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Explore new treatment plant, but do so cautiously

Explore new treatment plant, but do so cautiously

Scotia officials shouldn't jump into big, expensive sewer plant without assuring savings

If there's a chance you can save taxpayers money, there's no harm in checking it out.

But before the village of Scotia officially commits to ending its arrangement with the city of Schenectady's regional wastewater treatment plant and building its own facility, it had better make sure the savings will pan out over the long term.

Otherwise, officials could be saddling current and future generations with an unnecessary and expensive tax burden.

On the surface, the plan looks promising. The village might be eligible to build its own $15 million wastewater treatment plant through a 30-year, zero-interest loan, saving up to $110,000 a year on what it currently pays to bring its waste to Schenectady's Anthony Street plant.

In addition, the village appears open to partnering with the town of Glenville, which also pays to treat its waste in Schenectady and which could switch over to Scotia and help offset the plant’s costs.

While there might be savings on a new plant, the village might also be taking on unanticipated expenses. What guarantee is there that what is being quoted today will be what the village ultimately pays?

Schenectady regularly must upgrade its plant to account for routine maintenance issues, wear-and-tear, and to meet updated state regulations. Exactly how much will similar upgrades and maintenance add to the cost of a Scotia project?

Another question: How large will the plant have to be to guarantee savings? How much would Scotia charge Glenville, and would it be worth it in the long-run for the town to switch over? A wastewater treatment plant is a complex and costly endeavor. Would the village's resources be better directed to fixing its aging infrastructure instead?

For the state's part, why would it support the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant when the regional plant in Schenectady is already underused? The plant accepts 12.5 million gallons of waste a day, but is permitted for 18.5 million. For a state that encourages consolidation and shared services, how does permitting an unnecessary new plant right across the river fit in with that goal? It might behoove the state instead to help Schenectady reduce what it charges.

Ultimately, taxpayers should have the final say on whether to go forward.

Village officials should pursue the idea of a wastewater treatment plant. Why not, if it might help taxpayers. But when it comes time to sign the papers, they'd better be 100 percent sure they're not making a big, expensive mistake.

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