Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Rotterdam eyeing $8.6 million water infrastructure project

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The project includes replacing aging infrastructure throughout Water Districts 3 and 4 and installing redundancies in the system, according to Deputy Supervisor Jack Dodson, who noted many throughout the district are serviced by 2-inch galvanized water mains that need to be replaced.

“If you’re at one of these side streets with a 2-inch water main and your neighbor has too much water running, there’s no pressure for the others,” he said. “You could be in the shower and your water goes off to nothing.”

Dodson said lawmakers have been discussing the project for about two years. A slate of new town board members, including Dodson, was “lambasted” by residents and fire officials in the Junction in 2022 about rocks in water mains and pressure issues throughout the area.

Portion of Kings Road in Rotterdam to close

A public hearing will be held Wednesday at the Rotterdam Junction Volunteer Fire Department to provide residents an opportunity to learn more about the project, including the scope of work and the impact the project will have on taxpayers. Residents will also be able to ask questions about the proposal.

Dodson said the town is hoping to move forward with the project and planning to apply for a Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA) grant to help offset the cost of the work. He noted that the project will have an impact on taxpayers, but said there is money available for infrastructure improvements now that might not be down the road, when the project costs will likely be higher.

New York has set aside $325 million to fund WIIA and intermunicipal grants to improve drinking water infrastructure. Applications for the grants are due in June.

“We realize that there are high rates in that area and we’ve done our best in office to try and keep them lower, but more importantly, you only get certain opportunities in time where this kind of money is available,” Dodson said.

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Water Districts 3 and 4 pay the highest water rates in town, which can be attributed to the small number of residents that make up each district. Costs associated with the project will be paid by residents and businesses that make up the district.

Districts 3 and 4 are made up of around 1,200 taxable units that are expected to pay $445 in operating and maintenance costs this year, according to the town’s budget. Residents in Water District No. 5, which includes around 14,000 taxable units, are expected to pay around $89 in operating costs this year.

The town, in recent years, has worked to reduce water rates by using fund balance and finding efficiencies to create new revenue in the districts, but lawmakers have also prioritized improving infrastructure that has been neglected for years.

“Even though there’s a cost associated with this, the residents really have to make their mind up,” Dodson said. “This is something we really want to move forward with even though there’s a cost associated with it because there’s infrastructure that’s antiquated and aging down there and at some point in time you have to do it because it only gets more expensive.”

The infrastructure improvement project comes as the town prepares to move forward with $34 million in infrastructure improvements throughout Water District No. 5 and continues to chip away at a lead service line inventory the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring all municipalities across the country to complete as part of a nationwide effort to improve drinking water quality.

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A separate $20 million improvement project is also in the works for Sewer District No. 2. The town, last year, received a $4.5 million WIIA grant to offset the cost of the project.

The lead line inventory was recently completed in Water Districts 3 and 4, and is expected to begin throughout Water District 5 starting next week. It’s unclear how many lead water service lines — which run from the street to a residence and bring water into the home — are located throughout town, though Dodson hopes results of the study will help the town secure funds to aid in their replacement.

Work to improve Water District 5 infrastructure is still in the design phase, though Dodson said officials are hopeful the first phase of the project, which includes installing 30 new fire hydrants and installing new valves, can be put out to bid later this year. Additional contracts, including those to install a new well and replacing aging water mains in the district, are expected to be awarded sometime next year.

“We’re hoping to do a construction project this year for those critical valves and hydrants,” he said.

The town, last year, received a low-interest loan from the state’s Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund to finance the project, which is expected to save taxpayers $14 million in the coming years. Lawmakers have also applied for WIIA grants to help further offset the cost of the project, though those efforts have not been successful.

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Dodson said the town considered again applying for a WIIA grant for the District 5 improvements, but opted to instead apply for grant funding for the improvements in Districts 3 and 4 since the grant would have more of an impact for residents.

“We instead determined it would be a better opportunity to go after it for Districts 3 and 4 because they are paying much higher rates than Water District No. 5,” he said. “Not that the people of Water District No. 5 want to hear that, but we have to make decisions for all of our town and in this particular case the benefits for Water Districts 3 and 4 are huge compared to Water District 5.”

Wednesday’s public hearing at the Rotterdam Junction Volunteer Fire Department, 1215 Main St., begins at 7 p.m.

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