Schenectady County

Glenville struggles with wastewater costs

Glenville officials are expressing concern with the high cost of paying Schenectady to dispose of it

Glenville officials are expressing concern with the high cost of paying Schenectady to dispose of its wastewater — a $450,000 item in the budget.

“At what point does it make sense for us to build our own wastewater plant?” asked Supervisor Chris Koetzle at a budget planning meeting last week with department heads.

Koetzle pointed out that the cost of the contract with the city of Schenectady was $318,903 in 2009, $365,000 in 2010, $350,000 in 2011, $455,000 in 2012 and again for 2013. He expects that the cost could continue to escalate as the city is planning to make $10 million to $12 million worth of upgrades to the plant.

The impact of that also worries town Comptroller George Phillips.

“Obviously, the city of Schenectady is a knockout punch,” Phillips said.

Director of Operations James MacFarland said the town did a study of the issue five years ago by Delaware Engineering found that building a plant would cost about $12 million and allow service to be extended to about 1,600 new properties. Finding a suitable site along the Mohawk River was identified as one hurdle. Glenville and Scotia officials didn’t pursue the matter at the time.

Glenville officials are also concerned about the deficit running in another major utility — the water program. “I’ve been told this fund is bleeding cash,” Koetzle said.

The program ran about a $30,000 deficit in 2011, which was plugged with fund balance money. There is about $3 million in the water reserve fund, according to the 2012 budget.

Public Works Commissioner Tom Coppola said revenues dropped because during the past few years the town lost contracts to sell water to other municipalities, including Clifton Park and Charlton, which are now buying water from the Saratoga County Water Authority.

Also, chemical supplies are expensive. There are not a lot vendors to choose from, which results in not very competitive prices, town officials said.

In addition, the town has an aging infrastructure and had to contend with water main breaks. The town just spent $80,000 to fix a water main running near the Lowe’s property on Freemans Bridge Road. Glenville officials were asked to move the line when the project was under construction but the administration at the time didn’t want to spend the money.

Phillips said at some point at the town may have to consider raising the rate, which was last done in 2003. It currently stands at $40 for the first 30,000 gallons of water and $2.35 per thousand gallons thereafter. Any rate change wouldn’t happen until 2014 at the earliest because the town has to go through a lengthy public notice process.

On the bright side, town officials expect some new revenue coming in from new commercial projects such as Panera Bread, Target and other restaurants. Coppola said he would like to pursue other water customers to the north.

As Koetzle is trying to put together the budget, he said that all department heads have asked for more spending. The police chief wants to buy three new cruisers. Coppola wants a part-time maintenance worker to help out in the Water Department because of new more stringent requirements for testing of chemicals in wells.

“My inclination is to go back to the department heads and ask them to find cost savings to offset their increases,” he said. “I know they’re at the bone. We just can’t absorb these kind of increases.”

The total budget for 2012 was $18.2 million, but much of that goes toward special districts. Of the three main funds of general, town outside the village and highway, about $5.7 million is raised through taxes in the current budget.

Glenville officials also don’t know what some of its revenues will be as the current five-year sales tax sharing agreement expires at the end of the year and a new one has yet to be negotiated between the county and the city of Schenectady. Also unknown at this point is health and retirement cost increases.

The tentative budget must be released by the end of September.

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