Saratoga County

Ballston sewer project could mean big hit for property owners

Route 50 sewer project to cost $15.8 million, if April 18 referendum passes
A pump station would improve the water quality of the 3.5-mile-long Ballston Lake.
A pump station would improve the water quality of the 3.5-mile-long Ballston Lake.

BALLSTON — Town property owners in a proposed sewer district are facing increased tax bills and thousands of dollars in connection costs, if the Route 50 sewer project is approved in April. 

The sewer district, which would serve 527 parcels in neighborhoods east and west of Route 50, would stretch from roughly the intersection of Route 146A in the north to the Glenville town line at the southern end of the district. It is being proposed now because the town is going forward with an adjacent sewer upgrade, backed with federal dollars, that is aimed at improving water quality in Ballston Lake. Doing the Route 50 sewer upgrade at the same time would result in savings for taxpayers, according to town officials.

The Route 50 district is among three planned sewer projects and is estimated to cost $15.8 million and includes the Main Street pump station, as well as the addition of a low-pressure sewer on Westside Drive. 

Kim Kotkoskie, project manager for the project, presented details about the project to nearly 30 residents at an information session Wednesday in Ballston Town Hall. 

The town would take out a 30-year loan for the $15.8 million cost at a 1.62 percent interest rate for the project, which would mean $668,400 in annual payments, though Kotkoskie said those figures are a “worst case scenario” that assumes the town won’t receive grant money for the project.

Under that scenario, property owners would have an annual debt payment of $651 added to their county tax bills, as well as Saratoga County Sewer District annual service fees of $275, resulting in $926 more in tax payments. Ballston has 1,026 “equivalent dwelling units” that would be hooked up to the new sewer system. 

Residents would also have to pay a one-time connection cost, which Kotkoskie said could range from $3,500 to $10,000, based on whether a home requires a grinder pump and how far the home is from the sewer system.

A new connection to the sewer main would cost $30 to $40 per foot of distance covered.

Kotkoskie said grinder pumps are necessary only for low pressure sewer parcels, and the town has negotiated discounts on those systems through a local vendor. 

Mark Osterlitz, a three-year resident of the town, said homes in his neighborhood, on Magnolia Lane off Nolan Road, would require the grinder systems.

He said costs associated with installing a grinder pump system and deactivating a septic system would cost him a minimum of $11,000 and a maximum of $15,000 for the first year. 

“The grinder pump system is one of the biggest concerns because of the expenses, which are double or triple the costs of what the rest of the people in the town will have to pay,” he said.

“People in my neighborhood just can’t afford it, and they could lose their homes.”

Ballston is also looking to implement a sewer use law that would require property owners to connect to the town sewer system within three years of availability. 

Kotkoskie said the earliest the sewer system would be available for connection would be the first quarter of 2022, meaning property owners would have to be connected by the first quarter of 2025. 

Exemptions to the connection law include properties that are more than 300 feet from the sewer system. Also, properties with septic systems that are less than five years old would be granted a five-year extension to connect.

Property owners with annual incomes of less than three times the U.S. poverty threshold could also apply for a five-year extension to connect. 

Councilman William Goslin said more diverse businesses could be attracted to the town as a result of the new sewer system, since businesses often cannot afford the cost of installing septic systems. 

“We’re not trying to increase development, we want to maintain the rural character of the community,” he said. “We’re not doing this project for economic development, but economic development will happen.” 

Kurt Bedore, a member of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Business Professional Association, said the sewer project would bring in new businesses along Route 50. 

“I’ve seen Route 50 grow at a snail’s pace over the last several years, so if the sewers come in, it would grow quickly,” he said. “The residents carry a majority of the tax base in the town, so we need to build up a commercial base.”

Bedore added that, while there is a cost to installing a sewer system, the pros outweigh the cons. 

“Growth is an investment,” he said. “I’d rather have the payments spread out throughout the years rather than one big payment of replacing a failed septic system.

“The septic systems in this town are old, so it’s not a matter of if they fail, it’s a matter of when.”

Bedore’s business, KB Engineering & Consulting on Kingsbury Road in Burnt Hills, installs septic system replacements. He said the installation of the town sewer system would mean he would lose a majority of his clients in the area. 

“I may lose my business because of this, because I won’t get as many replacement septic tanks, so it’s going to hurt me too,” he said. “But I believe in it for the overall economic development.” 

Property owners in the sewer district are eligible to vote in a public referendum from noon to 8 p.m. on April 18 at Ballston Town Hall, 323 Charlton Road in Ballston Spa. 

The last public information session on the Route 50 sewer project will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Ballston Town Hall. 

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