NISKAYUNA -- The Niskayuna Town Board has approved $17.5 million in borrowing to pay for upgrades to the town's wastewater treatment plant and other work, the largest borrowing package in the town's history.
The measure was approved Tuesday night by all four Democrats on the Town Board. Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed -- the panel's lone Republican -- abstained in a series of votes on the borrowing.
Syed, who took office in January after defeating Democrat Joe Landry, said she abstained because the planning process began before she took office, and also because she has philosophical concerns with a waste-to-energy contract that will result in a modernized sewage treatment plant operating like a business, potentially importing waste from other communities to meet guarantees.
Most of the borrowing is for work at the wastewater treatment plant, but the town is also borrowing $133,000 for construction of a recreational "splash pad" at Blatnick Park.
Plans for the sewage treatment plant improvements have been in the works for several years, since the plant has been operating at close to its maximum capacity and has sometimes discharged partially treated sewage into the Mohawk River. The town has been under a state consent order preventing new sewer hookups, but a $9 million project now being completed is addressing those issues.
The plant can now process 3 million gallons of sewage per day. The upgrades will increase that capacity to about 3.5 million gallons.
The work approved for financing Tuesday will modernize equipment that, in many cases, dates to the 1960s. The improvements will also make it possible for Energy Systems Group to extract energy from the plant by collecting and burning methane and other biogases, allowing the treatment plant to operate as a "net zero" facility. Another $3.7 million is being borrowed to pay for the biogas collection and processing system.
The town has guaranteed the Energy Systems Group of Baltimore at least $350,000 in revenue per year and has authorized it to bring outside waste to the Niskayuna plant if necessary to meet the financial guarantees.
The bonding is expected to raise the sewer tax by about 1.6 percent, Syed said. Sewer use fees are paid separately.
The board also approved plans to extend a $2 million sewer line and public water to the Rivers Ledge of Niskayuna development planned off Aqueduct Road, with the cost to be paid by the developer.