Editorial: Good deal on pump station

Compromise required active citizens, open-minded council
The Stockade pump house at the end of North Street.
The Stockade pump house at the end of North Street.

“Government Body Listens to Citizens, Comes Up with Reasonable Compromise.”

You don’t see many headlines like that these days. But that headline could have topped the story in Wednesday’s Gazette about the Schenectady City Council agreeing to reduce the impact of a new sewer pump station in the Stockade’s Riverside Park.

Citizens of the Stockade in particular were upset with plans by the city to build a brand new station on 0.2 acres within the park separate from the site of the current station.

The current station is old, susceptible to flooding, and needs to be replaced or expanded with larger pumps to handle overflow and to meet state regulations.

Residents claimed the current station could be expanded on-site and that a new station was unnecessary. They also feared that building a new structure elsewhere in the park would disrupt views of the Mohawk River and cut a giant swath of land out of a place in the city where people go to relax and enjoy the tranquility.

After months of discord and confusion, the City Council on Monday came up with a compromise. It voted to ask the state Legislature for permission to set aside half an acre of parkland adjacent to the current pump station for a new or expanded pump station.

That sounds like a lot of space, and probably not a provision that would please Stockade residents.

But then the city added limitations in an attempt to alleviate residents’ concerns.

Specifically, the resolution includes a caveat that the council will not agree to approve a new station that would encroach into the park more than 30 feet west beyond the existing pump station site. Any land leftover from the half-acre that’s not needed for the new station or a buffer zone would be left as parkland.

The resolution isn’t perfect, nor does it cover all the issues, like the fact that the city passed this resolution without seeing a design plan to ensure the compromise was actually possible.

Also, the language appears to leave the city with some wiggle room. It says the city “intends” for the new station to be kept, “to the extent reasonably possible,” within the current border of the existing station. The resolution also states the city shall continue to use “all reasonable means” to come up with a design that fits the station on the current footprint.

We suppose that means if the engineers can’t possibly design a new station to fit within those physical parameters, the city might have to adjust the measurements of the parcel. That’s a tad worrisome for those who want guarantees.

So opponents will still need to maintain the pressure to ensure the city keeps its pledges, including speaking out at the promised public hearing on any new design proposal. 

Still, while it doesn’t appear to be an ironclad promise, it’s clear the council’s intentions were honorable and well-intended.

Opponents weren’t going to get everything they wanted. It’s difficult to make a pump station bigger without taking up more space. And putting it in another location altogether might be too expensive or impractical.

But as compromises go, this seems as good as one might get.

Opponents of the new station deserve credit for educating and pressuring city officials to minimize the impact on their park. And city officials deserve credit for listening to the concerns and coming up with a fair plan that attempts to address them.

Can you imagine if Congress or the state Legislature worked this way? 

Nah, probably not.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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