CLIFTON PARK — Saratoga County is delaying three Clifton Park public works projects as part of efforts to trim county spending in the face of the economic straits caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Clifton Park officials are unhappy enough about two of the delays to offer loaning money to the county to get them done. The other delay, involving replacement of the Ashdown Road bridge over railroad tracks, is due to non-financial issues.
The town is offering to provide funding to avoid a delay of a year or more a project to repave Main Street in the hamlet of Jonesville, and to do the necessary engineering work for installation of a traffic light at the corner of Grooms and Vischer Ferry roads.
That intersection is now a sign-controlled four-way stop. Typically, the intersection has a line of vehicles backed up on at least three corners. Town officials regard getting a light installed there as critically important.
Town Supervisor Phil Barrett said the town is willing to loan the county $209,000 interest-free to pay for the two projects to be done this year, if the county can’t afford them. He told county officials at a meeting on Wednesday that, at least informally, he has the support of the Clifton Park Town Board. He said the town has the money available in its reserves and would be willing to make the loan interest-free for one year.
“Both projects have been long-awaited and are important for residents in Clifton Park, but also for people throughout the county who travel in those areas,” Barrett said.
With pandemic-caused shutdowns having closed many county businesses, and sales tax revenue off by at estimated 26 percent, county officials say the county is looking at an $18 million deficit by year’s end. Delaying the public works projects is part of the county’s efforts to ease the deficit.
The projects were recommended for postponement by county Public Works Commissioner Keith Manz. They were discussed this week by the Board of Supervisors’ Public Works Committee, but the committee took no action.
“Why delay the projects at this point?” Barrett asked. “We’re interested in seeing the projects done, and we’re ready to help them get them done.”
Barrett’s offer for the town to give the county a loan was referred to the county attorney’s office for review, with no clear indication of whether the county would seriously consider the offer.
The $1.6 million Ashdown Road project, while the most high-profile of the projects, was facing delay anyway, county officials said, because of slow-paced negotiations with CP Rail, which owns the tracks between Glenville and Mechanicville that run under the bridge.
The Ashdown Road bridge project was initiated by the county several years ago because parts of the bridge structure suffer from corrosion, though county officials say it remains safe. The federal and state governments are supposed to pay 95 percent of the bridge replacement cost, with the county paying the remaining 5 percent, or about $84,000.
Barrett said the town is not offering to loan the county money for the bridge project.