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Sewer vote fails in Ballston

Sewer vote fails in Ballston

By a vote of 419 against 108, Ballston residents shot down $15.8 million sewer plan on Wednesday
Sewer vote fails in Ballston
Voters line up to cast ballots on the Burnt Hills sewer proposal Wednesday
Photographer: Erica Miller

BALLSTON — A raging community debate has come to an end in the town of Ballston as a $15.8 million proposed sewer plan failed to receive resident approval on Wednesday. 

The vote was 419 against to 108 in favor of connecting 527 parcels along each side of Route 50 — between the Glenville town line and Route 146A — and on the residential roads around it, including Lake Hill and Kingsley roads, to a sewer system. 

Town Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak said he was pleased with voter turnout on Wednesday. 

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"We were nonstop with voters today, which is fantastic. That's what democracy is all about," he said. "The voice of the people was heard today."

Szczepaniak said the sewer plan was the town's "one-time opportunity" to hook into the $10.2 million Ballston Lake sewer plan, which was approved in October 2015. 

The plan is in the design phase and will bring sewers to properties around the lake and the hamlet at its southern edge.

"By doing it now, there's $6 million in savings that we'll never see again," Szczepaniak said. 

Each connection was estimated to cost $926 per year for sewer infrastructure, which included both construction debt service and the anticipated annual use charges.

Those connecting would have faced a one-time cost between $3,500 and $10,000 to hook up to the system and decommission their septic systems based on if a home requires a grinder pump and how far the home is from the sewer system.

A new connection to the sewer main would have cost $30 to $40 per foot of distance covered.

Szczepaniak said cost estimations are based on a "worst case scenario."

The town received a $2.5 million grant for the Ballston Lake sewer project from the Environmental Facilities Corp. Szczepaniak said he expected that the town would have received the same amount for the $15.8 million sewer plan. 

Lynne Shorey and her husband, Dan, of Lake Hill Road were not in favor of the sewer plan. 

"There are an awful lot of people who love this area and can't afford the cost to connect," she said. "If everyone is so concerned about this, the state should pay for the whole thing."

Dan Shorey, whose family has lived in Ballston since 1793, said: "A lot of our family members are moving away to Texas and Florida, because of the high taxes in New York. Who wants to pay high taxes in the first place and then put this on top of it?"

David Robards said he felt the sewer plan was a good idea. 

"I have friends who own property on Rout 50 and it would be nice for them to see the value of their property increase, because of the sewer," he said. "It will add value to the neighborhood."

Robards said if the sewer plan wasn't up for a vote on Wednesday, it would be at some point in the future. 

"Eventually we'll have to do it, and 20 years down the line it could be $1 million more," he said. 

The Lake Hill Road resident said he'd like to see more businesses establish themselves in Ballston, and feels the sewer would help spur that. 

"I'd like to see more restaurants and shops," he said. "Controlled development along Route 50 would be a great thing to see."

Dianne Vuillaume, an 18-year resident of Seelye Estates, agreed with Robards.

"I don't want to see the town be built up, but having a sewer system would be helpful for smaller businesses," she said. "It could bring in some new business to the town, which would be helpful for our taxes."

Vuillaume said many of her neighbors were passionate about their stance on the sewer plan. 

"I had many people ask me to put a 'vote no' sign on my lawn, and I declined," she said. "I had my 'vote yes' sign taken off my lawn, which was upsetting, but I put it right back.

"I understand the money issue, but I see more positives than negatives."

Boyd French said if the town wants to attract more businesses to the community, there needs to be a sewer system in place. 

"Whether it's now or later, it has to be done," he said. "People and businesses are still moving in and there has to be something in place to handle it all.

"It's a positive thing for the community and there's no doubt in my mind about that."

Debra Gelinas, who moved to Ballston 25 years ago to put her children in Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central Schools, said she was against the sewer plan.

"The taxes are already too high and there's no need for it," she said. "The town will grow no matter what. 

"People are dying to get into here, and houses are selling like hot cakes. So it won't depend on the sewer."

Before Wednesday's vote, Sharon Maughan went door-to-door in her neighborhood to remind others to vote. 

Maughan said she was against the sewer plan, as the community has "perfectly fine septic systems."

"We don't need it," she said. "Residents shouldn't be subsidizing development on Route 50. It should be up to the businesses to pay for it.

"Improvements need to be made along Route. 50 to make it more appealing, but it should be paid for by the businesses."

Town Clerk Carol Gumienny oversaw the election, Szczepaniak said, and invited one resident who is pro-sewer and one who is anti-sewer to observe the ballot count.

"This has been a very transparent process," the supervisor said, adding that the town held five forums to educate the community about the project. 

Szczepaniak said the Town Board could have voted to move the sewer plan forward without seeking the approval of the public. 

"We didn't think that was the right thing to do with a project of this magnitude," he said. "It should be voted on by the people in the sewer district." 

Now that the vote is over, Szczepaniak said the town needs to come back together.

"What we really want for our community is tranquility," he said. "We're a close community and, with this being a contentious vote, we want to bring the community back together.

"It's time to move forward."

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