A little more than two weeks after the Rotterdam Town Board decided to go ahead with constructing the much-discussed Hamburg Street Sewer District, residents who live in the proposed district are rallying to stop the project.
Corey Augusta, one of the 137 property owners within the district, began circulating a petition Monday night to try to get the decision put to a vote by the affected residents. The district’s construction is projected to cost homeowners thousands.
The sewer district would consist of all properties immediately adjacent to Hamburg Street between the existing railway tracks running parallel to Chrisler Avenue to the intersection of Hamburg Street and Curry Road.
All developed properties in the district are required to connect once the system is complete, which is expected to be spring 2018.
The estimated maximum cost of the wastewater project is $4.17 million, which the town plans to bond for over 30 years, and would cost property owners in the district a minimum of about $1,800 its first year.
The town charges a one-time $35 sewer lateral inspection fee, and a $500 sewer connection fee per dwelling unit, or average single-family home.
The sewer connection fee for a business is $1,000.
The projected cost is $1,204 for a home that uses the average 75,000 gallons per year, which would be charged to the user until the town’s 30-year bond was paid off.
“This is a lot of money for middle-class people,” Augusta said Monday. “Those costs aren’t to mention digging up my septic and my waste lines, which run away from Hamburg Street.”
On Feb. 10, the board unanimously voted to move the Hamburg Sewer District project forward. Town Supervisor Steve Tommasone and the board members agreed that while the project is expensive for residents, sewers are necessary to improve an area of town that’s starting to deteriorate.
Tommasone said the annual cost of $1,204 will likely decrease as more users connect to the sewer system over time, and would go down if the town gets grant money from the state for the project.
“The project will offer tremendous economic benefits to the businesses and the property owners along Hamburg Street,” Tommasone said Monday. “I feel compassionate about what’s going on for the residents, but I feel passionate about making the town a better place and bringing more tax base there.
“If they [the residents] are able to stop the sewer project, we will not be able to apply for grant money for a project that has been disqualified,” he added. “Most importantly, there will be no opportunity for a sewer line there probably ever.”
But Augusta said “[the town] thinks by doing this, we’ll upgrade the town commercial tax base, but I’m not so sure the sewer is the answer to what’s ailing Rotterdam,” Augusta said.
Over the past week, Augusta and fellow resident Victor Murdock have attempted to find out the necessary requirements to make a petition against the district acceptable to the town, including the number of signatures needed to force a public vote, the amount of time before deadline, where to file it and other issues.
Town Clerk Diane Marco referred them to Town Attorney Kate McGuirl, who said it would be unethical for her to give the residents legal advice.
“The Rules of Professional Conduct … dictates ethically why I cannot advise residents opposed to the sewer district and what I must do to fulfill my obligations under the ethics code,” McGuirl said in a statement to The Gazette on Tuesday.
McGuirl said she recommended the residents contact the Schenectady Board of Elections and the state Comptroller’s Office for direction.
Uncertain how to progress, Augusta said he received an anonymous letter in the mail from a fellow town resident who filed a petition with the town a few years’ back that gave him some direction.
The letter said a valid petition would need 5 percent of the number of property owners in the district to sign the petition, which is seven signatures, and the deadline to file is 30 days from the vote.
“They won’t give us a straight answer and are coming up with road blocks every way we turn,” Augusta said of town officials he’s asked for help. “We’ve also reached out to the Schenectady Board of Elections and the state Comptroller’s Office for more guidance, but we haven’t heard a response yet.”
Without much time to waste, Augusta circulated the petition Monday evening and said he quickly got 10 signatures of property owners in the district on a petition form provided by the town clerk.
Augusta said he filed the petition with Marco on Tuesday, but said town officials hinted it still would not be accepted in its current form.
“From what I understand, we have 30 days to act,” Augusta said Tuesday. “I turned in what I had, hoping if they reject it, they’ll tell me why and we can re-do it correctly.
“If we go to a vote and it passes, I promise to shut up after that,” he added. “I just don’t want it only being voted on by five people who are risking and paying nothing for it.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.
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