Saratoga County

Dispute over lake water continues

City Council members may get an update soon on the importance of adding Saratoga Lake as an alter

PHOTOGRAPHER:

City Council members may get an update soon on the importance of adding Saratoga Lake as an alternative city water source.

Whether they’ll agree with the engineers who bring that message remains to be seen.

The three new Republican council members on the board expressed skepticism toward the need for another drinking water source when they were running for office.

And now, they repeat those questions about the project’s cost and need, but say they still need more information to make a decision.

“We should not spend a lot of money on this,” said Ken Ivins, commissioner of finance. “There’s not a need for water at this point in time.”

Mayor Scott Johnson said he also wants a face-to-face meeting with engineers before forming a decision. “I’ve read all the reports, and so on,” he said. “I have not decided to pursue the lake option.”

The GOP candidates argued during the campaign that there is no water shortage, and they didn’t advocate for either the Saratoga Lake or the county’s water plan.

John Franck, commissioner of accounts and a Democrat who has favored tapping the lake, said Wednesday that to turn away when the city is so close to getting a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, would be foolish.

“We’re on the one-yard line. We just need to go in and score,” Franck said.

The permit gives officials the option of tapping the lake for drinking water, but doesn’t require it, he noted.

Former Commissioner of Public Works Thomas McTygue said while he was in office last year that the city would have the DEC permit by the end of the year. But an early start to winter interfered with engineers doing preliminary studies at the site, said William McTygue, director of public works.

William McTygue said he is not sure whether the engineers have completed those studies, and he is waiting for an update from them.

He expects to have the engineers from Barton and Loguidice meet with and brief the new council sometime in the next few weeks.

Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, commissioner of public works, said he expects to be more informed on the issue within the next two weeks.

Johnson questions where the money will come from for a project whose cost is likely to hit the “double-digit millions.” He doesn’t believe the funding stream identified in the capital program, the water reserve fund, is large enough to accommodate the project.

Even with that information, Franck said he isn’t sure the council has the votes to go forward with the project.

He argued that the money that has paid for the project so far has come from water hookup fees, not property taxes.

The issue is further complicated because the project is still in litigation. The Saratoga Lake Association and Saratoga Lake Protection and Improvement District have applied to the state’s highest court to have their appeal heard.

In 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled the city had not adequately studied watershed issues at the lake. On Dec. 6, 2007, the Appellate Court reversed that decision.

“We feel we have one in our favor and one against us, and we want the Court of Appeals to look at it and settle it,” said Wilma Koss, president of Saratoga Lake Association.

City Council discussed the appeal in a closed session on Tuesday night.

Later that evening, Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, commissioner of public works, pulled a line off his agenda that called for a vote related to the court appeal.

Koss said Wednesday she believes the city was expecting to vote on whether to respond in court to the appeal. Scirocco said he couldn’t comment on that because it was discussed in a closed session.

“I pulled it from the agenda based on the executive session. At this point, I can’t say any more about it.”

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