BALLSTON LAKE — Property owners around Ballston Lake approved $17.5 million in financing for construction of sewers by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio on Monday.
In the town of Ballston part of the sewer district, the referendum passed by a vote of 345 to 196. Results from the smaller part of the district located in Clifton Park were not immediately available. Clifton Park residents in the district must also approve the financing.
“It is certainly a strong affirmation that this was a very meaningful thing to do for the town,” said Drew Hamelink, chairman of the town Sewer Committee.
The vote was necessary because the cost of the project has risen above the $10.2 million that voters authorized in 2015, even though state environmental protection grants are covering the additional cost.
Assuming Clifton Park residents also approve the referendum, construction on the sewer line could start this fall, with completion in roughly two years.
The vote re-raised questions about whether sewers are needed to address bacterial and phosphorous contamination in the lake, and whether property owners can afford the cost, about $873 per property for 30 years.
Lawn signs urging either “Yes” or “No” sprouted up all over Burnt Hills and Ballston Lake, and there was lively discussion on social media. Some opponents worried about the costs, while others fear the construction of sewers could lead to new and more intense development in a community trying to hang on to some rural charm.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation considers the waters of Ballston Lake “impaired” due to bacterial contaminants, which evidence links to faulty septic systems.
Over the years, the lake has seen former seasonal camps converted into year-round homes, usually without upgrades to the property’s septic systems. Concerns that failed septic systems were polluting the lake were the major reason the sewer district was planned. Voters approved it by a vote of 280-135 in 2015.
The five-year delay is in large part due to construction costs having turned out to be far higher than expected when bids were opened, forcing town officials into a lengthy search for additional environmental grant funding.
Following a rebidding last year in which the large construction project was broken down into five smaller contracts to attract more bidders, the construction costs now total between $13.7 million and $14.2 million. With a contingency fund and legal and design costs, the total price comes to around $17.5 million.
The sewer district extends to the hamlet of Ballston Lake, where the 1950s-era Buell Heights subdivision has a history of septic tank issues due to poorly draining soils.
The cost to property owners in 2015 was estimated at $907 per household per year, but that figure is down to $873 because interest rates are lower. In addition to the annual costs, property owners would be responsible for a one-time sewer connection cost estimated at anywhere between $3,500 and $10,000.
If either referendum were voted down, the district would need to pay back about $700,000 in state grant funds already spent. Town officials estimate it would cost about $614 per property for two years.
Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086,