Amsterdam secures nearly $1 million for emergency sewer work

1st municipality in state to take advantage of program
Mayor Michael Villa: “Pershing Road is a disaster."
Mayor Michael Villa: “Pershing Road is a disaster."

Amsterdam this week secured nearly $1 million in funding for emergency sewer repairs through a new bill designed to fast-track money out of the state budget for infrastructure work that is deemed critical in nature. 

The budget bill, authored by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, is called the Water Infrastructure Emergency Financial Assistance Program and was established in this year’s budget under the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act. 

The act invests $2 billion in infrastructure improvements across the state over five years. The emergency assistance program sets aside 10 percent of that funding each year and makes it available to assist communities with emergency infrastructure repairs, according to the office of Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam.

Amsterdam is the first municipality in the state to take advantage of the emergency funding program. 

Last month, Mayor Michael Villa and the city’s Common Council declared two such emergencies — one at a site on Pershing Road and the other at a sewer main on Route 30. 

“Pershing Road is a disaster,” Villa said. ”Granted, we’ve had more rain than we usually get, but this situation has been ongoing for probably 10 years and it’s been getting worse and worse.”

Significant sewage backups have occurred at homes in the vicinity of Pershing Road, and Villa said the backups are starting to affect more homes. 

“So obviously this situation is deteriorating,” he said. 

The plan is to replace a section of pipe on Pershing Road and Coolidge Place between Romeyn and Van Dyke avenues. Villa said engineers have already isolated a faulty section of pipe but will be running a camera through the whole section to identify any other trouble spots. 

“We’re looking for a permanent, long-term solution that solves the problem,” Villa said.

The work on Route 30 involves replacing a faulty sewer main and moving the sewer main valves closer to the surface, as well as some pipe replacement. Santabarbara said in a news release that the city’s shutdown of the Route 30 sewer main affected some 4,000 city residents. 

Villa said both pieces of the emergency project should not affect residents. He did not have a timeline for when the work would be completed as a finishing date, he said, is dependent on the availability of replacement parts. 

The emergency nature of the work allows for the circumvention of a normal bid process. Villa said the city has retained the services of McDonald Engineering, a civil engineering firm that has worked on Amsterdam’s system in the past. 

Funding under the emergency program totals $920,000. The work on Pershing Road is projected to cost around $560,000, with the balance — $360,000 — covering the Route 30 sewer main repairs. Villa said the city received the money just two days after submitting their application to the state. 

“We were the first in the state to apply for this funding because we knew this needed to be taken care of,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.” 

Santabarbara, a former civil engineer, told The Daily Gazette he began working on the Water Infrastructure Emergency Financial Assistance Program bill last summer after ongoing emergency sewer repairs were required at Forest Avenue and he found that securing funding for such repairs could be complicated.

“Time is of the essence,” Santabarbara said. “In my experience, when you let emergencies go on and you don’t repair them immediately, you start to cause more damage and it ends up costing more in the end.”

Santabarbara said applications for the emergency assistance program are handled through the state’s Environmental Facilities Corp., and are open to any municipality in the state. The application requires a city or consulting engineer to explain the necessity of the work and what will be done, a cost estimate and an emergency declaration to be passed by city officials, among other components.

He said applications are reviewed within two days of their submission to the EFC. 

“This is intended to make the repairs when they’re needed and stop the damage,” Santabarbara said.

Villa added that Amsterdam’s $5 million sewer overhaul is proceeding as planned. McDonald Engineering is currently working on the East Side Pump Station, which he said is most in need of repair out of all the city’s pump stations. 

“Everything’s going forward,” Villa said. “Work is ongoing at all three pump stations, whether it’s the design phase or physical phase.” 

City Engineer Richard Miller did not return a request for comment. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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