Saratoga County

Authority gears up to sell bonds

The county water authority has cleared the hurdles to borrowing and is within weeks of selling $4

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The county water authority has cleared the hurdles to borrowing and is within weeks of selling $45 million in bonds to pay for continued water system construction.

“We’re looking for a sale sometime before Sept. 15,” said Water Authority Chairman John E. Lawler, R-Waterford.

The borrowing, which has faced a series of procedural delays over the last year, would allow the authority to continue a project that’s been paid for up to now mostly with state grant money.

“There’s a lot of moving parts to this, but that’s the timetable at this point,” Lawler said.

Lawler plans to go to New York City on Aug. 25 for a meeting with the Wall Street bond rating agencies that will give the authority a rating on its ability to repay money loaned to it.

Assuming it gets a good rating, the authority’s financial advisors say borrowing shouldn’t be a problem, even with the tightening of the credit market this year.

The county Board of Supervisors will also take a vote Tuesday, authorizing the $45 million in borrowing by the authority. The county, which has a strong balance sheet, is guaranteeing the bonds.

The $67 million water system will take water from the upper Hudson River in Moreau and transport it south through 28 miles of pipe as far as the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta and Stillwater.

The system is currently under construction. It is due for completion in about another year.

The last regulatory hurdle to borrowing was cleared last week, Lawler said. The authority received a permit needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because the water — about 3.3 million gallons per day initially and more over time — will be drawn from the impoundment behind the Sherman Island hydro-electric dam.

“All the pieces are in place now,” Lawler said.

Lawler acknowledged the $45 million is more money than will be needed to complete construction. “There’s going to be the first two years of operating expenses before we have revenue,” he said.

Up to now, the work that began a year ago has been paid for from about $30 million in state grants to the project, but most of that money is spent.

“At this point, the bonding proceeds are needed,” Lawler said.

The bonds will be paid off from future water sales.

The authority has contracts to sell water to the towns of Wilton and Ballston, but the biggest signed customer is the Luther Forest Technology Campus, which has committed to buying 2.4 million gallons per day.

The technology campus is where Advanced Micro Devices has proposed a $3.5 billion computer chip factory that would use millions of gallons of water daily. AMD is currently pursuing zoning and regulatory approvals, but hasn’t made a final commitment to build the plant.

Along with the arrival of AMD, the availability of public water is expected to spur new development in the county.

Officials in Clifton Park, Stillwater and Moreau have all talked with the authority about buying water from the county system, but have made no commitments.

A county water system has been discussed for 40 years, but planning only began in earnest in 2004.

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