GUEST COLUMN: State must tame infrastructure monster

PHOTOGRAPHER:

By Jim Tedisco
For The Daily Gazette

There’s a creature from the deep that’s just waiting to strike our towns and cities!

New York’s aging water and sewer infrastructure some dating back to the Civil War is like a lurking monster which will not go away if we just closed our eyes and wished it away.

On the contrary, these trolls of the sub-level can catastrophically attack at any time the safety of our drinking water, sewer and gas lines and the ability of taxpayers to afford repairs.

Last week, a 100-plus-year-old water main broke in Gloversville, paralyzing half the city with no water.

We’ve seen similar water main and sewer breaks recently in Amsterdam, Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs and other localities.

New York has a great CHIPS — Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program —that provides a formula-based annual funding source for all municipalities to maintain and repair local roads and bridges.

However, we will only continue to put good money after bad if we keep filling potholes and repaving roads while the sublevel infrastructure that’s underneath continues to deteriorate and collapse with the weight of newly minted roads and bridges.

After talking with Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett and other local leaders, I authored and introduced legislation, Senate Bill S.3968A, to create the New York State Safe Water infrastructure Action Program (SWAP) to repair and maintain vital local drinking water, sewer, storm water management, gas line and water tower infrastructure to protect lives and save tax dollars by avoiding costly repairs when systems break.

Many local governments simply don’t have the financial and human resources to constantly repair sewer systems and old pipes and then spend valuable time and energy applying for competitive grants to receive a glimmer of state support.

The recently passed federal infrastructure bill can help with some projects but these grants will be one-shot funds.

Our municipalities need a steady funding stream to address their serious ongoing underground infrastructure needs.

Unlike, the current state “Hunger Games-like” competitive grant program that’s now in place and only benefits a few towns who win grants chosen by the governor, SWAP would provide annual funding to all municipalities in the state via a fair and transparent formula similar to the CHIPs program to allow them to identify and swap out old, deteriorating pipes, water mains and gas lines to better maintain the state’s infrastructure.

I passed SWAP in the Senate in 2018. This year, in a bipartisan effort to help fund local safe water infrastructure, I gave the bill to state Sen. Michelle Hinchey (D-46th Senate District) to serve as the new prime Senate bill sponsor, with myself as co-sponsor. (Hinchey is in the majority party in the Senate.) The bill now has 24 Senate sponsors.

SWAP, which would be a sister program to CHIPS, is a top priority for the Association of Towns for the State of New York and the New York Rural Water Association.

It’s time to get serious about creating this a program for all municipalities in the state to invest in fixing their underground drinking water, storm water, sewer and gas line infrastructure.

The longer we wait, the worse it will get and the more lives and tax dollars that could potentially be negatively impacted when this lurking monster strikes.

Sen. Jim Tedisco (R,C-Glenville) represents the 49th District in the New York State Senate. The district includes parts of Saratoga, Schenectady and Herkimer counties and all of Fulton and Hamilton counties.

Categories: Guest Column, Opinion

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