunicipal cooperation agreement.

“There was no conclusion on which joint project would be best, and the study doesn’t necessarily indicate that a joint project is the right choice,” Ferraro told board members on Tuesday.

More sharing?

A member of the audience asked whether other municipalities could contract with Watervliet and Guilderland to share water and increase revenue.

“There could certainly be some discussion on sharing water with other municipalities, but it would be pure speculation to say how that would effect this consolidation,” Ferraro responded.

If a consolidation project were approved, it could take any number of different forms, said Ferraro. It could be an intermunicipal agreement, where both municipalities share one of the existing facilities and retain their current staff; an intermunicipal agreement in which other municipalities contract in for water services; an intermunicipal agreement in which Guilderland, Watervliet, and other municipalities are full partners; or a not-for-profit corporation.

The same presentation will be given to the city council in Watervliet tonight, Aug. 18.

At the conclusion of Guilderland’s discussion on the topic, Councilman Mark Grimm wanted to know, “What is the real goal of this study?”

“The goal is always to save money, isn’t it?” Ferraro answered.

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