Saratoga County

Water system project hits snag on grant

The chairman of the Saratoga County Water Authority says it has hit a roadblock in trying to secu

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The chairman of the Saratoga County Water Authority says it has hit a roadblock in trying to secure a promised $10 million state grant for construction of the county water system.

“We are at an impasse with the [state] Environmental Facilities Corp.,” Chairman John E. Lawler said at an authority meeting Monday in Ballston Spa.

The acting head of the Environmental Facilities Corp. said, however, he thinks the matter will be resolved quickly and successfully.

“We’re confident the Environmental Facilities Corp. is moving forward to make sure an agreement can be reached as soon as possible, and we believe the matter can be resolved this week,” Matthew Millea, the EFC’s acting president, said late Monday.

The problem has arisen in negotiating final details for release of a $10 million Pipeline for Jobs grant, part of the $30 million in grants the state is putting into the county water project.

The project will draw water from the upper Hudson River in Moreau and transport it as far at the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta, where it would serve the planned Advanced Micro Devices computer chip factory.

The $67 million water project is already under construction, with completion scheduled for late 2009.

Lawler said the authority’s inability to get the $10 million Pipeline for Jobs grant could put a halt to construction activity and endanger the timetable for getting water to Luther Forest when AMD says it will be needed.

“We’re at an impasse, and I think it may endanger the project, and the entire AMD timetable,” Lawler said before the authority went into a closed-door meeting to discuss the negotiations and pending litigation.

AMD, while it hasn’t yet made a final commitment to build, says it wants to be ready to start construction in January. The plant, which will take two years to build, would use about 3 million gallons of water per day.

According to Lawler, the Environmental Facilities Corp. — a state agency whose purpose is to finance municipal environmental improvements — wants the authority, as part of the grant agreement, to guarantee it will succeed in future litigation.

“We’re unable to give that kind of guarantee,” Lawler said.

The authority has already accepted and spent a separate $10 million state Financial Assistance to Business grant it got through the EFC last year. That grant agreement included a provision that the county would repay the grant if the water authority project fails because of litigation or for any other reason.

The authority currently is involved in two kinds of litigation: two lawsuits intended to stop the project, which the parties say are close to being settled out of court; and ongoing actions that could lead to taking some land along the 28-mile pipeline by eminent domain, or against the owner’s will.

Also Monday, the authority agreed to terms on a $1.75 million grant for planning and engineering costs from the Empire State Development Corp.

“In the grand scheme of the project, it’s an important part of the financing, but it is the smallest grant we will receive,” Lawler said.

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